Erick Casselman was surprised to find out he was an award winner at the recent BreakOut West 2012 Western Canadian Music Industry Awards.
The owner of the Park Theatre Cafe, located on Osborne Street, took home the award for talent buyer of the year.
The Park Theatre was also a finalist in the live music venue of the year category at the awards, held Sept. 28 in Regina.
"I was flabbergasted I was even nominated for it. I actually thought it was a prank," said Casselman, who is both the owner and co-artistic director of The Park.
After he found out he won the award, Casselman called his agents to ask if he was spending too much on talent, although they quickly reassured him that wasn’t the case. He said he thinks his Riverview location has played a large part in the venue’s continuing success.
"We have a great neighborhood," he said. "You can feel safe parking your car here. You can feel safe walking down the street here."
Rory Ellis grew up on Ashland Avenue, just a few blocks away from the theatre. He credits Casselman for giving his high-school band, Rocket Circus, a stage when they were still new to the Winnipeg music scene.
"A lot of the other places we were playing at the time were art galleries and empty rental rooms. The Park Theatre was the one way to do it professionally while we were still an amateur band," Ellis said.
"Erick’s had some really big shows, like Jose Gonzalez and Jeff Martin, but the whole time he’s also been hosting local bands from all levels."
Ellis said one of the Casselman’s greatest strengths is his willingness to book bands from a variety of genres.
"The Pyramid Cabaret seems to be a hub for dance music and DJs, the West End Cultural Centre focuses on folk rock and indie bands, and The Zoo’s mostly metal. The Park Theatre’s got folk, punk, metal, and indie rock," he said. "It’s a nice room for all different genres."
Casselman said they key to booking great shows is as simple as getting feedback from musicians, listening to his audience, and last but not least, trusting his own taste in music.
"If you can satisfy the artists and make them happy, people will come. The main goal when booking talent is to bring in artists we’ve worked with and artists I’m super excited to watch, so it’s kind of selfish on my part," Casselman said.
"It’s just going after music that I really enjoy and then listening to what other people want and enjoy."
Some upcoming shows at The Park Theatre include Plants and Animals on Nov. 9, The Tom Fun Orchestra on Nov. 17, and Cold Specks on Nov. 26.