“I’M A BIG fan of Mike and what he’s doing, putting his own money into things and making London a better place for it,” says Brian Ohl, general manager of Budweiser Gardens. In one sense, the Music Hall is a competitor to the Bud, although the overlap in bookings is minimal. The two men are also partners in the Trackside Music Festival, along with Live Nation and the Western Fair, where the country music event takes place every summer.
More than any of that, however, they’re friends and admirers of what the other is doing and the role each plays in expanding London’s reputation as a cool place for musicians to perform. “I think we’re kindred spirits,” Ohl says.
Manuel has talked about turning London into an Austin or Nashville North, with bands playing at multiple venues throughout downtown every night of the week. Although the city is a long way from realizing that dream, there’s no denying how far it’s come since Ohl arrived from New Hampshire to run the brand new downtown arena known then as the John Labatt Centre. That was only in 2002.
Think of the bands and other performers who have come to town since then, not just on the large Budweiser stage, but at Centennial Hall, Aeolian Hall, London Music Club, Manuel’s London Music Hall, a dozen smaller clubs and the growing number of festivals.
“All of this does make a difference with concert promoters and musicians,” Ohl says. “London has a good reputation. We treat people well here and we sell tickets.” Christopher Clark