The sound of silence: Edmonton indoor music venues may not host live shows until the fall

Some say they will have to continue to rely on other revenues to keep them afloat.

In the meantime, some owners and musicians will continue to rely on side gigs

Mark and Philip Muz, co-owners of Top Notch Picnic Tables and The Aviary, don't expect to host any live concerts at their music venue until the fall. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

Alberta is set to reopen this summer, but some Edmonton music venue owners and musicians don't expect indoor concerts to return until the fall.

Some say they will have to continue to rely on other revenues to keep them afloat.

Philip and Mark Muz make picnic tables under their company Top Notch Picnic Tables. It's been a side gig for years, but they've been busy making it more of a main gig through the warmer months of the pandemic.

"This year we've already done kind of three, or maybe this is our fourth picnic table blitz already of the year, and it's just the beginning of June," said Philip Muz. "A lot of people are spending more time outside at restaurants and stuff, and need them for their patios."

The two brothers also own and operate The Aviary, a 140-person capacity music venue in Edmonton. It hasn't hosted live shows for nearly 15 months. The money from their picnic table business allows them to keep themselves and the venue afloat.

They plan to open when the indoor restrictions are lifted, but they'll be taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to booking music performances.

"We've had a couple of times where we had to cancel a number of shows, which is very disheartening for both for us, the business and also the musicians that we're booking," said Philip.

"I've already had about 20 emails asking for shows already, and I'm just telling people to just sit tight a little bit till fall."

'We're still in crisis mode'

The Starlite Room, located in downtown Edmonton, has been sitting closed for nearly 15 months too, but has been staying afloat through wage and rent subsidies.

Tyson Boyd, co-owner and operator, doesn't expect the music venue to host live shows until the fall either, as many bookings happen months ahead of time.

"We're still trying to figure out exactly how we recover from this. We're still in crisis mode. The borders are shut down presently. We're heavily reliant on tours," he said.

"It's not just the American border. Saskatchewan and B.C., they're opening up at different times and if we can't get a tour to come to western Canada because of those barriers, then we're kind of limited in what we could do."

He's also awaiting guidance from the province when it comes to clarity on indoor performances.

Some musicians also holding tight through the summer

Music venue owners aren't the only ones who rely on other revenue streams these days.

Ivan Rankic, a DJ and producer, played three or four shows a week in Calgary before the pandemic.

He now creates soft-serve flavours, some inspired by breakfast cereals, at Groove by Fleisch in Edmonton.

"I had all the time in the world because my job ceased to exist," Rankic said. "So, I kind of put a ton of effort into doing research and finding out how to do soft-serve and how to produce a quality product."

Ivan Rankic, a DJ and producer, holds up one of the soft serve ice cream flavours he's created for Groove By Fleisch. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

He's ditched mixing music for mixing ice cream, finding a creative outlet in making chilled culinary treats. 

Rankic has received a few inquiries about potential DJ gigs this summer but, like some music venue owners, he's taking the wait-and-see approach when it comes to playing live indoor shows.

"I miss the craft, I miss hanging out with my peers and discussing music, new trends, different production techniques we've been learning," he said. "But at the same time,  I'm just glad that I have this [business] to kind of focus on and progress and see how far I could take this."


Travis McEwan

Video journalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who covers stories ranging from human interest and sports to municipal and provincial issues. Originally from Churchill, Man., Travis has spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton reporting for web, radio and television. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca.


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