Virtual open mic concert set for Instagram Saturday

Musicians in 16 living rooms, bedrooms, and basements across B.C. are set to play in a three-hour online concert this Saturday – they can’t leave their homes and they’re not asking you to leave yours.

The Instagram jam is the brainchild of Andy Schichter, a record producer and owner of Park Sound Studio on Columbia Street just east of the Ironworkers bridge.

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“We thought it would be a nice idea to do it for a lot of our friends who have been affected by all this,” he says Friday morning.

After a winter spent writing and recording, spring is usually harvest time for indy bands who hit the road before major festivals and monster bands move in for summer.

“All of them have had their shows cancelled for the next little while,” he notes.

The weekly performances at neighbourhood pubs that are bread-and-butter gigs for musicians are also off the table as stringent restrictions are enacted to stem the public health crisis, he notes.

 “Lots of lost income. A lot of them do shift work so they’ve had hours cut back and had to apply for [employment insurance.]”

Some musicians don’t have a safety net, notes Victoria Williams of the Vancouver band Porteau.

“A lot of musicians are in that gig economy and EI isn’t necessarily applicable for them,” she says, noting some of her bandmates who double as music teachers have seen both sources of income dry up recently.

“Quite stressful not knowing . . . when the next bit of support may come their way,” she says.

To provide that support, the Saturday night Instagram concert is a fundraiser with 100 per cent of donations split equally among the artists, according to Schichter.

“We’re trying to just do something to help them out a little bit and hopefully this thing takes off,” he says.

Park Sounds will host the show from its Instagram page at @parksoundbc. The plan is to have each artist pop up in a room big enough to accommodate at least one guitar and one cellphone and play two or three songs.

“We don’t really know what to expect. We didn’t ask,” he says. “We want to be surprised as well. It’s a live show.”

Depending on the logistics of uniting the far-flung members of Porteau by Saturday, Williams says she and her fiancé/bandmate Craig Stevenson may perform a stripped-down acoustic set as a duo.

Porteau, which tends to meld synth and steel guitar with folklore and pop, had been planning to record new music. But as those sessions have been postponed, Williams says they may unveil some new tunes Saturday.

“[It’s a] cool way to play some songs that are on our minds anyway,” she says. “It’ll be nice to share with people.”

The show is meant to supply one of those things music lovers have been missing, Schichter says.

“It’s one of those luxuries that we take for granted, being able to see live music,” he says. “That’s one of many things taken away from us at this moment.”

“We want to make music and we want to lift spirits,” Williams agrees. “All of that is very appreciated in a time when art and culture are momentarily pushed to the wayside by necessity.”

Fans will need an Instagram account to catch the live show. However, Schichter said he’s hoping to post the concert on Facebook on Sunday.

So far, he’s had an enthusiastic response from bands he knows and from band he doesn’t. If all goes well, Schichter says they’ll host a similar show either every Saturday or every other Saturday during the pandemic.  

Asked why people should check out the show, Schichter laughs.

“It’s Saturday night: what else are you doing?”

Performers for Saturday’s show also include Elle Wolf, Noble Son, Matt and Sam's Brother, Georgia Lee Johnson and Rabbit Hole, among others.

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