NOTE: This story was updated Aug. 5 with new information.
The show will go on – online.
Thousands of people normally flock to the annual Uptown Live street party and music festival but that’s not happening this year because of COVID-19. In lieu of a live concert, organizers are hosting a virtual event.
“We are definitely going to have some world music. It is going to be very eclectic,” said Douglas Smith, who organizes the annual event. “There will be a little bit of everything.”
Six or seven artists will take to the Massey Theatre stage on Aug. 5 and 6 for 30- to 45-minute sets that will be livestreamed.
“We are going to have a lineup that is going to be reflective our multicultural communities for sure,” Smith said. “We have been very cognizant of trying to put together a really diverse lineup.”
New West musician Krystle Dos Santos was the first act to be confirmed.
“Krystle is up for a Western Canadian Music Award for Best R&B Performance of the Year,” Smith noted. “She is outstanding.”
The rest of the lineup, announced July 29, includes B.C. artists Ezra Kwizera, Brass Camel, Fionn, Colleen Rennison, Mazacote and Warren Dean Flandez.
After being recorded live on Aug. 5 and 6, the full performances of each artist will be released daily from Aug. 23 to 29 for a full week of live music broadcast directly to fans and viewers on the Uptown Live website.
“This virtual broadcast is going to help fill the appetite for live music at a time when many venues remain closed or are challenged by heavily reduced capacities. This is the new normal for the industry right now,” Smith said. “This is a great way to get people working again and to give people some alternate content. Really, in this post pandemic world, we are seeing a rapid shift to online media solutions. You are having this shift in public demand, in content creation and in distribution.”
On top of the concerts, a two-hour broadcast is being produced and will be livestreamed on Saturday, Aug. 22. The broadcast, to be hosted by TV personality Fiona Forbes, will feature some of this year’s virtual performances and stories about uptown businesses.
“We are going to be producing some feature vignettes, 60- to 90-second feature vignettes on select uptown businesses,” Smith said. “We want to shine the light on uptown businesses that, like everywhere else, have found it difficult during COVID-19. We want to tell some unique stories about those uptown businesses, so we are going to do that as part of this initiative.”
In addition to Creative BC, the Uptown Business Association, the City of New Westminster and the TD Bank Group are once again supporting this year’s event.
“In discussions with the industry, the Canadian Live Music Association and with Creative BC, I started to get a very strong sense that putting it off is really not the right thing to be doing; we should be trying to do something to get the industry happening. A lot of people are out of work,” Smith said. “With that in mind, we started to look into doing a virtual concert.”
When performers take to the stage at Massey Theatre for their gigs on Aug. 5 and 6, they will be adhering to COVID-19 protocols established by Massey Theatre, the B.C. Ministry of Health and WorkSafeBC, Smith said.
“It’s going to be an interesting setup. We are going to have some fun with the set design, that’s for sure,” he said. “The bands are absolutely pumped. They are very excited. The benefit for them is, the bands are going to end up with a master copy of their performance that they can use for their own purposes to market themselves.”
Smith said organizers are thrilled about being able to produce a high-quality event for audiences and musicians alike.
“The look and feel of this is going to be pretty amazing. I think the community will be blown away by the quality of the production and the sound quality,” he said. We are really excited to be doing this at Massey Theatre, right in uptown New West. A tremendous venue. We are going to have a really cool backdrop on their stage. I think that people who tune into this, even if they haven’t heard of the bands, they are going to be blown away by the overall quality.”
Mayor Jonathan Cote thanked organizers for bringing back the popular annual event.
"Uptown Live has become a beloved summer event in our city, and I'm happy our community can still experience it online," he said in a press release.
Watch www.uptownlive.ca for all the details.