Touring musical artists set to return in 2022, but industry remains concerned

While musicians and venue operators in Edmonton are optimistic about touring in the new year, they are less certain about the next three or four months.

In the past 20 months, Lauren Gillis, who goes by the name Lucette, has only played 20 to 30 times. She performed in gardens and parks, on live streams, and behind plastic barriers in indoor venues.

Just over two weeks ago, Gillis, whose music is described as country-infused dream-pop, performed at King Eddy in Calgary, the closest she’s played to a normal show since. some time.

“I think it’s coming back,” Gillis said. “There’s this glimmer of hope, and yeah, it’s been two years, so it’s not the end of the world. I think we’ll come back stronger and more grateful for live music.”

BadBadNotGood performed at Midway in Edmonton on December 9 during the band’s cross-Canada tour. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Concert listings point to international artists, from Celine Dion to Dierks Bentley, returning to Edmonton in 2022. Smaller venues like The Starlite Room and Union Hall have shows booked for the new year with the majority of Canadian artists.

Tyson Boyd, owner and operator of The Starlite Room, says the venue currently only hosts two shows a week, with many artists from the city or elsewhere in Alberta.

Even though the Canadian border opened to international visitors and the province passed a restriction waiver program in the fall, many acts have not resumed touring.

Boyd says he expects some touring artists to hit the road in the second quarter of 2022, stopping in Edmonton along the way.

But he worries about the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, highway closures in British Columbia and inconsistencies between provinces on restrictions on general admission indoor events.

“With these provincial issues and everyone being on different pages, it really affects the very large picture of what touring across Canada looks like,” Boyd said. “We’re optimistic that we can still continue to make shows, but we’re definitely not out of the woods yet.”

Lauren Gillis, who passes by Lucette on stage, is recording her new album at Riverdale Recorders after having more time to write during the pandemic. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Union Hall owners are banking on a sluggish few months as they close for renovations, moving the stage and adapting the building from a nightclub to a concert hall. It is expected to reopen before performers start marching in the spring.

“Now is the most ideal time to shut it down a bit, take advantage of this weather and do the renovations we need to move forward to get above the edge of most venues in the city,” Greg said. Béchard. , owner, operator and buyer of talent.

March dates are already filling up, with gigs booked through June. Bechard expects a good year for live music and cites the restriction waiver program as one of the reasons the industry is bouncing back.

“Things are looking up as vaccinations continue to increase and people get used to the idea of ​​walking into large crowds. I have faith in our industry,” he said.

Local artists see the positive side

The pandemic has not affected all musical artists and venues equally.

Local DJs have managed to fill seats in local venues wary of crowded stages.

Joses Martin, general manager of the Grindstone Theater and DJ/promoter, hosted outdoor DJ shows over the summer before hosting weekly dance parties on site with several DJs on the bill.

He offered local indie DJs the opportunity to headline these shows instead of opening for an international artist.

“We’ve really been able to support the locals in this way and celebrate some of the great talent we have here by putting on shows and dance parties,” Martin said.

He can’t wait to host DJs from New York and Los Angeles and line up the headliners for the next Disco In The Park festival this summer.

Union Hall, which was once a nightclub, recently closed for renovations and plans to reopen when concerts resume in March. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Some artists have used the pandemic as a much-needed break from touring and a musician’s hectic lifestyle.

“I’ve written more songs in the last two years than I have, probably in the last 10,” Gillis said. “So there’s something to come out of it, just being able to enjoy the downtime.”

The pandemic has also given him more time to discover other local artists in the city because there are fewer competing shows on the same night.

“It just reminded me that we have such a rich and vibrant arts community, and it’s a great place to be.”