In the market for some live music

Live music is back, even if it’s not quite a return to normal.

Hot on the heels of the Kitchener Blues Festival shows at various venues last weekend comes Music at the Market, which launched last Thursday.

Coordinated by the Registry Theatre in conjunction with the City of Kitchener, the new series presents live music for the next seven Thursdays outside of the Kitchener Market.

It’s an eclectic mix of local musicians, including Danny Michel, Joni NehRita, Penderecki String Quartet, I The Mountain, Western Swing Authority, HolliZay, Romeo Sex Fighter, Mandippal Jandu, Jessie T, Mary-Catherine Pazzano and Errol Blackwood.

Getting local artists back to work was at the heart of the new series, says  Registry Theatre executive director Sam Varteniuk.

“The objective is twofold. One is to pay artists and arts workers. The other is to send a signal of hope to the people of Waterloo Region, to say that we’re still here – we’re still doing this kind of stuff, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. That live performance is coming back,” he said.

With support from Heritage Canada and the Kitchener BIA, Music at the Market will allow local musicians, and technicians, hit hard by the pandemic, to be compensated for their work, while providing a much-needed celebration after a difficult year and a half.

Noting that getting the music back on stage trumps finances in this case, Varteniuk said funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage allows for both great talent and low ticket prices.

“In this case, a $10 ticket price, which to see Danny Michel is pretty amazing.”

Tickets will be limited to 100 for each of the shows, which will be held outdoors, in keeping with public health restrictions due to the pandemic. Tickets will be distributed in pods so family and friends can gather together, while distancing safely from others, with all cleaning protocols in place. In addition, contact tracing measures will be in place for all attendees, staff and performers.

Safety protocols are paramount, said Varteniuk, noting they’ll be taking a go-slow approach even as the economy opens up in the coming weeks.

“We’ve landed on 100 right now,” he said of attendance. “We’re looking at a scalable model where we could go up, depending on how public health regulations shifted. But for the first concerts, it’s staying at 100, because we haven’t officially come out of that period yet. And, also, we’re proceeding with caution.

“Each expansion requires a whole new set of protocols and thinking through things, and I become nervous about being able to ensure we’re being safe  when we’re furiously sort of changing the goalposts as we go.”

Twenty-five per cent of tickets for each concert will be given to the Grand River Hospital Foundation for distribution to frontline workers who have been putting themselves most at risk during the pandemic.

All of those issues aside, Music at the Market is about getting those in the industry back to work and back on stage.

“It’s allowing us to support people who work behind the scenes, people who work in AV, people who work on the tech side of the music industry. Every single show that we can put on helps to keep someone who works in that field working.  In a time where so many people have been sat at home, not able to do what they love, that’s a really important thing for us,” said Kitchener Market manager Cameron Dale.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to come down and experience the market as a cultural venue. We’ll be operating rain or shine, because we’ve got a lovely covered area. We’ll be offering beverage options; there’ll be food options as well, so people can sit safely in pods with the people they’re near and dear to while they’re safely, physically distanced from other people in the audience.”

The series kicked off August 12 with Mandippal Jandu and I, the Mountain. It continues tonight with Joni NehRita and Romeo Sex Fighter.

All shows begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online.

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