Fernie, B.C.-based folk rock ensemble Shred Kelly is wrapping up a cross-country tour this Saturday with a show at the Park Theatre. Well, a show on the Park Theatre’s Facebook page.

The band was getting ready to release its fifth album, Like a Rising Sun, when the coronavirus pandemic threw the country into lockdown. The five-piece — made up of Tim Newton, Sage McBride, Jordan Vlasschaert, Ty West and Ryan Mildenberger — considered holding off on the release until the ordeal passed, but it quickly became evident they would be waiting a while.

"We don’t know when this whole thing is going to end," Newton says over the phone. "But people I think at this time, really need new music more than ever."

Like A Rising Sun came out in June and the group has invented some creative ways to promote the album under public health restrictions, such as creating a music video from cell phone footage and launching a virtual tour.

"We put it out there… and it got booked. And then we were like, ‘OK, now how do we pull this off?’" Newton says of the tour.

The band reached out to some of its favourite Canadian venues and pitched them on the idea of hosting a live-streamed concert on their Facebook pages. The shows would be filmed in Shred Kelly’s basement jam space in Fernie, B.C., and viewers across the country could tune in for free or purchase a ticket by donation, with proceeds split between the band and the venue.

"Venues have been taking one of the biggest hits," Newton says. "This whole plan came together to allow us to get our new music out there... and also to support these venues."

The group has an affinity for Winnipeg audiences and fond memories of playing at The Park, which made its inclusion in the lineup a "no-brainer."

Erick Casselman, owner and manager of the South Osborne venue, was a bit hesitant about how the concept would work, but excited to try something new — particularly with the current restrictions on licensed establishments.

"These kinds of events, they’re going to be necessary for (our) longevity," Casselman says. "If you can’t bring people into the venues, how can we survive to be there for when the people are allowed to come back?"

The pre-show checklist for Saturday’s concert will be notably shorter.

"There’s no load-in, there’s no setup, there’s no soundcheck, it’s a different world, that’s for sure," Casselman says. "I’m super pumped to check it out… and see how it performs. They’re an amazing band so it’s going to be awesome."

Shred Kelly’s 10-show virtual tour kicked off Oct. 8 and the group has learned a lot about high-speed internet and producing live videos over the last month.

"The biggest hurdle is just getting everything patched in to get the sound right in conjunction with the video," Newton says. "Behind the cameras, there’s just like a mountain of wires. It looks like a grenade went off in an electronics store."

Viewers will hear a mix of new and old songs and the show will include comedic interludes and a greenscreen campfire sing along.

Like A Rising Sun is a bit of a divergence for a band that has become known for producing ski hill party anthems. The album’s emotional lyrics and heavy themes came from a deeply personal place for Newton.

Last March, he and bandmate Sage McBride welcomed their daughter Murphy (so-named for Candice Bergen’s character in ‘80’s sitcom Murphy Brown) into the world. A month later, Newton’s father died from a rare heart disease.

"I was sort of stuck in between this amazing moment of welcoming our daughter and grieving my dad at the same time in such a close timeframe," he says. "It was easier songwriting in a way, because it was just ready… there was no searching for, ‘What’s this song about?’"

As the pandemic ramped up, the band went from playing local gigs together every weekend and rehearsing most weekdays, to communicating via Zoom. Over the summer they were able to come back together and play a few live gigs for small, seated audiences — a major victory for Newton.

"So much of your set is like a passing of energy back and forth from the audience to us," he says. "It definitely has a worth for us to be able to play to real human beings."

One benefit of the pandemic for Newton and McBride has been the abundance of uninterrupted family time.

"She learned how to walk during the pandemic and she started saying words and stuff," he says. "So it was really nice that we weren’t like in this rat race that we used to be in."

 

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

   Read full biography