Empty stages and empty seats are the new norm at venues across Vancouver Island as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“It’s a total kick in the prunes, just right out of left field, it’s crazy,” said independent musician, David Gogo. “I don’t cancel gigs. I mean, this is what I do for a living, this is what I’ve always done.”
B.C. provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, announced a public health emergency in the province on Tuesday. Henry said bars are ordered to close because they can’t meet the criteria for social distancing and groups less than 50 people. Bars are one of the venues where musicians, like Gogo, perform.
“This is how we pay the bills,” Gogo said. “There’s no backup plans, there’s no unemployment insurance – you’re kind of done.”
Playing gigs is a big part of being a musician, both, to help them connect with their audience and financially.
“Everybody whose still making a living as an artist performing, is on the road,” said Canadian singer-songwriter Stephen Fearing. “So when you can’t tour because of all these restrictions and the venues closing, that means the one sole source of income is gone.”
That doesn’t, however, mean the music is going to stop.
Fearing and other musicians are taking to online platforms to stream concerts and keep the music alive. He had to move his upcoming album release concert in Oak Bay from the stage to the web.
“So what I can do is I can play a show and you can log in, in live real-time, and watch me play,” Fearing said.
Fearing’s show that was scheduled for Saturday at the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre will be moved online to his Facebook page on Wednesday at 7 p.m. He’ll be performing live from the Duncan Showroom, streaming the show for free directly to his viewers.
In Victoria, the Canoe Brewpub has created a Spotify playlist called “Victoria Quarantunes” to support local artists.
“We’re unable to [host artists] at this time, but we thought putting this playlist would be a great piece to help support local artists,” said Chris Willis, general manager of the pub.
Although the stage sits empty, the tunes are still playing.