Saskatchewan

Regina party band gears up for first live performance since pandemic lockdown

Regina party band, The New Montagues, gets ready to perform for the first time since COVID-19.

The New Montagues first formed in early 2000s

The New Montagues do covers of music from Earth, Wind and Fire, ELO, Bruno Mars, Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder. (Submitted by The New Montagues)

As Saskatchewan prepares for Step 2 of its reopening plan, venues and musicians are getting ready to put on shows for music lovers.

This is good news for many musicians in Regina. Not only does it present new opportunities for revenue, it's a chance for expression they have been deprived of for more than a year.

The latter is what Regina party band The New Montagues is most looking forward to.

The New Montagues was formed by Collin Middleton and a friend in the early 2000s. At first they were just called The Montagues, because he was living on Montague Street.

While the lineup has changed over the years, the band is still an active part of the local music community.

The current lineup is Aaron Ruster (singer), Marie Claire Winichuk (singer), Paul Winichuk (keyboardist), Collin Middleton (guitar), Chris Carman (bass), Karl Valiaho (Saxophone), Al McWilliams (trumpet), Joel Lareau (Trombone) and Les Schaeffer (drums).

The band has won Prairie Dog Magazine's Best of Regina award twice.

A different city, a different time

Regina party band The New Montagues is preparing for their first post-pandemic gig after more than a year of not being able to perform. (Submitted by The New Montagues)

Middleton recalls the music scene in Regina being quite different when the band was first formed, because "there were lots of clubs to play."

"There were probably 10 that I could cycle through, such as McNally's, The Gaslight Saloon, E 52s, and The Moon," he said. "There were also tons of functions as well."

Being a party band is fulfilling for the members, because they get to help create memorable experiences at weddings, birthday parties, work parties or anniversaries that people will remember for a long time.

"We come as a live band and play about three full sets of music that people can recognize and can dance to all night," Middleton said.

The reason for the music

The New Montagues performing for a live audience before the world closed down. (Submitted by The New Montagues)

The nine-person band is expensive to operate, but it has never been about the money, as gigs are not the main source of income for the band's members. It has been a creative outlet for the members. This was the hardest part of the pandemic.

"The part that has affected the band the most is having our creativity stifled," Middleton said. "While we play a majority of cover music, we also do have some original music so to have that creativity stifled is extremely difficult for us."

Middleton said that for local musicians who work regular jobs throughout the week like everyone else, being able to perform on the weekend is a form of relief.

"It's been incredibly depressing to not be able to do that," he said.

Back on the stage

The New Montagues at their sold out performance at Casino Regina. (Submitted by The Montagues)

Singer Aaron Ruster joined the band five years ago. He said performing music is a mental health break, so not being able to do it has been really tough.

"I've been doing music since I was four years old and now I work in the financial industry," he said. "My life is very serious so the music is a huge relief to me. The lockdown was tough to take and it was hard to step away from that a little bit."

The New Montagues, like many local bands, are proceeding with caution before announcing any live shows. For Middleton, it is important that he is able to get all members of the band on stage safely while still adhering to health guidelines. He is also waiting for dance floors to open up so he can maximize the amount of attendees for the events the band would be playing. 

"What I'm looking forward to the most is to be on stage with my friends again, playing music, having fun and making people smile."

The band's first gig post lockdown is booked for Oct. 1 and 2 at Revival Music Room.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adeoluwa Atayero is a reporter for CBC News based in Saskatchewan. Before moving to Canada, Atayero worked as reporter, content manager and communications consultant in Lagos, Nigeria. He holds a masters in journalism from the University of Regina. @theadeatayero

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