A new series of Saturday night online streamed concerts starting up this month at White Rock’s Blue Frog Studios just may be leading the way into a new reality for live music in the pandemic – and post-pandemic – era.
“As far as I know, we’re the first venue – anywhere – doing this,” owner Kelly Breaks told Peace Arch News.
“I’ve been watching and looking at concert announcements and, as far as I can see, no-one else is doing the same thing.”
As opposed to a current proliferation of ‘Zoom’ concerts and live shows in improvised home-studio settings, Blue Frog’s Virtually Live series – starting this Saturday, June 13, with a concert by guitarist/vocalist Paul Pigat (of Cousin Harley fame) – will offer concerts with full acts, streamed from the venue’s stage and featuring professional sound engineering, lighting and multiple-camera video.
“There are other people presenting what they say are live shows, but most of them have some pre-recording and editing, and some of the guys may actually be playing in separate cities,” Breaks said.
“We’re doing these just like our regular concerts – just without the live audience,” he added.
“This is nothing new for us – we’ve worked a long time to get where we are. It’s funny how things have come around.”
The series, which also offers a draw for gift certificates from other White Rock businesses, has been made possible by some funding and promotional assistance from the White Rock BIA, as well as donations from some individuals, Breaks said, but most of the money to pay for the musicians and production staff will come by viewers pre-paying for the concerts.
And although the first promotion for the series was launched last week, public interest is already gratifyingly high, he said.
“We’re receiving dozens of calls each day.”
On Saturday, June 20, Atlantic Crossing (featuring members of Randy Bachman’s regular back-up band) will cover the hits of The Beatles, Elton John, AC/DC and Rod Stewart; while on July 4, bluesman Jim Byrnes and his band will be in the spotlight.
Breaks noted that Byrnes had originally been booked for a audience-present concert when pandemic restrictions came into force in March, but had almost immediately expressed a ‘show must go on’ attitude.
“He was the first one who said ‘why don’t we just do it online?’” he said.
Also following Byrnes’ lead will be rhythm and blues band The Kingpins, fronted by ‘Big Hank’ Lionhart and featuring Jack Lavin on bass (July 11) and Ladies Sing The Blues (July 18), featuring noted singers Joani Bye, Nadine States, Leslie Harris. Catherine St.Germaine and Amanda Dean, backed by Rob Montgomery and his all-star band.
Anti-COVID-19 social distancing and hygiene measures will be very much in place during the concerts, Breaks emphasized – and also during set-up, sound checks and take-down.
“The bands will all have to take precautions – they have to bring their own vocal mics and drummers have to bring their own drumsticks and drum chairs, and while they can use the house kit, it will have to be wiped down before and after each show,” Breaks said.
“Because our stage is 35 feet wide, we can pretty much space the performers side to side,” he added, noting that sound mixer Pat Glover and roving close-up cameraman Tom Saunders will be able to maintain at least a 12-foot distance from each other and the performers.
“The rest of the crew in the control room are distanced and also behind glass, and we’ve got robot cameras, now, that we can move and zoom in from the control room.”
Breaks said that while he’s optimistic that a return to live shows is plotting a course for a post-pandemic future, he wants to temper that enthusiasm with continuing caution and responsibility.
“We’ve got a lot of bands who want to do shows, but we’re only planning the initial series of Virtually Live until the end of July,” he said.
“We want to see what (provincial health officer) Dr. Bonnie Henry comes up with,” he added.
Lifting the current limitation on public gatherings of no more than 50 people will be the big green light for audience-present concerts to return, he said.
“With only 50 people it’s hard to produce – and pay for – a show,” he said.
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has changed the conversation about how live entertainment is marketed, Breaks said – and how it will continue to be marketed.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of managers and they’re all saying the same thing – presenting live streams will be part of the business from here on in.”
For more on upcoming Virtually Live concerts – and how to order them – visit bluefrogstudios.ca