“I forgot how much I loved playing”: live performances uplift local musicians

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After a long hiatus, live performances have rekindled what singer-songwriter Julie Corrigan loves to do with music, and this month has been packed with gigs.

“I had forgotten how much I loved to play. … The crowds enjoy the live shows so much, ”said the Ottawa native.

“I’m just trying to do as many things and play as many shows as possible before I have to get into another lockdown.”

You can’t fault Corrigan for trying to maximize stage time. Before the pandemic, she organized a monthly songwriters circle at Irene’s Pub in Old Ottawa South for local and touring musicians to collaborate and perform new songs.

She has become frustrated over the past 18 months after repeatedly attempting to schedule the event, only to be thwarted by the uncertainty of the pandemic.

With the relaxation of public health restrictions at the end of the summer, live music is back at several local venues, as well as on stages outside the city.

Julie Corrigan says the crowds really enjoyed seeing live music in person after a long hiatus. (Scott Doubt Photography)

Shot in the arm for the local music scene

Band leader Ed Lister dusted off his toolbox last year and started building fences and decks when he wasn’t composing or giving concerts online.

The only tool he had to leave in his case? His trumpet.

His hands are full now as he performs a series of concerts with a collection of local bands while running a small record company, managing artists and hosting Band Camp – an upcoming music festival to be held on the Camping Ange-Gardien land just east of Gatineau, Que.

Lister says vaccination rates and the vaccination passport have helped revive the live music scene because people feel more secure when they get together.

“There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy something like live music, but having that thing in your head where you have to stand back, or maybe not clap too loudly… it’s a bit of a buzzkill, ”said Lister, who is also touring the US for an 11-piece tribute to Sly and the Stone family.

He also hopes that the days of plexiglass between him and the public are over.

“You look off the stage and you basically see yourself… then you try to look at the audience and you look through five or six layers of plexiglass to see who is applauding,” he said.

Ed Lister plays the trumpet, leads bands, runs a record label and during the pandemic he built bridges and fences. (Sean Sisk)

Online performance is not the same

A cloud of uncertainty remains as a number of music venues – Pressed, Babylon and Rainbow Bistro – have closed or are set to close, and another lockdown is still possible due to the fourth wave of COVID-19 .

Electronic musician DJ Amber Long, who recently performed her first live set of 2021, is determined to be optimistic.

She has long used her time at home to be more experimental and courageous with her music, she says.

“I guess if the pandemic has taught me one thing, it’s like, seize the moment,” said Long, who recently moved to Ottawa from Toronto.

Long performed virtually, but admitted that these online performances never failed to replicate the charge of energy she received from a live audience on the dance floor.

DJ Amber Long tried to use the pandemic to experiment with music as she returned to perform in front of a live audience. (Tatiana Braude)

There have been times over the past 18 months that she has questioned her future in music.

“I’m sure I’m not the only musician or artist who has gone to a place and said, ‘Why am I doing this? Should I keep going? How long is this going to last?’ “said Long.

Once she reconnects with audiences, Long says her commitment to music grew stronger than ever.

“The people who come out of it, I think, come out stronger, more creative, more in tune with themselves, knowing what they need and producing art.”


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