So What’s With The Hat?

By the time you read this missive about Ed Sousa’s 5th annual McBowl Concert Series to be staged Friday, May 22nd and Saturday, May 23rd at Mississauga Ontario’s Classic Bowl, the majority of tickets for this Ronald McDonald House charities event are likely to have been snapped up.

Like a pack of rabid wolves tearing at the carcass of some dead moose, Sousa’s impressive mailing list of contacts have been known to react to the on-sale ticket sales for this laudable event with lightning speed. And 2020 is likely to be no different.

Forced to expand his concept over two days due to the successful response to his previous four McBowl events, Friday May 22nd Sousa will feature a classic rock night spotlighting Honeymoon Suite, Saga and Harlequin with the following night set as an 80’s night featuring The Spoons, Images In Vogue, Strange Advance and Minneapolis-based Information Society.

With general admission tickets set at $45 for one night and $80 for both nights and with a special VIP ticket at $75 and $140 providing reserved seating and admission to band sound checks, Sousa is confident the 1,000 tickets available for each night will be scooped up in short order.

“Due to overwhelming demand we decided to extend the event to two nights,” enthused Sousa who serves on the board of directors for The Classic Bowl. “Right now we are down to single tickets for the VIP admission and the great thing is that people are buying tickets for both nights. We could probably sell more tickets but you want people to be comfortable and give them some elbow room.”

Sparked by an unfortunate situation which occurred in 1987, when his nephew contracted leukemia and passed away five years later at the age of 17, Sousa’s sister was a frequent guest at Ronald McDonald House during that time and was full of admiration for the great work this organization provided. “So I told myself, if I ever have the opportunity to assist a charity, this would be the one” Sousa noted.

Ed Sousa and Team
Ed Sousa and Team

Having already raised exactly $193,433.09 during the first four years’ of the McBowl Concert Series, Sousa is confident of hitting the quarter of a million-dollar mark with this year’s two-night event.

What makes the McBowl event so unique is the setting with the stage set up in the middle of the bowling lanes. Now, mind you, it is a BIG bowling complex and the staging is state of the art, provided by Gil Moore’s Metalworks Staging Company. “When artists arrive at the site, they recognize they are working with top-notch individuals” beamed Sousa.

Yet even more important are the quality of the artists Sousa continues to attract. “You look at this year’s lineup and for $45 you get to see Honeymoon Suite, Saga and Harlequin one night and The Spoons, Images In Vogue, Strange Advance and Information Society on the next night,” enthused Sousa. “Where else can you see a talent lineup like that for such a price?”

“It’s all about relationships” allowed Sousa when explaining how he was able to attract such talent. “I am fortunate enough to be able to call a lot of these artists, explain to them what we are doing, here is the date and more often than not they agree to play. Previous artists have had such a good time that they rave about their experience which makes it so much easier to get other artists. Honeymoon Suite have headlined five years straight; they tell me it’s their most favourite gig.”

A look at current and previous lineups shows that Sousa has a penchant for booking 80’s classic rock bands, especially synth-based bands like The Spoons, The Box, Saga, Images In Vogue and Rational Youth, and more recently British bands like China Crisis, A Flock Of Seagulls and When In Rome.

Honeymoon Suite
Honeymoon Suite

“Selfishly speaking, it takes just as much work to book a band that you are not a fan of as opposed to booking a band that you are a fan of” Sousa allowed. “When you are a fan of that band, you put your heart and soul into making sure everything goes well so I try to book bands I have a personal passion for. As a kid, I remember going to a New Year’s Eve concert featuring Saga and Harlequin. Now I am booking these bands for my own function, how cool is that!”

Aside from this annual live event, Sousa has also spent the past four years developing a unique live and interactive series of performances where select artists perform songs and talk about the genesis of their material to a select number of just 100 people in a small, intimate setting in one of the Concert Bowl’s office lounge areas.

Titled The Rock And Bowl Sessions, these concerts have featured the likes of Prism’s Al Harlow, Jean-Marc Pisapia from The Box, Mike Score from A Flock Of Seagulls, The Spoons’ Gord Deppe and Sandy Horne, Images In Vogue’s Dale Martindale and Derrick Gyles and Gary Daly and Ed Lundon from China Crisis just to name a few with Bill Henderson from Chilliwack February 23rd, Strange Advance’s Drew Arnott March 29th  all ready selling out their allotment and there are only a few tickets left for The Grapes Of Wrath’s appearance April 26th. Tickets go for $25 and all receipts are turned over for the artist to name the charity of their choice.

Of special interest is a mystery artist May 3rd whose identity will not be known until he (or she) enters the room. “We’ve doubled the ticket price to $50 and we’ve almost sold out even though no one (other than me!) knows who the artist is…” enthused Sousa.

Another way Sousa is promoting domestic talent is by staging a series of surprise ‘pop-up concerts’ where the artist gets to keep the door receipts. “We tried it with a Bowie Tribute Band (featuring Images In Vogue’s Dale Martindale on January 18) and it was so successful that we are doing it again Saturday March 28th with The Kings and April 4th with Slave To The Square Wave, both gigs at the Concert Bowl, cost $20 per ticket”.

Capitalizing on his own personality, Sousa has even introduced his own line of merchandise with proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House. Designed by MAD Designers, Melanie and Derrick Gyles (drummer for Images In Vogue and Slave To The Square Wave), this extensive line of products feature a distinctive Sousa Group logo on such items as t-shirts, mugs, playing cards, Sousa’s distinctive trilby hat and even an Ed Sousa bobblehead figurine.

The Ed Sousa Bobblehead
The sale of Ed Sousa merchandise such as the Bobblehead Figurine raise proceeds that go to Ronald McDonald House Charities

So in conclusion, what’s the story behind the Ed Sousa Trilby Hat? “When you are looking for someone in a crowd, you don’t always know what they look like” Sousa explained. “My background is in marketing so to be distinctive, I started to wear a hat so people could easily find me. Then I had people coming up to me saying they liked my hat so now I can’t go anywhere without wearing one.”

With ticket sales coming in from all over the United States and Canada for his McBowl shows and requests for him to franchise his shows to other bowling establishments, Sousa is open to expanding his fund-raising initiatives but is concerned that outside promoters will not be as passionate about his efforts as he is.

“I’ve had people from Quebec and Vancouver approach me about franchising the concept but they don’t realize just how much work goes into planning these events,” Sousa explained. “I’m not doing this as a revenue generator, it’s all about raising monies for charity, that’s my sole purpose in doing this.”

For further information on Ed Sousa’s McBowl activities please link to

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