By Howard Druckman
In the mid-‘80s, I was a huge REM fan. I listened endlessly to their records, collected their singles for the B-sides, interviewed them for one print publication or another each time an album was released, and – of course – saw them live as much as I could.
That included following them to see performances, from Toronto to Ottawa in 1985, and from Buffalo to Toronto to Montréal in 1986. At the Ottawa gig, maybe the best performance I’ve ever seen the band play, I made a friend; a guy from Cleveland who was similarly travelling to a few REM shows. He gave me a car ride back from Ottawa to Toronto, and we’ve remained lifelong friends ever since. More than 30 years later, we still always make time to stay in touch, and visit each other when we can.
That’s just one example of how the common bond of witnessing live music creates a sense of community.
When you experience magic moments live in concert – in my case, from seeing the explosive three-hour Bruce Springsteen show at the Montréal Forum in 1980, to watching The Brothers Landreth conquer a jam-packed Rivoli Club in Toronto in 2015, to witnessing Jessie Reyez’s passionate, impeccably staged performance at Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre in 2019 – they form unforgettable memories. Not only for you, but for the 150, or 3,000, or 20,000 people seeing them alongside you.
I’ll never forget seeing live performances from Stevie Wonder (twice), Snotty Nose Rez Kids (four times so far, including once at the Mariposa Folk Festival), Haviah Mighty (at the Polaris Music Prize Gala), Ry Cooder (playing a spectacular show at Massey Hall), Ray Charles (at the old Ontario Place Forum), Carly Rae Jepsen (to an endlessly screaming mob), Run-DMC (at Toronto’s old Diamond Club), Los Lobos (almost every time they’ve played Toronto), or standing on my chair and howling along to the chorus of “Like a Rolling Stone” with 20,000 people, with the house lights up, at the finale of a Bob Dylan show. For die-hard music lovers in those audiences, these are the kind of experiences we share, discuss, cherish, and over which we make powerful connections – not only to the music or musicians, but to each other.
Now, COVID-19 restrictions have (temporarily) taken away the ability to create more of those unforgettable experiences and powerful connections. More importantly, COVID-19 shutdowns have damaged the Canadian live music industry, without which we’d be unable to even witness the shows, let alone bond over them. That industry encompasses all of the artists, festivals, venues, promoters, clubs, concert halls, arenas, talent agencies, unions, crew, and many others working in the supply chain. These peoples’ jobs are being lost, or their livelihoods being threatened, as tours have disappeared, venues have closed, and performances have migrated online. The people who work in these sectors and professions need support from governments to help recover from the pandemic.
To help with that, the Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) has launched #ForTheLoveOfLive, a new awareness campaign to bring attention to the damage done, asking music fans to share their memories on social media, thereby supporting the above-listed people and organizations that make up the Canadian live-music industry. You can truly help them advocate for financial support from municipal, provincial, and federal governments, just by proving how much live music means to you; all you have to do is share your favourite live-music memories (like I’m doing here), concert videos, and photos on social media, using the #ForTheLoveOfLive hashtag.
If you want to ensure your ability to enjoy live music in the future, then simply share, on social media, the live music that you’ve enjoyed in the past. I urge everyone across Canada to do it, both for your own good, and the good of all those people who bring you the music. With your help, when we’re finally allowed to safely go to live shows again, there’ll still be somewhere to see them, and the teams of people who make it possible will still be there.