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Heart of Dartmouth 

Jacob’s Lounge’s Friday night residency is a petri dish for Dartmouth’s bustling music scene

click to enlarge The Scoop Outs on the right side of the bridge.
  • The Scoop Outs on the right side of the bridge.

The Dartmouth renaissance is not just condos, croissants and Jason Eisener's t-shirt collection--- it's got its own music scene on the go too. The hub is Jacob's Lounge (106 Portland Street), in the middle of downtown, a few blocks up from the ferry terminal.

"It's almost like Gus', in Dartmouth," says Ben Manuel, singer for The Scoop Outs. "It's a weird little bar that until last year was frequented by Portland Street old people and gambling addicts; it just so happened that they started hosting shows there."

The Scoop Outs have been holding down Fridays at Jacob's for a good while, having inherited the night from The Cheap Gang after Scottie Penton returned to school. "He asked The Scoop Outs to handle a couple of nights until he figured it out," says Manuel, "and we've kind of had this residency for a year and a half."

The two-floor Jacob's is home to, like Gus', a dedicated VLT audience uninterested in cover charges. "When we started there all the VLT machines were there where we played," says Manuel, "but they've been moved upstairs. We were kind of annoying all the people there."

The Jacob's repertory company includes a half-dozen young, mostly punk bands, including The Cannisters, The Odd Socks, The .Gifs, The Cheap Gang and Elk Lodge.

"There's a lot of shared members between the bands," notes Manuel, who adds that some of them live together in a Dartmouth warehouse, across the hall from the recording studio Omniart, where many of their respective Bandcamp recordings were made (The Scoop Outs' new record is out in May).

"It's a really skeezy warehouse," says Manuel. "The roof leaks." With Omniart across the way, "I'm so used to people wandering in and out of this place. At any given time there could be no one here, there could be seven people here," he says.

While the idea of a weekly residency is great for honing a band's chops---"If there's no one else to play, all the bands will just play; we can count on a certain number of our friends and Dartmouth people just walking in," says Manuel---it's also a lot of responsibility, so The Scoop Outs try to book out-of-town acts too.

"Bands from Guelph, London," says Manuel. "Genital Hospital from Montreal. We had Wayfarer and The Decay from Kitchener." And from Halifax: "The Fat Stupids, Bike Rodeo, The Bad Bad Bad, Eliza and the Strange, Ceti Alpha, Whiskey Kisses. I've been trying to get Orchid's Curse over for awhile because half of those dudes live in Dartmouth."

The age-old Halifax mental block of Dartmouth has not been helped by the winter transit strike---"Attendance has been lower, plus the weather's been bad so walking over the bridge isn't that appealing"---but the Jacob's model began and often remains a free show, which helps (CD Heaven across from the Macdonald Bridge also stages regular free, and all-ages, shows).

"I don't think they intended to be a venue," says Manuel. "If they do well they pay us a little bit of money. If a good show happens and we get a lump of money we try to get each band a few drinks and their cab ride home. We wanted to run it on a model where bands at least broke even, and it's not money out of their pockets just to entertain people." --Tara Thorne

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