It has been a quiet 15 months without the sounds of strumming, drumming and kitchen party singalongs echoing through the streets of Yellowknife.
With Emerging Wisely restrictions easing and social gathering capacities growing, live music, it seems, is back.
Patrick Jacobson, a Yellowknife singer/songwriter, has six gigs lined up from July to September – “normally that wouldn’t be anything to be too excited about, but this is the most I have had since early 2020,” he said.
Having spent the last year plus without live music, Jacobson said knowing he’d be back in front of an audience didn’t immediately register. For musicians to play in front of a crowd” is a part of our being,” he said. “We need that to feel complete.”
“It’s a form of art, a form of culture, a form of expression and to have it silenced for 15 months, I’ve never heard of anything like that happening before,” he said.
As eager as musicians are to play for an audience, he said residents are likewise starved to get out, dance and have fun.
“I think people brush off the importance of popular music,” he said. “it’s not just a passing fad or entertainment, it’s really an ingrained part of our culture.”
First on Jacobson’s scheduled shows is a Music NWT show at Somba K’e Park for Canada Day, followed by a performance at the Monkey Tree patio on July 8, the Folk on the Rocks Festival, a show at the Racquet Club and a set of performances in Hay River in September.
While he hopes to again play at the Top Knight, he acknowledged that not all venues have the patio space to hold outdoor concerts and is keeping crossed fingers that restrictions may ease further by the time temperatures begin to cool in the fall.
In March, Jacobson put up a change.org petition, urging the office of the chief public health officer to find ways of accommodating live acts indoors. Since then, he said he’s abandoned that pursuit.
For venue owners, the point of booking live musical acts is to bring more people in. With capacity still reduced and further restrictions in place, having bands play indoors would mean neither owners nor musicians could earn profits. “I want this to be successful for everyone,” Jacobson said.
Jim Taylor, another Yellowknife musician well-known for his East Coast kitchen parties and Northeast radio show, is similarly relieved to have bookings for the summer.
Taylor is set to play every Sunday afternoon at the deck at Harley’s downtown.
With live music deemed a dangerous activity in the pandemic era, Taylor said he lost about $9,000 in income last summer. “But to hell with the money,” he said. “It’s my heart.”
“It fills my hear to see people laughing and dancing along and getting up and singing.”
Before the pandemic hit, Taylor said people were of the mindset that if they missed one show they’d just catch it the next night. “Now I run into people everyday, for however many damn month it’s been, who say ’ my god Jimmy when are you going to start playing music again.’ People miss it.”
In addition to his weekly gigs at Harley’s, Taylor is looking forward to playing a Canada Day show at the Monkey Tree, a July 7 gig in Somba K’e park, a Folk on the Rocks set and a show for Hay River’s Hay Days festival at the end of the summer.
“It’s coming,” he said. “I miss it.”
Taylor said his Harley’s shows may be scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays or from 7 to 9 p.m. in the evenings, depending on weather. “With any luck, other musicians will come by and jump up and play a tune,” he said.
While Taylor is itching to again get up in front of a crowd, he said echoed Jacobson’s comments on the importance of music in the community.
“There’s a saying that music is the cloth that wipes away the dust of everyday life,” he said. “Live music is so importance to our well being.”