This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Well, last week’s information didn’t age. The Mudmen concert at the Opera House January 15th has been postponed.

“They booked another date, May 5th,” said Opera House GM, Wendy Faribairn.

Tickets already in hand will be good for May 5, or you can get a refund.

At this point a dance competition produced by All That’s Dance and More of Barrie is still happening on January 29.

“The dance is definitely a go because they will be live streaming if we get to that point,” said Fairbairn.

It’s one of those events where the main, and almost entire, audience is made up of moms, dads, grandparents and maybe aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters. Even if the restrictions continue there won’t be an audience in Gord’s Room, and people will watch at home instead.

A concert January 30 with Washboard Union is still on too. This is a country band, a trio, from Vancouver and they have a series of concerts lined up around Central Ontario and then the East Coast. Their original band name was Run GMC. I think you have to be a little older to get that, and then realize why that name wasn’t kept.

Their first album was produced by Bob Ezrin. I guess if money is no object you can hire the guy who produced albums for Pink Floyd, Kiss, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel and a really long list of bands whose albums you likely own.

Washboard Union has a bunch of awards, a Juno, CCMAs, etc., too. In short, while you may not have heard of this band, which can happen with country bands, they are a big deal.

One thing which came up speaking with Wendy is the Opera House now has video equipment and the necessary tools to make online viewing happen. One of the good things, maybe the only good thing, about the pandemic is a lot of musicians and venues who never really gave video streaming a second thought before are doing it.

Steven Henry

A good example of a musician going online is Steven Henry who is back to his Saturday night, 8 p.m. live streams on Facebook as he did for over a year until last fall.

Necessity is the mother of invention and while the tools to do live streaming weren’t invented during the pandemic, the market for existing equipment greatly expanded. Cameras have become so good and so cheap compared to the $20,000 Rogers spent on the camera I used for several years, almost anyone can get a three camera system with the signal processing and video switching components for less than that much.

That said, what you can’t buy is the sensibility to make videos people want to watch. The lens in the camera I used was 25% of the cost itself. The electronics in the stuff you can get at Best Buy (Really? Just go to a professional retailer/industry supply house in Toronto for more serviceable gear for a little more cash) is pretty much the same from the gear TV stations use down to the photo nut down the street. The main difference between consumer cameras and professional cameras is you can drop a pro camera and it will still work. I know this to be the case. Yes, what you are thinking happened. They’re just a more sturdy build and that’s where the price difference is.

Even cheap DSLR or mirrorless cameras which also do video have the ability to change lenses. With lenses, cost does equal quality. I guarantee you can tell the difference between a $200 lens and a $2,000 lens. Always put the most of your budget into good lenses. Today, cameras for the most part are cameras, switchers all do the same thing, same with signal processors and amplifiers –within acceptable limits most viewers would never notice anyway.

None of it matters if you don’t have an eye for a good picture framing, which is why there are a ton of bad looking videos on the internet, and why some concerts look better than others. Knowing where to be and how to frame makes all the difference.

I haven’t even touched on the sound going with those moving pictures, but then since I’m jumping off from the Opera House, they and other venues have been in the sound business for a long time and processing concert sound for video is not the same as for recording. There are even terrible looking videos that sound good.

This is a long way to say a revolution has happened in entertainment and reliance on venues is not paramount any longer, though still necessary. Selling tickets to get people out on a cold, sleety night isn’t necessary anymore when you can sell tickets to watch from home. Smaller bands can reach bigger audiences better than ever before thanks to the change of mindset the pandemic forced.

To live stream from the Opera House is relatively easy now they have cameras and support equipment.

“Basically you still have to rent the theater, we’re still required to turn on lights, do that kind of thing,” said Fairbairn. “To do the live steaming part there are some ticket associated fees, but it’s a flat rate of $500 to set up live streaming.”

That is very reasonable too, only $500 in addition to the rental charge for Gord’s Room. That covers all the necessary gear and someone to do the video switching while the performance is underway.

Also the Opera House is doing it the right way for the people on stage. We’re all used to watching Youtube all day long for the cost of a monthly internet connection. Bands make diddly on that.

“If it’s a live stream it goes through our ticketing system, It’s fed into our ticketing software. You can’t use our system and live stream to Youtube for your group. It has to go through ours.”

So you still buy a ticket to the performance and the Opera House emails you a link to use to watch the video at the appointed time. Performers can still opt to do their own thing by paying the fee and in return getting a recording of their concert which they can then do what they want with, including uploading it to Youtube.

“If you wanted to do that, you can use our cameras. The Mariposa Folk Festival used our cameras and brought in more equipment and they brought it to Youtube. That was a recorded version,” Fairbairn said.

The other beauty of live streaming is it doesn’t have to be live. What you are really seeing is a recording, even on the night of, so the viewing date can be delayed. This means a band can go in, record their show on a day/night more convenient to them, or their schedule, say a Monday, and steam it on a Friday night.

A few years from now when people are writing the history of this time, some will point to the maturity of live streaming as a revolutionary moment. They will be right, it changes things for both the viewer/concertgoer and for the bands. Imagine a 25 city tour accomplished by one performance and streamed to widescreens in venues. There will still be many people and musicians who will settle for watching on a computer, but still want to play music and see concerts in person. There always will be because it’s just not the same thing. However, a sizable portion of the audience doesn’t care about the subtleties. I think it’s entirely possible a concert happening at the Opera House sometime down the road could have an audience of 1,000 people, 700 in person, and 300 online.

Zach’s Back

Speaking of live streaming. Zachary Lucky had to cancel a bunch of shows, including two he was doing here in Orillia. On Jaunary 15th he’s doing a concert you can watch on Bandcamp. This is different; I didn’t know Bandcamp was going down that road.

“I decided to try doing this live stream on Bandcamp as a way of trying something new – and making this a more intentional experience for all of us. I’m putting a lot of thought into this one – buying some new gear to make sure that it looks and sounds awesome. Despite the fact that it’s not in person, I can’t wait to sing some songs for you folks and connect with you again. It’ll be a good one. Hope to see you folks there!” Zachary said in his Facebook announcement.

Get tickets online and the show starts at 8 p.m. In addition to access to the concert for $10, you also get an HQ download of his new album, Songs For Hard Times

In The Summer Time

Mariposa Folk Festival tickets are on sale right now. From the perspective of January dreaming of freedom to roam and warm, sunny weather, I can’t think of a better thing to give to young people in your life – hope.  A Youth Adult pass (under 24 years) is only 85 bucks for the weekend. A Youth Pass (13 to 18 years old) is a whopping $30. Those under 12 get in free with an adult, but let’s focus on your rambunctious older kids. Where in the world can you pack them off for almost an entire weekend where they’ll get exposed to some great artistry – and be supervised? No, the festival folks aren’t turning into nannies, but let’s face it; we’re all being supervised out there – even in the pub tent. Especially in the pub tent.

There will be more than 500 volunteers on hand. I used to tell my kids, behave yourself, you may not know the people you encounter, but you can be sure many of them know me, and they will know you are my kids, so you aren’t going to get away with anything. Same thing applies; I’ll bet someone who lives on your block is a volunteer at the festival, someone your family knows is a volunteer. There’s lots of incentive to behave, and a lot of peace of mind you’ll know your kids aren’t going get into any serious trouble.

Leacock Gig

The Leacock Museum has a couple of jobs up for grabs. One is for a part-time program and event supervisor. They are looking for a student who is studying in an arts administration, event planning or museum oriented program. You have to apply online and you can find more details here. The other job is for a experience development officer. You can find out more about this job here. The deadline to get your resume in for either job is January 14

The Shorts

  • I’m not changing the header because I’m being optimistic this restriction we’re in won’t be long-lasting.
  • The City has wall space for art at the Orillia Recreation Centre and it’s time to change what’s been hanging around. They are asking artists to submit ideas for new art on the theme of The Mechanics of Life. You can find details about how to get your art included here.
  • Did you get a season ticket here for the Orillia Concert Association’s excellent series? It’s only $70 and I dare you to find a better deal to see three concerts of this type anywhere. The next and first in person concert of the series is February 20 with Sonic Escape (Maria Millar, violin and Shawn Wyckoff, flute) at St. Andrew’s, followed by the Hog Town Brass March 27 at the Opera House. The final concert is May 1 with the Toronto All Star Big Band.
  • You can still catch the Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards program on OMAH’s Youtube channel.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied)

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