Four staged concerts were filmed in the Cariboo as Performances in the Park organizers found creative ways to continue through the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Presented by the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society with support from the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District, the popular concert series normally takes place on Thursdays in the summer at Boitanio Park.
“Crossing over into video production is an amazing way to showcase our talent to a larger audience and supports the growth of an industry locally that is only increasing — digital story telling,” said Performances in the Park manager Venta Rutkauskas of the Community Arts Council of Williams Lake.
While nothing replaces gathering in person for live arts performances, she is hoping the digital concerts will be the next best thing as they were being filmed with a small audience.
On Saturday, July 11, the Onward Ranch on Mission Road was the site of the first concert featuring Lyle Bats and Blocktreat.
Hosts and ranch owners Ingrid and Tyrone Johnston along with their children opened up their 100-year-old barn for a venue and Sharon Hoffman brought in some props and decorated.
Brent Morton’s Lyle Bats project made up the first set, featuring Morton and Brandon Hoffman playing songs from Book of Aches, the album Morton released on bandcamp in June 2020.
“I wrote these songs in the summer of 2018 and recorded them in 2019 in Williams Lake and in Horsefly,” Morton said.
“It was the summer of the wildfires when we evacuated, but the air was so grey and smoky (in 2018).”
He also created a 10,000-word mini book at the end of 2019, which he was going to produce and release, but then with COVID-19, working and no shows lined up for the year that didn’t happen so he’s included it with the album.
“On the bandcamp download you can get the book as a PDF — all the lyrics and the commentary and other thoughts and ramblings about art, music and life.”
It is the first time he’s put down that much writing, he added.
“I love to write, but I haven’t done anything like that. I have had people tell me over the years they enjoy the lyrics and definitely want to be able to read them in an album. I was looking for a project and that seemed like a good idea.”
The second set also featured Morton accompanying Brandon Hoffman for Hoffman’s Blocktreat project.
“It’s awesome to play in this renown barn,” Hoffman said. “It’s like a happy accident getting to play here.”
While they were performing One Horse Town from Blocktreat’s 2019 After Dark album, the audience couldn’t help but gaze out the pane-less window toward the corral behind the barn where horses were grazing against the backdrop of a sunny Cariboo evening.
Hoffman also did the sound for all the concerts and Rick Magnell the filming and editing.
On Thursday, July 16 a concert was filmed at Sxoxomic Community School at Esk’etemc featuring Miss White Spider (Al-Lisa McKay) and the Salmon Brothers Robert and Josh Johnson of Eske’t joined by their friend Jonathan Hand from Newfoundland.
Following that, the crew headed back into Williams Lake to film three diverse acts in an urban backdrop, said Rutkauskas.
They included Hip Hop duo Rich Mac and Beka Solo, Dana De Samedi, poet and MC, and the newly-formed punk psych rock band ‘10 Day Notice’ formed amongst the City’s housing advocates and featuring Leah Martin, Matt Granlund, Derek Weber, Evan Catalano and Kayne Robinson.
The series culminated in Horsefly with Marin Patenaude and band mate Cole Schmidt performing songs from Patenaude’s new album, Sight Unseen, which was released in May, followed by Shannon O’Donovan Zirnhelt with Tanya Iwan.
The digital concerts will be released in August on Youtube and will include MC clips from Community Arts Council of Williams Lake president Sonya Littlejohn and Harry Jennings, CACWL board member and Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society president.
Lyle Bats and Blocktreat will premier on Aug. 6, Salmon Brothers and Miss White Spider on Aug. 13, Dana de Samedi, Rich Mac & Beka Solo and 10 Day Notice on Aug. 20 and Ladies of the Valley and Marin Patenaude on Aug. 27.
Sponsors for Performances in the Park have kept their support in place and include Thompson Rivers University, Sugar Cane Development Corps Coyote Rock Estates and Williams Lake Optometry, Atlantic Power, Cariboo Handwoven, Downtown Williams Lake Art Walk and West Fraser Mills.