On the second Tuesday of every month, you’ll find Betsy Ganz at The Lost Leaf downtown pressing down on a metal toaster.
Toast Tuesday began more than two years ago, when a musical duo Ganz was a part of became a one-woman show. “My partner wasn’t going to play music anymore,” Ganz says. “I brought the toaster because one thing I know how to do is make toast — it’s a source of comfort that helped alleviate my anxiety.”
Ganz is the singer and guitarist of the soulful and rootsy band The SunPunchers, and on Toast Tuesday, she is known as the "Toastess." She takes that toasty bread and tops it with the night’s available spreads, from avocado to sweeter options like Irish marmalade, jam, and Nutella. Lindsay Cates, Ganz’s bandmate in The SunPunchers, also assists with the night when she can. Dave’s Killer Bread has even sponsored the night with coupons so loaves could be obtained for this regular soiree.
Just as heady as the smells that waft and hover through the room from the tasty eats are the sounds that emanate from the stage. Ganz curates the night thoughtfully,and her goal is to create a space where performers can play new songs or works in development without feeling self-conscious.
“'From page to stage' is the tagline I came up with for the night,” Ganz says. “I wanted a spot for musicians to meet one another and form relationships that might lead to collaborations beyond the night.”
Those connections have certainly occurred — Ganz says she has seen performers come together to record or play shows after meeting at Toast Tuesday.
Ganz often takes the stage herself, filling the room with her rich and evocative voice. Other Americana, roots, and country-oriented acts often share the Toast Tuesday stage. Megan Neff, Jim Bachmann, Mike Montoya, Steph Griffin, Anna See, Paula Tesorio, The Wilt Family, and Nolan McKelvey are repeat players.
One of Ganz's favorite parts of the night is getting to hear work that’s not necessarily polished. “Part of the charm of it is just encouraging people to play. Some of their new songs or songs they haven't played out in public, you know, they're less, less perfect and less pretty and that provides so many amazing, honest moments. I think sharing the unplanned music finds people sticking their necks out a little bit, and when they do, something great can happen.”
Although the lineup usually trends more toward roots music, don’t be surprised if you find a noisy punk act like the raucous two-piece Bitter Nasty on the roster. Ganz loves keeping Toast Tuesday open to musicians in various genres, and she's also open to improvisation.
“Someone might attend the event and bring a violin and get up and play with a scheduled performer. It’s a planned night, but we do like keeping some room for flexibility.”
Charity is also essential to Ganz, who uses the night to shed light on in-need organizations.
“We have highlighted Circle the City several times. It would be great to get a local chapter of Music Cares going. We’d also like to be involved with a resource referral source for musicians seeking health care or other types of assistance.”
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Ganz hopes the event grows. She’d love to see a separate "jam" night at a big venue as something that happens frequently. Of course, that event will include spreading jam along with the rocking out.
“We always welcome new guests and new players,” Ganz says. “It’s a really fun night with a great sense of community.”
“Plus,” she adds, “it smells great.”
Toast Tuesday. 9 p.m. Every second Tuesday at Lost Leaf, 914 North Fifth Street; thelostleaf.org.