Some of us will remember Tiffany’s Bird Shop on 111 Avenue. Philip Muz grew up in nearby Highlands, and has a photo of himself as a kid with a big parrot in front of the store.
Decades later, this January, he and his brother, Mark, re-opened that space as The Aviary, a live music venue replacing their old space, the Artery on Jasper Avenue which was demolished to make way for the LRT.
When they opened in January, the Muz brothers knew they wanted free music once a week for the community.
“We came up with the idea of this program but wasn’t sure if it would work because programs didn’t work at the Artery,” said Muz.
“Mice District” is a play on the words “Ice District”, the area around downtown’s new arena.
“We thought it would be cool to call it ‘Mice District’ for the area of town,” he said. Muz explained the name also acknowledges the more humble profile of the neighbourhood, as well as the old Rat Creek that used to run along 111 Avenue. Although Mice District Mondays was initially meant as a showcase for local bands, Muz is now bringing in touring acts for free shows every Monday.
“It’s a way to get people out to The Aviary to be able to bring your kids and have a cheap night out. It’s showcasing music and making live music accessible in the neighbourhood.”
The Aviary has been running Mice District Mondays since the beginning of May, supporting the program with tips and a sponsorship with Alley Kat Brewing Company. Muz is happy at the reception so far.
“It’s been really good! It was a little hit and miss at first, but we have some really good momentum now that the calendar is more full. It’s been well received. We’ve had a wide variety of musicians, playing everything from hip hop to indie rock to Zimbabwean pop. There’s no specific genre, but I want to keep it diverse. It does need to be agreeable for everybody, so probably no aggressive thrash metal bands. It’s geared towards families and stuff that everyone can enjoy.”
Muz hopes to fill a need in the area for live music. “For someone thinking about coming down, it’s a hip, friendly atmosphere with cheap drinks. My brother and I are both musicians and artists so we’re holding a high standard of what we’re bringing in here—we’ve had a couple Juno-nominated acts.”
Acts have included Bardic Form, Jay Gilday, Billy Moon, Electricity for Everybody, and Jerry Leger.
The Aviary is all-ages, so people are encouraged to bring their families.
“It’s a really good mix of people. It’s maybe 50-50, people coming to see that specific performer as a fan, and the other half is coming because it’s a free music night, just to hang out. It’s in walking distance. And we have $4 pints of beer, so that’s pretty good. It’s a diverse crowd.”
The Aviary is currently looking for another sponsor to help pay the performers and bring in bigger names, and Muz is planning to include artist-curated nights as well. He hopes The Aviary will become a regular hangout for the community, as well as bring in people from across the city to enjoy what Norwood has to offer.
“I love the neighbourhood. There’s a lot of benefits to being in a residential community. We’re on a commercial strip with lots of people, different things to do, but not live entertainment seven nights a week. It’s been fun.”
MICE DISTRICT MONDAYS
Every Monday, 5 pm to midnight
9314 111 Ave
Featured Image: Philip Muz, co-owner of The Aviary, says the Mice District acts have had a good reception so far. | Mari Sasano