ESTEVAN - Rotary Park inside Woodlawn Regional Park will be filled with music this Wednesday, as Canadian folk/roots singer-songwriter Jeffery Straker is bringing his Pandemic Piano Backyard Tour to Estevan.
The open-sky concert will start at 7:30 p.m. People from the campground as well as the community are invited to attend the free outdoor show with admission by a donation.
Straker has been on the road since June 12, with one of the first concerts of the tour played on an acreage just outside of Estevan. The rest of the tour saw him performing across Canada all summer long.
While the pandemic reality put extra pressure on live shows, Straker said that being part of the first live concert many people get to attend after a long break feels great.
"This summer has been incredible because of these backyard small outdoor shows. I've been able to put together the tour from B.C. to Ontario. There are 55 of these shows," Straker said in the interview with the Mercury.
"Getting to make live music again has been beautiful. But probably the biggest treat of the whole thing has been that for many of these concerts, and for many of the people at these concerts, and there were about 30 to 40 to 50 people per show, we're often have been told that we're the first concert many people have seen in about 18 months,” said Straker.
“So they were kind of elated, they're really excited, they're kind of on cloud nine. So getting to experience that over and over is such a joy."
The Pandemic Piano Backyard Tour was born out of the COVID reality. Straker noted that it was a bit of a grassroots idea, and outside of virtual concerts it also turned out to be the only way for him to do live music in the world of the pandemic. He did about 30 backyard shows last summer, and after he posted that he was willing to do them again this year, he got "bombarded with requests."
The furthest west they've gone was the Okanagan Valley in B.C., and the farthest east he'll go is Toronto. About 75 per cent of the outdoor concerts are played in private backyards, but the other 25 per cent are in the parks or at summer stages such as the Conexus Art Centre in Regina. And no matter if it's a real backyard or a public green area, Straker said all of the concerts have a special vibe.
He travels with a digital piano. A guitar player performs alongside him and sings some harmonies.
"It's been working really well. We fit in my car, we travel everywhere. And that's what we'll be bringing to Estevan," Straker said.
The program he is bringing to Woodlawn is mostly his original songs, with a lot of the new ones from his Just Before Sunrise album launched in May. There will also be some old songs and some covers, and the overall atmosphere promises to be great.
"I talk to the audience between songs and tell some stories. And it feels like a giant living room in a way because it ends up feeling quite intimate … People generally walk away feeling pretty good, and I think overall, there's an uplifting message to the song selection," Straker said.
He added that outdoor shows have been a great way to get making music for live audiences again, and a great way for people to experience live music as the pandemic isn't quite fully gone just yet.
"The pandemic, I think, has taught everyone a big lesson, which is appreciate all your moments … So these shows were just a joy because I think everyone is sort of feeling this at the same time. It's like, 'Oh, we're back to this. And we realized that we really got to be in this moment together.' And it just felt so good," Straker said.
For the Wednesday concert at Rotary Park, all people need to bring is lawn chairs, and the musicians will bring the show.