Never Too Big For The Small Time

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When you ask some of our most successful homegrown artists what it means to them to play at a Hastings County venue, there is one answer in common… they’re home. The answer comes in slightly different forms (whether it’s friends and family or the short commute) but they all circle back to the same sentiment…home.

Is there any greater feeling? That surge of adrenaline when you walk out on stage with an extra
layer of love and support from the most important people in your life; an audience filled with
your peers, your mentors, your neighbours, and of course, a handful of new to you tourists to
round out the fun. For indie rock band Long Range Hustle, currently in the midst of a meteoric
rise, it truly is a one of a kind experience. “As kids growing up dreaming of being musicians,
every little piece of artistic inspiration from our small communities was so important to us to
soak up,” said Paul & Jay. “It’s our turn to inspire the next generation of passionate artists to
create and pursue their dream.”

In 2022, with the reopening of most live music centres and a reinvention of several of our
historic local theatres, there is more opportunity than ever to catch some incredible live music
and theatre right here in our backyard. And while there may be plenty of exciting international
headliners and ‘Canadian famous’ musicians on the bill at all of our Hastings County venues this
season, perhaps the ones we’re most excited for are those artists with deep roots in our region.
For some of these artists, that means a home base in the rolling hillsides and deep woods of our
county with the occasional North American tour in the summer; for others that means escaping
their home base in the city for a hometown reunion in the venues where they first experienced
live music as children.

Hannah Crawford always knew she was on a different path growing up in Bancroft, and has
found herself steadily climbing in the opera world. For Hannah, the big adventures seem to bring
local importance into clearer focus. “I owe all my success to my friends and family back home.
I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard growing up in a small town and not fitting the “mold” of what
the trajectory looks like for a young adult here.” But as she settles into a certain renown in the
classical music community, the connections here and the small town experience take on new
meaning. “This concert is a way to show my appreciation for my community who believes in me
and supports all of my wildest dreams. I will be forever grateful to them…I also love that in each
and every corner there will always be someone you know. Hastings County is such a tight knit
circle so you truly never feel alone.”

Photo of Hannah Crawford
Hannah Crawford

Long Range Hustle got their start when Paul Brogee & Jay Foster started playing at highschool
coffee houses in Madoc. In fact, most of the band grew up in the area, with Paul and his brother
Mike hailing from Stirling, Jay from Tweed, and Ryan Pritchard from Madoc. And while
drummer AJ Fisico was born in Ajax, he spent his summers attending and working at Camp
Quin-Mo-Lac, along with Mike & Paul. “We’ve never been a band that had a singular
hometown, but it would be true to say that Hastings is our “home county.”

For Bancroft hometown heroes the Fitzgeralds, local music is in their blood. “Our father’s family
(Fitzgerald) has been in the area for generations, first immigrating from Ireland to Hungerford
ON, and eventually traveling north to Maple Leaf where the original homestead is still standing
so many generations later.” Music runs in the veins of this incredibly talented family band, and
being able to perform for a hometown crowd that is often full of blood relations gives their local
shows a whole new meaning. “We would perform at the Playhouse at least once per year,
originally as part of our relative’s Irish band ‘Merry Micks.’ Eventually as we got a bit older, we
were able to host our own theatre show at the Playhouse, and continued from there. You can’t
beat playing for a hometown crowd! You know a majority of the folks in the audience, and the
community is happy to spread the word so that turnouts at the shows are good. Since it is also
cottage country, we gain new fans as well that come to the area in the summer months and we get
to meet new people.”

Four performers on stage playing fiddles and a guitar
The Fitzgeralds performing at the Stettler Performing Arts Centre

For each of these artists, the importance of performing locally only grows, even as they take on
bigger venues, bigger followings, and increased commitments both here and abroad. “The
atmosphere in the small towns of Hastings County have a warmth to them that we miss in
Toronto.” Jay and Paul from Long Range Hustle chime in, “We grew up skating on the Mill
Pond, and canoeing on Moira Lake, playing at the Stirling fairgrounds, and the Tweed Pavilion.
For us, Hastings will always be home.” And the Fitzgeralds, fresh off playing thousand-seat
theatres in the southern United States share that sentiment. “We grew up in Birds Creek, just
north of Bancroft. We are very grateful for the opportunities that we had as kids to perform in the
area. It really created a foundation for the show we now have as a family.”

The longer the conversation continues, and the feeling of comfort and relaxed wistfulness
lingers, you can tell that no one is in a rush to return to their other tasks, and would rather bask in
the memories and excitement of playing to a hometown crowd. It’s of course not ALL about the
crowd either. It’s also about a love for our beautiful county, and the magic that lingers in the
rolling hills and never ending forests of this region. “I love the beauty in winter, where you can
see the ice cascading down the side of the Eagles Nest…or our incredible community events like
the Mineral Capital Concerts in the summers,” says Crawford. Caroline Smith, creator of popular
local revue show ‘The Best of Broadway’ puts it most succinctly, but also possibly most
profoundly, “great people, clean air, space, quiet.” What more is there to say?

Long Range Hustle will be appearing at the Marble Arts Centre in Tweed on May 6th, and the
Bancroft Village Playhouse May 7th. Hannah Crawford will take the stage at the Playhouse May
21st accompanied by a 9 foot concert grand piano, and co-presented by Winmill Inspired Music.
The Fitzgeralds will play the Marble Arts Centre on June 17th, followed by a hometown reunion
on June 18th at the Playhouse. The Best of Broadway led by Smith and starring three incredible
local talents: Kim Dafoe, Anita Halfpenny, and Susan McCourt, with Musical Direction by Tom
Dietzel, will take the stage at the Playhouse on July 23rd, and Aug 20th at the Arts Centre. The
show recently enjoyed a sold out run at Theatre in the Wings in Belleville, so if you missed it
there, be sure to catch it at one of these other stunningly intimate local venues.

Four women standing in front of a mural

Both the Marble Arts Centre in Tweed and the Village Playhouse in Bancroft are operated by
Tweed and Company Theatre, and both venues will be full all year long with concerts, comedy,
and musical theatre playing every weekend until the end of December. For tickets and
information visit tweedandcompany.com. Hastings County is also home to the Stirling Festival
Theatre in Stirling Ontario, Arts Centre Hastings in Madoc, and countless other intimate and
outdoor live performance venues.


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