Calgarians looking for ways to enjoy live music and festivals this summer will need to keep thinking outside the box to get their fix.With plans for big events like the Calgary Folk Music Festival still up in the air, and Country Thunder postponed until next year, music lovers will likely miss out on another in-person festival season.
Unless they’re willing to get a little creative.
Music could make a much-needed resurgence through the City of Calgary’s recent pilot project which allows alcohol consumption at designated picnic tables in 22 city parks.
“Frankly, I think it’s a super cool notion. Because why not? You’re booking a table with some friends and having a bottle of wine. Why not have your favourite musician come by and sing for you while you’re sitting there?” said Matt Masters, a local country artist.
Masters is no stranger to getting inventive during the pandemic. He and Amanda Burgener, his wife and creative partner, started their company Curbside Concerts in April 2021 as a way to support themselves and other artists, and to keep live shows going.
The concerts can take on the air of bigger events, says Masters. When an artist is performing for a household in a cul-de-sac, neighbours will often come out on their porch to listen while keeping a safe distance.
“When you listen to something together, that’s the fundamental shared experience,” said Masters.
A study from 2009 by The Open University in the UK found that the communal nature of listening affects the experience of a concert, and it can greatly enhance a performance. It can also detract from the experience if audience members are distracting.
Before the pandemic, concerts were the go-to hobby for Calgary music lovers such as Margo Elliot. She volunteered for the Canadian Country Music Awards a few years ago, and still has a ticket from 2019 to go to Country Thunder, but the festival isn’t set to go forward until 2022.
Elliot, who attended a few virtual concerts over the last year and half, says that although hearing live music again is great, the online experience is just not the same.
“You don’t really get that when you’re at home, you just kinda sit there, and it’s not as exciting. There’s no wow factor.”
Last year, the Calgary Folk Music Festival hosted a series of concerts for fans to watch from home. This year, there’s talk that a heavily modified version of the event will take place at Prince’s Island Park.
Kerry Clarke, artistic director for the festival, says that festival organizers chose to host the event over Zoom because they wanted to try to make it as interactive as possible.
“We encouraged people to watch it from their own backyards with family members and friends and tarps.”
“They’d decorate up their tarp like at the festival,” said Clarke. “We’d put the cameras on the people so that the artists could see the audience, and they could see them, with comments in the chat.”
You don’t really get that when you’re at home, you just kinda sit there, and it’s not as exciting. There’s no wow factor. – Margo Elliot
But the idea of combining live music with the parks and alcohol pilot project is something that Clarke says would be too difficult to control.
“I have a feeling it might be discouraged having live music there. Because it could become like a pop-up festival.”
Calgarians who want to support local musicians will need to do some creative legwork to meet artists halfway in bringing live shows back to an in-person audience.