By Bryan Dearsley
LuxuryMuskokaLakes.com pays tribute to cottage country’s most intimate music venue… Peter’s Players
Gravenhurst Ontario has a reputation for the quality of its music venues. Not just among concertgoers, but among musicians, too. For example, at the inaugural Sawdust City Muskoka Festival in 2017 (recently rebranded as the Muskoka Music Festival), the audience – including this writer – felt a flush of pride as Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo fame took the time to express his awe at the quality of the acoustics in the historic Gravenhurst Opera House.
The same has been said countless times of the town’s other top music venue, Peter’s Players. Established by concert promoter Peter Swanek and his wife, Michelle, in 2008, this intimate venue’s stage has been graced by many Canadian and international performers, including the great Cuddy. In addition to its quality acoustics, the opportunity for artists to let their hair down and have fun through audience interaction is another reason Peter’s Players has become a ‘must-play’ stop on the concert circuit.
In addition to Cuddy, who’s played the venue multiple times, a review of the names of past acts who’ve graced the Peter’s Players stage is like reading a who’s-who of Canadian rock, pop, and folk history. The Cowboy Junkies, Marc Jordan, Heather Rankin, Ian Thomas, Ron Sexsmith, Amy Sky, Royal Wood, Jesse Cook, Ashley MacIssac, Colin James, Alfie Zappacosta, and Kiefer Sutherland (yes, theKiefer Sutherland) have all stopped here to share their music – along with anecdotes – with engaged audiences of just 115 people.
The list of international legends from the world of blues, jazz, rock, and pop is equally long, with notables including The Strawbs, Lulu, and Carole Pope. There’s also been no shortage of great tribute acts, too. Highlights over the past 12 years include performers covering such iconic musicians as Elton John, Sly & The Family Stone, Bob Seger, Steely Dan, Elvis Presley, Chicago, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, The Eagles, The Guess Who, Led Zeppelin, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix… well, you get the picture.
From Humble Garage to Peter’s Players
What makes this success story all the more remarkable is the fact that Swanek started things off in a former mechanic’s garage, developing connections in the music industry to ensure an international line-up of stars got things off to a flying start. That first concert in April, 2008, saw such iconic musicians as Omar and the Howlers, John Mayall, James Cotton, and Johnny Winter take to the stage. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now regarded as one of the top things to do in Muskoka, a night at Peter’s Players is an equally unforgettable experience for the audience. Featuring comfortable tiered seating (complete with cushions and backrests), the overall impression is more living room or home theatre than concert hall. It’s an ambience that’s enhanced by the cozy décor and lighting, the small bar, the friendly staff and, perhaps most importantly, the proximity of the stage – you can, if you’re in the front row, literally reach out and shake the hand of the performers, or even engage in friendly chat during the intermission or post-show.
Peter’s Players Upcoming Events & Concerts 2019
The roster of artists who’ve performed at Peter’s Player just keeps getting longer. Still to perform in 2019 are the following must-see acts:
- Jimmy Rankin – The Canadian legend and star of the Rankin Family brings his Cape Breton-sound to Gravenhurst October 2nd as he tours the folk-rock tunes from new album, Moving East
- The Legend of George Jones – October 3rd sees the talented Duane Steelebring his tribute to the great country performer to Peter’s Players
- Great Lake Swimmers – The popular Torontoband arrive October 9th to celebrate their 15thanniversary
- Bruce In The USA – Matt Ryan performs the best of Bruce Springsteen October 18th
- Yuk Yuks On Tour – The famous comedy club, featuring Ian Sirota, Tom Henry, and MC Hunter Collins, visits Gravenhurst October 26th for a night of guaranteed laughter
- Coco Montoya – November 1st sees the Southern soul-rooted guitar great strut the stage with his epic blues tunes
- The Last Waltz – A must-see musical celebration of the music of the legendary The Band, November 15th, starring an all-star Canadian cast
Tickets for most performances sell-out in advance, so be sure to book early. To help regulars avoid disappointment, a unique membership package – Peter’s Patrons Club – has been developed that allows members a variety of perks, including the unique opportunity to influence future performance bookings.
Muskoka Lakes Music Cruise
Muskoka Lakes music cruises aboard the Wenonah II, a modern-day remake of one of the first steamships to sale the Muskoka Lakes. Sailing from the ship’s base on the Muskoka Wharf on Lake Muskoka, these fun cruises include live music by bands such as The Traveling Milburys, a tribute band performing the hits of The Traveling Wilburys. Spring and summer cruises are available, and include buffet dinner.
Another exciting opportunity for music fans to indulge themselves takes place over the winter… and in the Caribbean. The 2nd Annual Peter’s Players Jamaica Winterfest takes place in this tropical paradise from January 23rd to 30th at SeaGarden all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay. In addition to fun in the sun activities, each evening of your stay will see performances by acts including Matt Andersen, Paul Nelson & the All-Star Band, Ana Popovic, and Peter Rivera.
Let’s Spend the Night Together – The Inn @ Peter’s Players
For a truly memorable Peter’s Players experience, the venue has added an accommodations option. The Inn @ Peter’s Players is located at the front of the property, and offers easy access to the venue, as well as dedicated parking. Five uniquely decorated and themed rooms and suites are available, ranging in size from the spacious 215 sq ft Rhythm Section to the cozy 182 sq ft Support Act suites. In addition to a great breakfast, guests also have access to a comfortable seating area and a full-kitchen.
To learn more about Peter’s Players’ unique music experiences in Muskoka, visit their website at www.petersplayers.com. There’s also a fun video to watch that shows more detail about this amazing concert venue in Gravenhurst, as well as Peter Swanek’s remarkable journey to music impresario – you can watch it here.