The show must go on: Kelowna musicians take virtual stage to keep playing

Rebellious Unicorns offers local artists the chance to perform live, a rarity amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Jacob Chrystal steps on stage and takes the mic.

It’s the first time in the past year he’s been able to perform, under his stage name Unknown Persona, live in front of an audience.

And, while that audience may be filled with plastic caricatures of locals, pets and cartoon characters, he knows that behind the four cameras set up around him, his fans are tuned in online to watch him sing.

Story continues below photo.

Unknown Persona (Jacob Chrystal) performs at the Kelowna Community Theatre’s Black Box theatre on Feb. 28, 2021. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Unknown Persona (Jacob Chrystal) performs at the Kelowna Community Theatre’s Black Box theatre on Feb. 28, 2021. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Rebellious Unicorns has been running a live-streamed concert series at the Kelowna Community Theatre since November 2020, providing local musicians with a chance to perform live, a rarity during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Live @ The KCT was initially planned as small, in-person shows, the production company shifted its approach after the province issued public health orders further limiting gatherings.

On Feb. 27 and 28, in partnership with Kelowna-based record label LegionHQ, Rebellious Unicorns hosted four rap and hip hop acts (DLopez, Unknown Persona, Opposite I, and E. Val) on its streaming service, Unicorns.LIVE.

“It’s still obviously different because there’s no audience, but at least they’re getting to perform on a stage,” said Dustyn Baulkham, executive producer and CEO of Rebellious Unicorns.

While there may not be an audience of people, every seat in the small Black Box theatre was filled.

Story continues below photo.

Plastic cutouts fill the seats in the Black Box theatre as DLopez performs on Feb. 27, 2021. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Plastic cutouts fill the seats in the Black Box theatre as DLopez performs on Feb. 27, 2021. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

READ MORE: Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

READ MORE: B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Rather than having artists play to an empty room, Rebellious Unicorns opted to sell plastic cutouts, allowing people to put themselves, their dog or whatever else they want in the crowd.

“At least it looks almost like an audience for them, so it feels a little bit more normal,” said Baulkham.

And normalcy is something that musicians are striving for right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has nixed nearly every aspect of live performance for small local artists, who would usually look to book late-night gigs at bars and clubs.

“Right now, it’s absolutely essential for preserving what little is left of the entertainment sector,” said LegionHQ’s Kyle Haynes, noting the importance of the proper sound, proper lighting and professional set-up Rebellious Unicorns provides.

“Live streaming is going to be the big thing for — we don’t know how long. It could be a year, two years; it could be this summer. It’s a reality that we have to deal with.”

Story continues below photo.

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

From a performer’s point of view, Chrystal said the virtual stage is not all that different from its in-person counterpart — aside from the cutout of ‘Pickle Rick’ he made a note of during his set. Mostly, he’s just appreciative of the chance to play live.

“I’m just so happy and grateful to be part of anything musical in the area,” he said. “It means everything to me. I love singing, I love performing, and I love sharing art. It’s a beautiful thing.”

While artists are on board with the necessary change in medium, concert-goers have been tougher to convince. Asking music lovers to change the way they enjoy live shows is no easy task. But Haynes offered a solution to those looking for the “classic” experience.

“When we buy a live stream and watch it, we’ll park two blocks away, charge ourselves $8 a beer, have ourselves wait 20 minutes to go to the bathroom, just to make it feel like a real concert experience,” he joked.

Baulkham said he hopes to host another round of the Live @ The KCT series at the end of March. All of last weekend’s performances will be available for purchase for a limited time on Unicorns.LIVE.

READ MORE: B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

READ MORE: Famed Okanagan poet Shane Koyczan reflects on the pandemic in new show

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusLive music

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Kelowna firefighters practice swiftwater rescue techniques in the Shuswap River in Cherryville April 20. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
West Kelowna firefighters make a splash in North Okanagan

Swift water rescue training brings team to Cherryville’s Shuswap River

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

The new Tourism Revelstoke banners. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
Jocelyn’s Jottings: Arts and culture make up the soul in every community

Which banners do you prefer? Vote in our web poll

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

BC Wildfire Service
Small wildfire ignites in the Shuswap

The blaze is about 10 km east of the Squilax Bridge

A screen capture from Chris “Sky” Saccoccia’s Twitch live stream of his rally in Kelowna’s Stuart Park on April 22, 2021. (therealchrisskytv/Twitch.tv)
Anti-mask activist Chris Sky descends on Kelowna, incites violation of COVID-19 health orders

The appearance is part of Chris “Sky” Saccoccia’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ that is currently travelling cross-country

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
EDITORIAL: High marks for Canada’s democratic process

Accusations of widespread corruption do not hold up

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will issue an apology for Canada’s treatment of Itaian-Canadians during the Second World War. (CPAC)
COLUMN: Apologizing for an uncomfortable wartime decision

Canada’s government will apologize for its treatment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War

Vernon RCMP are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man who allegedly pointed a firearm at two people outside a downtown business Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Contributed)
Man who brandished firearm in downtown Vernon sought by police

Video surveillance image shows man pointing what investigators believe to be a handgun April 10

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RauDZ pop-up patio located on Pandosy Street in front of The Okanagan Table. (Contributed: Audrey Surrao)
Kelowna restaurant gets creative to adjust to new health orders

The owners of RauDZ Regional Table open ‘pop-up patio’ to adjust to health order banning indoor dining

Most Read