A New Way to Thrive

Culture

Medicine Hat’s live music industry taking down barriers.

The need to adapt to a lengthy pandemic has played a role in everyone’s life. This has been especially true for the live music industry, which was among the first to go and will be among the last to return when COVID-19 is behind us.

For festivals like Medicine Hat’s Tongue on the Post, which runs annually in January and generally puts on a number of live performances from intimate venues around the city, the only way to survive was to bring the music directly to the audience.

“Obviously the pandemic put everyone on their head and turned the entire industry upside down,” says Rob Pape, executive and artistic director of the Medicine Hat Folk Music Club, which organizes TOP. “And the reality is, the only way we’ve been able to accommodate and continue to present was to take the technology shift and get into live streaming.”

Enter Plugged-In Media, a company cofounded by Pape to not only take Tongue on the Post virtual but to also fill a local production void. Had TOP or any other local event wanted to put on a quality live-stream performance, it would have required hiring outside the region.

Necessity had Plugged-In Media up and running in a matter of months, and its first virtual concert was Nov. 27 with Alberta’s own Over The Moon. 

The show was met with praise.

Now that Pape knew live-streaming could work for Tongue on the Post, approval was needed from the province. After a touch-and-go process, the OK was given for a scaled-down version, with all shows streamed from Medalta Potteries, a longtime TOP partner and a southeastern Alberta gem.

And getting the festival off the ground proved a lot more than its plausibility, as the 12 shows across six days connected with more than 85,000 people from not just southeastern Alberta but around the world.

“We knew this festival was an opportunity to connect with our community,” Pape says. “A community needs live music, we’ve been told this many times. We wanted to reach out to the community in what’s been a really crazy time, so that’s why we set it up as a pay-what-you-can event.

“It was phenomenal to make this connection and show what Medicine Hat has to offer, and really show that we’re here to play on a bigger stage.”

That doesn’t mean the focus isn’t on quality live music, COVID or no COVID, and for those who itching to see a band in person again, an event planned for August through Pape’s personal business, Road Worn Productions and Management, should provide that in a big way.

Medicine Hat Porch Fest, a free event,  is set for August and will consist of exactly what it sounds like. Several Southeast Hill homes within walking distance of each other will feature a local band, and concert-goers will be able to follow pandemic protocol while roaming the neighbourhood from porch to porch. The event will take place on the last Saturday in August, which is annually recognized as International Play Music on the Porch Day.

“It will be completely free to the community,” Pape says. “It’s to promote getting out, getting some fresh air and connecting.”

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