8.6 C
New York
Sunday, August 1, 2021
Home Lifestyle How one B.C. venue is blazing the trail for a return to...

How one B.C. venue is blazing the trail for a return to live music


Alex Cuba wasn’t planning to be a trailblazer for the future of Canada’s live music scene, but his upcoming concerts may serve as a blueprint for the road ahead amid the pandemic.

The Latin Grammy Award-winning artist is booked to play four nights at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney, B.C., starting on Thursday. He’ll be among the first acts to return to the stage at the venue, or any other space of its size in the country.

“Somebody has to take this step,” the Canadian-Cuban musician said ahead of the shows.

“If we were going to just crawl into a wall and become fearful, nothing will ever happen. I want to give my best and I want to make an effort to let people know that, yeah, there is hope.”

Nearly five months into a nationwide shutdown that crippled the country’s independent music scene, a growing number of bars and restaurants are welcoming back musicians under coronavirus-related precautions.

But without a vaccine in sight, uncertainty lingers everywhere.

Huge arena concerts won’t be possible until at least next year, which means an evening of live music will look quite different under strict distancing measures. And while outdoor performances at drive-ins and garden parties were all the rage this summer, the cooler weather ahead is pushing some venues to consider ways to safely provide live entertainment indoors.

The Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney, north of Victoria, has reopened with limited seating. Its largest venue can normally hold 900 people but it now caps ticket sales at 50 people a night. (Mary Winspear Centre/Facebook)

Brad Edgett, executive director of the Mary Winspear Centre, is among those hopeful his venue will help write the playbook for the live music community. He booked Cuba as only the second artist during the pandemic to play the conference centre and theatre, which fit 900 people in its largest hall before the virus limited capacity to 50.

Before him, Vancouver country performer Aaron Pritchett stepped onto the stage for a series of four small shows in mid-July.

Ticket holder questionnaire

Preparations for each concert start roughly a week before the show when Edgett’s staff begin making calls to ticket holders with a list of COVID-19 questions:

Have you recently travelled outside the country? Been in contact with anyone who’s sick? Are you coming with your partner? Do you live in the same household?

With those answers, they group everyone at tables by their social bubble, not unlike they would for a wedding.

Inside the venue, snacks and drinks are available for purchase through a server, and instead of a table with the artist’s
merchandise, fans can pre-order shirts and albums through a digital platform and have them delivered to their seat.

Pritchett’s concerts went off without a hitch, Edgett said, even if some concertgoers found themselves slipping into old habits.

“By the fourth night, the crowd was a little bit more energetic,” he said.

“We had to make sure they were still staying in their seats, and their little bubbles we’d given them, and not to get on the dance floor.”

Aaron Pritchett is seen on the red carpet at the 2017 Junos in Ottawa. The country star played four nights at the Mary Winspear Centre in mid-July. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Hopes for a co-operative touring circuit

It’s not only the fans who have had to adapt. In Cuba’s case, playing to a significantly smaller audience comes with a pay cut.

In “normal times,” he would have performed one night at the venue, possibly two if ticket sales were brisk, Cuba said.

But during the pandemic he’s struck an agreement with the Mary Winspear Centre to play four nights for the payment of one. He’s also playing without his backing band, because a solo performance is the only way the arrangement makes financial sense.

Edgett said he’s found most musicians are willing to compromise if it means bringing their music back to the masses, even if they’re entertaining a crowd that’s a fraction of their usual size.

“I’ve been able to get them to agree on a price where the artist is making some money and I am basically breaking even or making a little bit of money,” he said.

Agreements like these could present new opportunities with other B.C.-area venues, Edgett said. He imagines a model where organizers work together with performers to book multiple venues around the province, effectively creating a small, co-operative touring circuit.

“It provides the artists with more opportunity for revenue and it certainly makes the arts and culture thrive in British Columbia in a unique time,” he said.

“There are clubs that could change their format and build off of something like this.”

The Mary Winspear Centre is booked for shows nearly every week into the middle of November, and Edgett plans to turn his attention to the Christmas season in the coming weeks. He estimates more than 40 nights will be filled with live music before the end of this year.

“We’re happy to take the lead and try to educate all the venues on how we can make this work, because it’s in our interest and in the artists’ interest … to work collaboratively,” he said.

“We don’t want this industry to fold. We need this industry to thrive.”



Source link

Today news
Today News 1 runs four of the western GTA’s most influential media websites, offering news, food, lifestyle and entertainment coverage for millions to the Golden Horseshoe and GTA regions. The independently-run, online news source was founded in 2019 and specializes in everything from breaking news to food and restaurant, arts and entertainment and lifestyle coverage.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Oilpatch revival underway with robust profits so far this year

After racking up debt in 2020, the Canadian oilpatch is enjoying a rebound so far this year as major oil producers are gushing...

Business travel isn’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon

Kacey Siskind recently took her first business trip to the U.S. since the pandemic began.  The vice-president of business development at Honk Mobile, a...

Pop star Kris Wu detained by Beijing police on suspicion of sexual assault

Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu has been detained by Beijing police on suspicion of rape, police announced Saturday, following an accusation the former...

Barenaked Ladies ready to return to stage after a Detour de Force

Among the four current members of Barenaked Ladies, there are differing feelings about returning to the stage. There is the predictable excitement, but...

Recent Comments