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Live music reemerging in Western Canada, but not without setbacks

“Everybody’s just pretending like nothing ever happened, it’s very weird.”

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With COVID-19 restrictions lifting, live music is finally coming back, but those in the scene have been feeling the consequences.

Music and live performance industries have been financially hit hard by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. For emerging artists especially, performing live can be the make-or-break to finally get one’s foot in the door.

The Calgary Stampede was one of the first mass public events since the pandemic began. It hosted a variety of live music acts, and has so far been deemed successful with no major outbreaks known to have resulted from it.

With restrictions in place for a little over a year (March 2020 to July 2021) to varying degrees around the world, musicians and performers are trying to figure out what a post-COVID-19 world will look like for their industry – and grappling to put the pieces of what’s left back together.

Jarod, a.k.a. DVille, is an up and coming electronic music artist quickly taking Western Canada by storm. Based in Calgary, DVille has been releasing music and playing live shows since early 2017, and works closely with local promotion company Boodang.

Already taking advantage of pandemic restrictions dropping across western Canada, DVille has at least two live performances under the belt already in 2021.

“Two nights ago I got to play Palace (Theatre Calgary) again. Last two weeks have been fast-paced!”

DVille said he and other artists found more setbacks than benefits from the pandemic, but gained solace through controlling what he could.

“I think the only real benefit was being able to take a step back from the actual performance aspect of live entertainment and really put a lot more energy and focus into practicing our crafts and really honing in our skills of what we get to showcase and perform,” he said.

“There’s just been immense challenges. The biggest obstacle has just been the immense shutdown of most venues – almost all venues – for the entire time. So really there being no realms to partake in any activities.”

With the entire world shutting down, all live events initially closed down with it, meaning even the biggest of names weren’t able to tour and perform. This lack of mobility for even established forces in the game seems to have started a stigmatized culture within the music scene of ‘if they can’t perform, what makes you so special?’

“There was quite a big stigma through the industry of anyone that was performing or was finding ways to find a way to present their live music. Just because having the biggest names across all genres and all aspects of the music industry having to take a knee, having to take a seat, having to take a step back,” DVille said.

“What sets you apart from the bigs of the bigs? Like if the Rolling Stones can’t jump on stage, why do you think you should have the right to?”

This stigma seems to also point to a potential reason musicians especially have been so hesitant to perform live again since COVID-19.

“I really felt that stigma, with other artists judging, really kept a lot of people at home and not performing,” he said.

DVille says while the normal crowd is still around, its begun to quickly expand.

“It’s been insane! The energy that the crowd brings is just unmatched. The amount and influx of new faces and new energy is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” he said.

“People aren’t just out to see headliners anymore. Now after COVID, like as soon as the nightclub doors open the dance floor is full and people are just there to be there, which is super sick. I don’t know how long that will last, but it’s quite a different vibe for sure.”

Along with a renewed bustle has come a renewed sense of gratitude.

“I feel like that’s because just every artist themselves is more competitive because we’ve all spent so much time working on our craft and getting better. So because we didn’t get the chance to perform, all the music that we would’ve been showcasing we’ve just been stacking up and saving and saving. “

Referring specifically to the Western Canada music scene, DVille says COVID-19 has and will bring large shifts to the music industry with commercialization being more prominent than ever. Smaller independent venues, companies, and artists are fighting to keep their heads above water with the duration of the pandemic forcing many to close up shop.

“The only people (who) are left are the big fish in the industry pond. People that were already really well off. So now they’re kind of taking a monopoly over the industry. People in the position to take a benefit from the monopoly are the ones who were already not really struggling,” he said.

With big players currently holding court over most of the industry, the pandemic has begun to erode the middle ground positions in the music industry and leave only the have or have-nots in a brand new age.

“It is kind of two-faced because taking out that middle section or middle ground of the community, of the industry, did create a little bit of headroom for very grassroots organizations to totally startup. So it is somewhat Renaissance-like, and a rebirth of there being a lot of new – brand new – promotion companies, event companies, events, different things like that,” DVille said.

When it comes to artists, the industry seems to be experiencing an influx of plurality. With major artists buckling and new artists emerging online, getting one’s foot in the door of the music industry right now is an interesting experience.

“There is an overlapping wave, because I feel like there are so many feet trying to get in the door right now that it is a little overwhelming. Strangely enough there still were a lot of new breakthrough musicians coming out during COVID,” DVille said.

When it comes to post-pandemic caution being exercised by patrons attending live shows, DVille hasn’t observed much. “Everybody’s like, ‘COVID who?’ Everybody’s just pretending like nothing ever happened, it’s very weird. The last two weekends at Palace have been quite dream-like, it’s exactly how it was before — it’s quite eerie almost.”

He attributed most of said normalcy to the inherent nature of clubs: “stuffy, indoor, hot, clubby, shoulder-to-shoulder, mosh-pit environments the people that wouldn’t necessarily be super comfortable or would be exercising a little more precaution, they’re just not ready, they straight up would pass,” he said.

Although Canadian patrons seem to be observably comfortable post-pandemic, DVille says both he and a handful of others in his circle are actually exercising more caution than they otherwise normally would. “Yeah Charlie (CJ We$ty) is for sure,” he said.

“Normally, if I wasn’t on stage I would be down right in the thick of it, down at the front, right in the most condensed bit of the crowd. The last two weekends I’ve spent the overwhelming majority of my time behind the rope, backstage, in VIP, up in the green room all six feet away from people social distancing all night,” he said.

Vaccines are set to play an interesting role in the reemergence of any live events, but especially concerts and live music. DVille says it’s like mixing apples and oranges to compare COVID-19 regulation capabilities between large and small venues.

“That saying ‘you have to spend money to make money’ because those promotion companies, those event staff, they don’t have the base income to get the whole ball rolling, they can only have the ability to put on subpar events,” he said.

“The larger venues are just more able to put on better events right now, and a lot of the small venues have just been closed or don’t have the initial booking fees to bring in big artists; therefore to bring in crowds to spend money.”

Questions surrounding the ethics of barring people from public spaces without immunization have been on the rise lately, with Manitoba’s new vaccine QR code system already drawing controversy. DVille says at the end of the day it should be a company’s choice to implement these rules or not, and patrons who don’t like it have the freedom to make other choices.

DVille recognizes not everyone is able to abide by the new immunization rules.

“If your health enables you to get the vaccine and you don’t have any precursors that would make you ineligible for the vaccine – yeah! I think you shouldn’t really have a problem with the need to have it to go to an event, but it’s definitely a case by case basis because not everyone is that fortunate,” he said.

What’s going on soon for live music:

Alberta and BC are hosting a number of live music events throughout the summer and into the fall, but many of the usuals are choosing to play it cautious and postpone another year to 2022.

• Chasing Summer, a weekend music festival taking place in Calgary, has officially announced it will be postponing once again until 2022.

“There’s not a ton of Canadian artists across a ton of different EDM genres really touring right now. It’s alright, but I see why it’s going on. And Chasing is just one of those things where there just wouldn’t be enough artists to keep them all booked locally.”

• The ever-popular Shambhala music festival hosted annually in BC also opted to postpone one more year until 2022.

• Country music festival Sunfest in Cowichan, BC will be returning in 2022 without a 2021 offering.

But Western Canadians can still look forward to their fill of live music coming up.

If you’re looking for a more casual scene, Social Beer Haus on Stephen Ave – previously showcased for their Stampede food selections – will be hosting live local musicians every day from 2-5 p.m. and boasts a dance floor inside.

Palace Theatre in Calgary boasts a modest docket of live music spaced throughout the summer and really picking up in autumn.

Running through August 7, Inglewood in Calgary will be hosting The Melodies and Myths live concert in Mills Park every Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until noon. This concert series aims to showcase local classical music artists including cellists, guitarists, and violinists.

If you’re able to wait until autumn, Boodang is hosting SCREAM, a Halloween-themed music bash on October 30 in Edmonton. With names like Alison Wonderland and RL Grime billed as headliners, and tier-one tickets already sold out, Boodang’s first live event since COVID-19 is expected to be big.

Jackie Conroy is a reporter for the Western Standard
jconroy@westernstandardonline.com

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Grant Doyle

    July 26, 2021 at 7:40 am

    Live music and comedy seems to be flourishing right now with local artists being booked everywhere in the country space. Rodeos, fairs, cabarets, breweries, smaller bars are hiring musicians more than I have ever seen. In particular Blind Beggar Smokehouse is engaging almost hundred acts with performances every day. Alberta Country Music is doing amazing right now.

  2. CodexCoder

    July 25, 2021 at 7:08 am

    It’s not weird because nothing really happened. If you look at the mortality statistics, year over year, for the last 5 years, there is no significant change in how many died, just in the cause that is attributed to their deaths. And this is a worldwide phenomenon. If you look at the stats, ask your self one simple question: What happened to the endemic flu deaths that occur every single year prior to the onset of the “COVID” pandemic (and I use that term reservedly)? Can you honestly believe that suddenly no one died from the flu? That the flu just up and disappeared?

    It didn’t – the simplest explanation is often the most correct. So why the change? I leave that one up to you.

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Features

Timeline of Kenney’s seesaw COVID-19 protocols

Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier that Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events.

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On the heels of new lockdown measures in Alberta, The Western Standard reviews Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s seesaw approach to dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

March 20, 2020 – Four days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Alberta cities including Calgary declared local states of emergency and shut down most non-essential businesses and serviced. Alberta also declared a provincial public state of emergency and closed all schools.

May 13, 2020 – Alberta enters a Stage 1 re-opening plan allowing businesses, like restaurants and retailers, to reopen with social distancing restrictions.

June 12, 2020 – Stage 2 is introduced earlier than expected, allowing theatres, massage therapists and hair salons as well as libraries to open. Alberta’s state of emergency ends after nearly three months.

August 4, 2020 – The province mandates back-to-school mask use for students in grades four to 12.

October 26, 2020 – Alberta introduces a limit of no more than 15 people for social gatherings.

November 12, 2020 – Tighter restrictions are introduced in restaurants and bars, including an earlier last call for alcohol.

November 24, 2020 – The province announces new and even tighter restrictions banning social gatherings, limits attendance numbers in churches and funerals and closes Alberta high schools.

November 25, 2020 – A Facebook post from Kenney states “We decided not to proceed with a lockdown because of the profound damage it would cause to Albertans, thereby deepening the mental health crisis and leaving many to despair. We will not let political pressure or ideological approaches cause indiscriminate damage to people’s lives and livelihoods.”

December 8, 2020 – Despite Kenney’s announcement less than two weeks earlier, the province is plunged into another full lockdown. All indoor and outdoor social gatherings are banned and non-essential businesses are forced to close including restaurants.

January 14, 2021 – Restrictions on outdoor gatherings are eased and personal service businesses, including massage and hair salons, are allowed to reopen.

January 29, 2021 – Premier Jason Kenney announces “The Path Forward” framework, allowing for an incremental easing of restrictions over three stages. Benchmark metrics were set based on hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients and a minimum wait period of three weeks between each phase.

February 8, 2021 – “Step 1” of The Path Forward plan begins with Alberta easing some restrictions on restaurants, kids sports and indoor fitness.

March 1, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 2” phasing in low-intensity fitness classes; however, earlier benchmarks were ignored and the remainder of Phase 2 was delayed until March 8 when libraries, retailers, banquets, etc. were permitted to resume at varied levels of capacity. Sports programs were also allowed to resume with limits on participants and social-distancing measures.

March 22, 2021 – Again ignoring previously-set benchmarks, the province announces, due to a surge in COVID cases brought on by variants of concern, “Step 3” would be paused until COVID patients are under 300 and declining.

April 6, 2021 – Premier Kenney rolls Alberta back to “Step 1” until further notice moving the goalposts yet again, stating restaurants in the province were only allowed to offer outdoor dining service.

April 29, 2021 – Kenney announces targeted heath measures specific to regions where there were higher numbers of COVID cases. Schools in those regions were to switch to online learning, indoor gyms were to close and all indoor sports activity were to be suspended. This would last for two weeks.

May 4, 2021 – New restrictions are announced again province-wide. All schools including post-secondary institutions were moved to online learning, indoor recreation activities were shut down and in-person dining was prohibited as of May 10. In those areas with high case counts, gatherings were limited to 5, retail stores went to 10% capacity, personal care services were closed and outdoor gatherings were limited to immediate family members only. 

May 25, 2021 – Students were permitted to return to in-person learning. The next day, Kenney announced he was replacing his “Plan Forward” strategy with the “Open for Summer” plan, based on vaccination progress and hospitalization numbers.

June 18, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 3” would be implemented July 1.

July 1, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta is “Open for Summer” and nearly all remaining public heath orders are lifted including mask mandates, self-isolation requirements, scaled back testing and contact tracing.

July, 2021 – Kenney, while attending a Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast, is recorded saying he swears to God the province is “open for good.”

July 29, 2021 – The province announces major changes to the COVID-19 protocols on testing, self-isolation and contact tracing. Testing would now only be for the symptomatic; self-isolating is no longer mandatory and AHS would stop close-contact contact tracing.

Sept 4, 2021 – Alberta brings back mandatory masking for all indoor public spaces and work places. Restaurants are ordered to end alcohol service at 10 p.m.

Sept 15, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events. As of September 20, restaurants will have to shut their dining rooms and only provide service on their patios or take-out meals until they have a vaccine passport system in place which will then offer them exemptions. The province will also continue a curfew of 10 p.m. for liquor sales. Forced social distancing returns and it will be illegal for unvaccinated people to attend social functions in homes. Vaccinated families can have friends come over from one other vaccinated house to a total of 10 people. Along with other restrictions, mandatory work from home orders are also back in place.

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Features

MAKICHUK: TOP SECRET – Meet the real-life James Bonds

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

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Like James Bond, they cross borders with fake identities and passports.

They operate in small isolated teams and have access to the full array of 007 gadgets designed by the spies’ Q section.

Its members are famed for not always looking like soldiers. Some speak different languages and can pass as foreign nationals.

The standing joke is that they could fit in at an embassy party or a whorehouse in Istanbul.

And just like Bond, they are all highly trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat.

In fact, their training is considered “amazing even by SAS standards.”

But unlike the fictional 007 character, these assets don’t work for MI6, the famed British Secret Intelligence Service.

They are an elite section of the SAS, known as “The Increment.”

According to a report in the UK’s The Sun, the existence of the secret unit, “E Squadron,” was inadvertently confirmed this week when bungling Army top brass leaked the personal details of more than 70 Special Forces troops.

Buried deep in a spreadsheet of 1,200 soldiers’ names, trades and military units was a single reference to “22 SAS E SQN.”

It was the first written proof that the unit exists.

E Squadron is the fifth and newest limb of 22 SAS, the world’s most famous Special Forces regiment, whose motto is Who Dares Wins.

But its work is so secret that its troops are kept apart from the other four Sabre Squadrons, A, B, D and G, at their headquarters in Hereford, the Sun report said.

The squadron’s main task is to work with MI6 on top missions all over the globe.

SAS legend Andy McNab spent three years with the unit from 1991 to 1993, after his patrol in the first Gulf War which he wrote about in his book Bravo Two Zero.

He said the unit — which was hand-picked from the SAS — was “the closest to what James Bond does” of any British secret service.

But almost 30 years after he left, he said his work was still too secret to reveal, the Sun report said.

Another former member, who asked not to be named, said: “We were moving in and out of countries on different passports. Always in civvies, overseas all the time. It was busy.

“It was the James Bond stuff — use your imagination.”

The ex-member added: “You had to be able to blend in. People were picked for their ability to do undercover work.”

While some MI6 officers are firearms trained, it is never to the same level as their counterparts in E Squadron.

The former soldier said: “MI6 and MI5 are always distancing themselves from James Bond, saying they aren’t really like that. It’s true — spies aren’t like James Bond, they’re eggheads. Give them a gun, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“E Squadron solves that problem but they do a lot more as well.”

The places where they often have to work, using civilian cover identities, make it impossible to be armed, so they are all trained in deadly hand-to-hand combat, the Sun report said.

SAS author Chris Ryan served with Andy McNab on the 1991 Bravo Two Zero mission, in which a SAS patrol was deployed into Iraq during the first Gulf War to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s war strategy.

Says Ryan: “To be in the Increment is to be the best of the best.”

According to SOFREP.com, The Increment are strictly black ops — deniable missions that would be disavowed by the British government if compromised.

These could include:

  • Secret military assistance to foreign powers
  • Clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents
  • Covert reconnaissance/intelligence gathering

Today E Squadron’s members are drawn from the three Tier One Special Forces units — the SAS, the SBS and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the Sun report said.

The SBS provides specialist frogmen and mini-submersibles which can be used to insert teams undetected on foreign shores.

The SRR, whose soldiers specialize in plain-clothes surveillance operations around the world, provides a large number of women.

The unit was formed out of 14 Intelligence Company, which was known as the Det, and operated undercover in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

A source said: “Women are often the best at this sort of work. If a group of blokes turns up, it always looks suspicious.

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

The Increment’s troops were among the first British soldiers in Afghanistan, ahead of the US invasion in 2001.

They were also involved in the 2011 uprising in Libya which toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Sun said.

A former E Squadron soldier said the unit was heavily involved in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

He said: “E Squadron are military people. They have rules of engagement.

“Is it a licence to kill? It is certainly not carte blanche. But the nature of soldiering means it’s sometimes necessary to take life. Everyone is trained in deadly force.”

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the military editor for the Asia Times.
makichukd@gmail.com

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Features

Why does this BC area have the rudest postal code in Canada?

The area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

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A U.K. online business — apparently with buckets of time on its hands — has researched and unveiled what it calls “Canada’s rudest” postal codes.

Research by Money.co.uk shows the most unusual and awkward postal codes (the wacky Brits called it a “postcode”) in Canada and the UK and looked at the potential it can have on house prices.

As every maple-syrup blooded Canuck knows, Canadian postal codes contain a six-digit string of numbers and letters to create the final outcome, if one ignores the hyphen that splits the codes 

Using numeronyms —words where a number is used to form an abbreviation — the Brits discovered some odd pairings.

For example, in Timmins, Ont. you’ll find the postcode P4N-1C5. Nothing too eye-popping there until you dissolve the hyphen and are left with P4N1C5 (PANICS).

M4X1M5  (MAXIM) is more associated with a mens’ mag, not a vibrant area of downtown Toronto.

In another example, one area of Winnipeg sports the R3L1C5 (RELICS) code. 

However, the area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

The Brit release noted with the average Canadian house price currently around $716,828, living in a postcode such as V4G1N4 may actually effect your house price. However, no proof of the claim was offered.

Here are the top 21 most unusual/amusing postcodes in Canada:
• B3G1N5 (begins) Eastern Passage, NS;

• B4N4N4 (banana) Kentville, NS;

• L1V1N6 (living) Pickering Southwest, ON:

• L3C3L5 (levels) Orilla, ON:

• L4G3R5 (lagers) Aurora, ON;

• M4G1C5 (magics) East York (Leaside), ON;

• M4L1C3 (malice) East Toronto (India Bazaar / The Beaches West), ON;

• M4R1N3 (marine) Central Toronto (North Toronto West), ON;

• P3N1L3 (penile) Greater Sudbury (Val Caron), ON;

• P4N1C5 (panics) Timmins Southeast, ON;

• R3J3C7 (reject) Winnipeg (St. James-Assiniboia SE), MB;

• R3L1C5 (relics) Winnipeg (River Heights East), MB;

• R3M0V3 (remove) Winnipeg (River Heights Central), MB;

• R3T1R3 (retire) Winnipeg (Fort Garry NE / University of Manitoba), MB;

• S3N1L3 (senile) Yorkton, SK;

• S7R0K3 (stroke) Saskatoon Northwest, SK;

• T1R1N6 (tiring) Brooks, AB;

• V1C4R5 (vicars) Cranbrook, BC;

• V1K1N6 (Viking) Merritt, BC;

• V1X3N5 (vixens) Kelowna East Central, BC;

V4G1N4 (vagina) Delta East Central, BC.

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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