Arts & Events

Bring back that old Harpo’s magic

Eight-year-old Nathaniel Pollard at Rifflandia 4. - Marcus Pollard
Eight-year-old Nathaniel Pollard at Rifflandia 4.
— image credit: Marcus Pollard

 

Eight-year-old Nathaniel Pollard is the strong silent type. He was diagnosed with autism on his second birthday and although he hasn’t developed the ability to speak, it’s more than evident that he has an awareness of the people around him and what they are saying.

You can see it in his captivating blue eyes as he communicates with his father, concert promoter Marcus Pollard, mostly through body language and simple hand gestures over sweet potato chips and a beverage at a local Starbucks on their way home from school.

Nathaniel is a Grade 3 student at Frank Hobbs Elementary. He loves music, especially live, which proves the old adage the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

His father Marcus booked some of the top musical acts of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s at some of Victoria’s top venues; Sarah McLachlan, Pearl Jam, John Lee Hooker, Green Day, The Neville Brothers, No Doubt, Alice in Chains, Crash Test Dummies, Buddy Guy and the Grapes of Wrath are among the bands who graced the stage at Harpo’s (now Upstairs Cabaret) and other bars he worked at around town.

“I was pretty relentless asking people to play,” says Pollard. “My phone bills were huge because that was before the days of email and Internet. The special thing about Harpo’s was that you could see a bar band one day and a top-ranked punk rock or top-ranked blues musician, or multi-instrumentalist. It went from noise hardcore to folk and everywhere in between.”

Now Pollard is bringing back some of that old magic with a concert series featuring bands from that era on the old Harpo’s stage, with proceeds going to non-profits around town.

First up is The Grapes of Wrath benefit concert, Sun., April 15 for the Victoria Society for Children with Autism, a cause close to Pollard’s heart.

“The VSCA supplies info and respite funds for people with autistic children and that’s really important because it can be pretty intense. It’s 24-hours-a-day, so if we get the chance to go out and see a movie it’s pretty big,” says Pollard.

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this and I thought it would be a great way to keep the Harpo’s heritage important, get some of that old crowd together and put some money in the hands of good people.”

The morning of the concert, Vancouver Island’s largest annual community autism event — the Autism Walk — takes place at UVic. For more information and to pledge funds, please go to victoriaautismwalk.com.

The Grapes of Wrath were recently signed by Aporia Records and this will be the last show before they head into the studio to record their first album in 20 years.

“Weekly people talk to me about Harpo’s and I haven’t worked there since ’95,” says Pollard. “They say they wish it was back, but what they really mean is they wish they could be young again.”

In that vein, doors are at 8 p.m..  It’s an early show. M

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