WATCH: Okanagan talents shine under online spotlight

Lake Country singer Payton Bischoff is featured in episode four of the Focus Online Series, March 4-7. (Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre photo)
The Dixie Fried Hep Katz are featured in episode four of the Focus Online Series, March 4-7. (Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre photo)
Scotty Berg and Justin Moore (back) are featured in episode four of the Focus Online Series, March 4-7. (Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre photo)Scotty Berg and Justin Moore (back) are featured in episode four of the Focus Online Series, March 4-7. (Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre photo)
The Maritime Kitchen Party is featured in episode four of the Focus Online Series, March 4-7. (Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre photo)

A 12-year-old Lake Country phenom, Enderby singer-songwriter-guitarist and astounding Kelowna duo are just a few of the talents in Focus online.

The Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre returns in a big way with episode four of its successful Focus Online Series, four days only, March 4-7.

The latest episode features area rockabilly band Dixie Fried Hep Katz, Lake Country singer Payton Bischoff, veteran East Coast-style band Maritime Kitchen Party and a performance by Kelowna’s Scotty Berg and Justin Moore.

The new venture is free to view (although donations are accepted) at ticketseller.ca.

It has been met by widespread viewer and industry praise for the highly-talented and diverse performers, technical production values and seamless online accessibility. Focus episodes one to three have played to 2,800 viewers, (and another 1,020 viewers for Ballet Kelowna’s recent One With) and has gained a significant jump in the art centre’s Instagram followers.

“We have been blown away by the talent of these young artists,” artistic director Erin Kennedy said. “They have been lovely to work with and so professional. We are excited for our community to enjoy their performances.”

Touted as “the future of Rockabilly” by The Wheelgrinders, the Dixie Fried Hep Katz’ young trio is led by Enderby’s singer-songwriter-guitarist Porter Johnson; with drummer-backup vocals-songwriter Kyndra Johnson; and “slapping” bass player Logan Bannick.

They are heavily influenced by the Sun Records artists and others from the ‘50s including Eddie Cochrane, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy and modern rockabilly greats: The Stray Cats, The Wheelgrinders, Cousin Harley and Reverend Horton Heat. The Dixie Fried Hep Katz has quickly earned a large following and has set its sights on recording and touring.

“It was an honour to perform at this great venue,” the band said. “The sound rocked and we enjoyed the big stage! Everything was set-up well and this was a great experience. The production team was top notch and made it easy for us to do our thing — Rockabilly!”

Lake Country’s Payton Bischoff is a proud, Top 12 finalist in Okanagan’s Got Talent – out of more than 140 contestants. Bischoff loves to perform in a variety of venues, from talent competitions to busking in downtown Kelowna. She is also passionate about acting and enjoys performing on stage with Kelowna’s Actors Studio.

“I loved that there was a sound person, a videographer, and a lighting guy. It made it feel like I was in a music video,” Bischoff said about her recording experience. “It was amazing to watch myself after they recorded me singing, I was so excited and didn’t want it to end.”

Veteran performers Maritime Kitchen Party is named for this long-standing East Coast tradition. Maritimers love to party – and inevitably the party ends up in the kitchen. There’s always a guitar with someone belting-out traditional songs at the top of their lungs. Maritime Kitchen Party brings that feeling to their live performance, with foot-stomping music heavily influenced by Canadiana such as Great Big Sea, Stompin’ Tom, Blue Rodeo and more. Maritime Kitchen Party has opened for, or played with: Kim Mitchell, 54/40, Men of the Deep, Big Sugar (twice), Tal Bachman, Prism, The Sheepdogs (twice), Blue Rodeo and many more.

Thirteen-year-old Scotty Berg has already performed in front of thousands, singing at Wentworth Music rock shows, the national anthem at numerous sporting events, Okanagan’s Got Talent and he won the Armstrong Fair’s Youth Talent competition. Berg recorded an original song, I Wouldn’t Know What to Do and is now followed on social media by artists Aaron Pritchett, Laura Cavacece and Ben Klick, influencer Jillian Harris and NHL star Tyson Barrie. As a versatile vocalist, he is passionate about all genres of music and is studying guitar and piano to expand his musical capabilities. Berg will be performing in a duet with Justin Moore, an ultra-talented local who has already found success on YouTube and has released several of his own songs for which he produces and plays all the instruments. His blend of pop and alternative rock has also been compared to Ed Sheeran, John Legend and Josh Groban. He also comes from a richly talented musical lineage as the son of well known local, Julliard-trained opera singers Paul Moore and Melina Schein — who was featured in episode two.

“It was really a great experience to be a part of this series,” Moore said. “The production team was absolutely killer. All we (with Scotty Berg) had to do was walk onstage and perform and everything was clean, organized and professional and was really well done.

“I think this is a phenomenal way to bring attention to the music industry when musicians can’t play live,” Moore said. “It’s a great move and it’s the way of the future to make content like this and I hope people take the time to enjoy some ‘pseudo live’ music and support local musicians.”

The Dixie Fried Hep Katz echoed that: “We are grateful to VDPAC and the FOCUS Online Series for this opportunity to perform during this time of limited performances.”

To view free 1-minute featurettes of FOCUS Online Series performers from Episodes 1 to 4, viewers can go online to YouTube and enter “vdpac” in the Search field for VDPAC’s own YouTube channel.

Watch Episode 4 of VDPAC’s FOCUS Online Series for free, (Running time: 18:23minutes) airing from 12:01 a.m., Thursday, March 4, to midnight, Sunday, March 7, with comments welcome on Facebook (@vdpac) or Instagram (@vernonperformingarts).

READ MORE: Vernon stage puts new artists in focus, amid pandemic

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


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