Early ’90s cigarette smoke filled the air as the venue’s namesake treated partying patrons to a round of peach schnapps, before rhyming off a German toast atop the stage.
Times have changed compared to Ashley Wey’s first childhood memory of Hermann’s Jazz Club.
But its place as a revered musical institution in the capital city hasn’t skipped a beat for what will be 41 years come next month.
However, even after an almost virtuosic performance of navigating pandemic shutdowns for the last two years, the recent round of restrictions has reduced Hermann’s operational capital to a critical level.
“This is our first and only appeal,” said Wey, the club’s booking manager and longtime performer. “What we need is people to consider giving us a gift that will help preserve this important musical institution and the legacy of Hermann’s Jazz Club for future generations.
“It’s our call for help right now.”
The venue entices world-class performers to stop in Victoria every tour and is essential for a host of local musical non-profits, Wey said. Hermann’s had livestreams running within days of the first COVID-19 lockdown. Wey said those kept people connected and got more than $100,000 to local artists within the first nine months of the pandemic.
The club is determined not to close, but it’s urgent for it to get a little help to get through the next six weeks. The team at Hermann’s has been hard at work to make sure they can hit the ground running, with shows ready once they can return to full capacity.
Thousands consider Hermann’s Jazz Club to be like their living room, Wey said, or somewhere they’d rather be than in their living room. Victoria’s musical community feels like a family, one that’s held together by Hermann’s, she said.
Wey recalls the effect of the club’s first reopening for in-person shows, how it lifted the spirits of people she’s seen frequenting the club for the last 30 years.
“People were so happy to come back,” she said, noting how the tight-knit community was passing notes between tables since they couldn’t mingle.
Few cities have a place like Hermann’s Jazz Club, Wey said, where all ages can experience and be inspired by world-class performers.
“We’re lucky we have that in Victoria. I feel like I was just born and raised in the place,” she said, adding, “the arts are what get people through tough times.”
The club is launching a series of fundraisers, starting with a livestream-only Valentines Day show. A full list of coming performances, most of which are a hybrid in-person/livestream format, can be found online at hermannsjazz.com/upcominghows.
Donations can be made to the venue anytime at the Arts On View website (artsonview.ca/donate/) or by mailing a cheque made out to Arts On View Society to 753 View St., Victoria BC V8W 1J9). Those looking to donate a large amount can email firstname.lastname@example.org.