Social distancing and Plexiglas shields: How Saskatoon live music venues are keeping shows on the stage
"The venues that are doing it, they're investing in live music ... it's a lot."
Patrons of the Black Cat Tavern in Saskatoon can see live music again — as long as they’re comfortable with watching musicians play from within Plexiglas cubicles onstage.
Snider noted that nobody is particularly thrilled about playing shows from inside a box, but it’s one of the safest ways to ensure live music can continue.
As Snider put it, everyone on both the performer and the venue side of the live music equation is doing everything they can to get live music back in front of a crowd, however reduced that crowd may be.
“We’re at a point right now as musicians, that if this is what it takes, we’ll do it. We’ll put up with it,” she said.
Kitchen and entertainment manager Chris Valleau said the struggle now is finding groups small enough to perform safely on the stage who still feel comfortable performing.
“We do have a pretty decent-sized crew of regulars that know we have live music, and they don’t care who’s playing, they’re just going to come watch,” Valleau said.
At Black Cat Tavern, the relatively new and extensive shielding separating the crowd from the musicians — and the musicians from each other — has been affectionately dubbed “the fish bowl,” according to Mykel Somvong.
Somvong, the kitchen manager and a performer himself, said he found performing from inside “the fish bowl” to be very comfortable, almost akin to playing in a recording booth.
“Businesses need to pivot in order to weather the storm that this COVID is. In the future, we’re going to want a strong musical community,” he said.
“A lot of it is a future investment … what we’re known for is shows, so it’s just a matter of doing what we can,” Geiger said.
Not all venues have chosen to continue hosting live shows through the pandemic. The Bassment jazz club in Saskatoon, which opened for around seven weeks in the fall for live shows, announced in a statement on its website that all events are “suspended” until COVID-19 restrictions change.
Munro said the government guidelines for different venues to host shows safely have been somewhat unclear. The next step is creating more appropriate guidelines for larger venues to feasibly reopen in the same way smaller venues have, she said.
“My thought was that, in these theatres that are 400 or 600 seats, that are only allowed to have 30 people in the audience … it’s a huge theatre stage,” she said. “I totally respect the reasoning. I don’t understand it. And I don’t think it’s wrong to question it.”
Munro is slated to perform with Scott Patrick on Valentine’s Day at the Six Twelve Lounge in Saskatoon — another venue putting on socially-distanced shows — but said she can’t wait until she can play with all of her bandmates in front of a full crowd again.