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Make room for local artists: The return of live music in Saskatchewan

By in Culture
A snapshot of the Young Benjamins at a SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in 2013. THE SHEAF | Caitlin Taylor

It is neat to see how the Saskatchewan music industry has handled this unique time during the pandemic, becoming more creative with each phase.

The last six months have been challenging for those in the entertainment industry. After the Juno Awards were cancelled in March, artists started to panic about the future of their jobs. Festivals began announcing cancellations, all shows were put on-hold and there was a decline in spending for merchandise and music. 

Due to the pandemic, artists and performers who depended on their shows for income had to find creative ways to reach their audience. Fortunately, not too long after cancellations started, the Coors Event Centre started putting out weekly livestreams that served as an outlet for artists and provided entertainment for all.

Called Quarantunes, the Coors Event Centre livestreams occurred every Sunday with host Saul Chabot and three to four local artists. They put on eight four-hour episodes, with the support of volunteers. People were able to enjoy local artists through a screen in the comfort of their own home, at no charge.

A few of the artists included were Zann Foth, Hattie, Ariel and Earl Pereira. Each artist would perform three to four songs and talk with Chabot in between. Those watching got to see a snippet of these artists’ lives during quarantine and hear about upcoming projects. The Quarantunes streams were an awesome way to keep everyone’s spirits alive and help people get their fill of music.

Two of the bigger festivals in Saskatchewan, the Regina Folk Festival and Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, took different approaches to handling the cancellation of their events this summer. 

The Regina Folk Festival put on six different drive-in performances from Aug. 14 to 16, with local artists. Ava Wild and Marissa Burwell took the stage on Friday. Bree & Brown opened for Megan Nash & the Best of Intentions on Saturday, and Davy Sage warmed up the crown for Andino Suns on Sunday. 

People drove to the Conexus Arts Centre parking lot in Regina, where a large screen and stage were set up, to enjoy their favourite artists while laying back in their cars or lounging on their hoods. It was quite successful and a fun way to spend an August weekend.

The Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival took a similar approach and put on the Summer Nights Series. These were limited-seating shows at The Patio at Bess Gardens, also featuring local artists. The series put on four performances from Aug. 15 to Aug. 22 and had a great turnout.

Heidi Munro and Scott Patrick kicked off the series with their blues and rock and roll sound, warming the hearts of the audience. Hot Club Saskatoon played an excellent show the following weekend, dazzling everyone as per usual. The Connor Newton Trio followed after, getting everyone feeling extra jazzy on Friday night with their rich sound. And closing the series was Charly Hustle, the groovy Saskatoon DJ. 

Although the festival was not able to happen this year, SaskJazz made sure to get some live music back into the city.

Another highlight of the summer was KrugoFest, a unique festival at The DoubleTree hotel in Regina. Festival goers booked private rooms in the hotel that overlooked a stage, and they were provided with a meal and some beverages for the night. The festival took place over four nights starting on Aug. 6 and ending on Aug. 15, with artists including Jess Moskalue, Corb Lund and The Sheepdogs. KrugoFest was a hit and ran smoothly for their first ever socially-distanced festival in a hotel.

Summer in Saskatchewan did not lack live music. Many of the performances occurred over the same weekend though, making people choose who they wished to see most. With restricted travel, the festivals featured local artists and supported Saskatchewan talent. Each festival was creative and found a way for people to enjoy live music safely, inventing new ways for the future.

Holly Gilroy

Photo: Caitlin Taylor

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