There’s nothing quite like the experience of live music. The interplay between musicians firing on all cylinders, mixed with the energy and excitement of the crowd, can take you to a whole other world. Live concerts are one of the things music lovers miss the most as the ongoing pandemic has put mass gatherings on pause. But one local group is hoping to help fill the gap and bring some joy by offering a top-notch digital musical experience.
This summer, 618 Entertainment Inc., a Twillingate-based production company, is renting the town’s old United Church, (these days known as “The Gate”) built in 1868, and hosting a series of concerts with musicians from around Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, using modern technology to live stream concerts from a 152-year-old structure, and it’s one that works well.
The first show on June 19, featuring D’Arcy Broderick and Ronnie Power, saw 5,300 people tune in during the event and has since reached just over 20,000 says Mike McDonald of 618 Entertainment. In addition to paying the performers, the money from ticket sales and donations is also going towards helping renovate the historic structure. McDonald says the inaugural show “was truly an amazing experience.”
“There was no live audience except for staff and volunteers. We raised a little bit of money, but it really just covered off expenses…It was and continues to be a gamble as we are hoping that people will see the value of what we are doing and will make a contribution or buy some tickets,” he says.
Upcoming performances (which can be viewed via 618’s Facebook page) include the duo Causeway (Mike Sixonate and Mike Jenkins), Arthur and Fred of The Navigators, metal band Sons of an Eastern Moon, and Jim Payne and Fergus O’Byrne. McDonald says in addition to the live stream option, up to 45 people can now enjoy the show from inside the historic church, following social distancing guidelines.
While live-streamed events are a dime a dozen these days, the quality of the broadcasts differ, McDonald says. He hopes 618 Entertainment can become leaders in event organization and logistics, and help beat down a path for others to follow.
“We want to innovate new ways to promote online concerts and set the bar for other arts organizations to hopefully raise themselves,” he says.
One cannot shoot for a goal this big alone, and McDonald says he’s been fortunate to have heaps of help from his partner Mandi Dawn, as well as 618’s Mike Jenkins and Denver Gidge.
“I am constantly looking for people to give their input and plant ideas! Clint Lackey, Aaron Grimes, Joelle Sunshine, Gage Anstey, Steve Loverage and so many more people have had some kind of a role in helping us make this project a reality,” he says.
Local business support for the project, McDonald adds, has also been phenomenal. The Anchor Inn has provided accommodations for the musicians, Split Rock Brewing has loaned 618 some much-needed equipment for the summer, Twillingate Adventure Tours and Annie’s Restaurant have provided door prizes, while the staff of Twillingate Beyond have helped 618 to navigate COVID-19 guidelines and get the venue picture perfect.
“I have had so much help from the local community, but ticket sales and monetization are still a massive challenge this year. Having these companies on our side literally saves us thousands of dollars,” McDonald says.
“Our collective mindset is to keep the arts alive and to promote our culture and heritage in a very authentic way.”
Of course, McDonald adds, none of this would be possible without the performers, as well as the board of the Twillingate Performing Arts Centre “for renting us this space and for allowing us to realize our vision in such an inspiring room.”
For a list of upcoming performances and to purchase tickets, visit 618nl.ca.