The “new normal” of live performances during COVID-19

Dad Patrol used the extra time in quarantine to create a new album. (Submitted/Dad Patrol)

The live performance experience has changed under COVID-19’s “new normal.” With less crowded venues and new health restrictions, local New Brunswick band Dad Patrol changed how they perform and record.

Gregor Dobson, Zach Pelletier and Jonathan “Johny” Marino make up the band’s members. The band compared what it was like to attend live performances during COVID-19.

“We’re used to going to a show and it just being everyone shoulder to shoulder, standing in a crowded venue and you don’t worry about the people next to you,” said Dobson.

Read more: Local band Dad Patrol releases new album

Pelletier said they watched an outdoor show at The CAP on the deck Sept. 19. He said everyone was sitting at their own table and they couldn’t get up and move.

“I guess it does make you focus on the music more,” he said.

While many aspects of life shifted online after COVID-19 hit, musicians and venues are holding onto the community connection live shows bring by adapting their business model.

Jeff Richardson, general manager of Harvest Jazz and Blues, attended the board meeting where they cancelled the 2020 in-person festival.

Richardson said as the season changes to September, Harvest becomes a big community-wide celebration. But instead of sitting on their porch and lamenting what could’ve been, they started planning.

“We pivoted as quickly as we could, knowing that we wanted to mark the occasion,” Richardson said. “We started with a vision that was really like, ‘how do we mark the occasion and give a little morale boost to the community?”

This year’s Harvest Jazz and Blues 29.5 was a three-hour online concert of new and old performance videos edited together. They hosted viewing parties at local businesses, as well as small, live performances spread out across town.

The Tipsy Muse Café hosted a performance as part of the line-up leading up to this year’s Harvest. According to co-owner Rob Pinnock, the Tipsy Muse Café has been offering shows since the province entered the yellow phase. The café used to seat a maximum of 60 people. Now, they seat 25.

“Our seating is trimmed down drastically,” said Pinnock. “That’s a pretty big adjustment.”

Pinnock said he thinks they were one of the first businesses to offer live events again.
The Tipsy Muse Café, while on reduced hours, is still offering live performances twice a week. The tickets must be bought in advance and there’s a seating plan to ensure physical distancing. They used to take a percentage of sales by the door.

“Now, we give all the money from the ticket sales to the artists,” said Pinnock. “You know, if we think we’re having it tough, try being a musician right now.”

Dad Patrol used the extra time in quarantine to create a new album. Dobson said the writing process was different compared to any other time they’ve written — him and Pelletier sent each other snippets over Snapchat and Facebook.

Pelletier said every song probably started as a 10-second Snapchat video. Once New Brunswick introduced yellow phase, they could play together.

“We were able to bring [the snippets] to Johnny’s basement and he could add some drums to them. Then, we could actually see them fill out,” he said.

Their new album, called Yellow Phase, was released in late September. While the band hasn’t been able to play live shows, they’ve been reaching fans through social media and posting videos on YouTube of one-take song recordings.

Like everyone else, they’re waiting until this “new normal” passes and the glory days return, although they’re trying not to get their hopes up.

“We have to forge ahead and keep on doing what we’re doing as long as we can,” Pinnock said.