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Relaxed gathering rules are music to everyone’s ears

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The sweet sound of live music has been sorely missed during the lockdowns but a handful of ecstatic local performers are finally taking the stage again.

“It was exhilarating,” singer-songwriter Nic Swales said about a gig this month, the first time he’d played out since December.

“I learned a lot of new songs at home during the pandemic but there is something that’s special, that still gives me butterflies, when I play to an audience.”

Swales, who has entertained at local bars the past 20 years, performed at Big Family Brewing Company where the outdoor patio has been expanded to accommodate about 160 people and allow for easy social distancing.

Swales is also in charge of booking Saturday entertainment at Big Family, and said the performers he’s talking to can’t wait to get back to it.

“It feels like it’s been so long since there was music,” said Billie Jo Gage, who books entertainment and events for the Refined Fool.

For the first time this year, she began booking live musicians in July – solo, duos or trios – to play at Sunday brunches and Thursday and Saturday nights on the large patio at the brewing company’s Davis Street location.

“The vibe is so great,” Gage said.  “People are just happy to be there.  The last month getting back to listening to music has felt so surreal.”

Under Ontario’s Step 2 protocols, performers weren’t required to play behind Plexiglas outdoors but did have to be physically distanced.

Under Step 3, which began July 16, food and drink establishments with dance facilities can have up to 75% capacity outdoors, and 25% capacity indoors.

Restrictions remain in place, but the important thing is that live music is back, said Gage.  “I’m really enjoying my job these days. Everyone just wants to play.”

Mark Moran is part of the four-person band Painkiller Jane, which hasn’t played out since February 2020.  They’ve started to practice again and prepare for their first gig at a private campground Aug. 1.

“Our first practice went surprisingly well.  We remembered all the words,” Moran said with a laugh.

He did a lot of solo Facebook concerts during the lockdowns but said he missed performing with Painkiller Jane, which plays classic and current rock, as well as original tunes.

“I just want to add that I don’t count on this for my income, but others do, so I hope people think about tipping live musicians if they like what they hear,” said Moran.

Julie Coulombe-Morrison is half of the musical duo known as Jules & Rick. They’re booked to play at Big Family’s Biergarten on July 31.

“I can’t wait to see everyone’s faces,” she said.  “I play because it’s fun and I’ve missed connecting with people through music.

“Playing to an audience just makes you happy. It’s about time we all got out there to feel those good vibrations again.”

Be sure to check websites and Facebook pages before heading out to hear live music. Not all local restaurants and bars have resumed bookings.

The Arts Journal is all about what’s entertaining in our community.  Send your ideas to [email protected].

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