With no physical live music on the horizon due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Live Nation Canada and Budweiser are bringing live music to fans with the weekly concert television series, Budweiser Stage At Home.
“The most important part of this story is that positive things are happening in our industry and no one’s throwing in the towel,” Joey Scoleri, Live Nation Canada’s head of industry relations, tells Billboard. “We’re doing everything we can to stay engaged. We know fans want to come back to concerts. That’s been overwhelmingly expressed by fans so they’ve hung onto their tickets. It’s part of who we are, to gather and listen to music.
“I think this [Budweiser Stage At Home] is a really good way to make people feel like they’re there. They can have a watch party at home on Saturday night and at least they’ll feel some of that summer concert warmth that I’m sure they’re missing right now.”
Toronto’s lakeside amphitheater Budweiser Stage, which celebrated 25 years and more than 800 concerts last year, remains closed after the local government cancelled events with attendance of more than 250 people through July 31, and those with attendance of 25,000 or more through Aug. 31.
Starting May 30, Budweiser Stage At Home will debut in Canada on Citytv with a one-hour concert by The Black Crowes (Chris and Rich Robinson from their respective homes) and Canadian rock band The Trews (socially distancing at Toronto’s Iguana Studios). It will also be live streamed on Citytv.com and can be seen globally on Live Nation’s new virtual music site, Live From Home.
The next episode, on June 6, will feature Canadian acts Blue Rodeo (which has played the venue 20 times) and Alan Doyle. Details on two more Saturday night virtual concerts are still being finalized.
The idea for the series originated with Adam Burchill, MLSE’s senior director, marketing and global partnerships, music and live entertainment, while Scoleri came up with the name. The MLSE production team is led by Adam Armit, manager, live entertainment and venue marketing, and executive producer Michael Gelfand (Raptors’ Open Gym – The Finals). “They’re fantastic at telling stories and creating content,” says Scoleri.
“Artists are doing their own thing online, and they’re doing these Zoom calls and different ‘at home’ types of presentations. We wanted to do something that stepped up the production and used cameras and had a little bit more showbiz to it. We’re using high quality equipment and real cameras, and professional engineers on both audio and video.”
After bringing Labatt Brewing Company (Budweiser) and Rogers Sports & Media (Citytv) on board, Scoleri called up one of his best friends Mark DiDia, who had hired him in 1997 to work in the U.S. at Hollywood Records, and now manages The Black Crowes, who were scheduled to play Budweiser Stage with The Trews on July 28, a date which is now postponed.
“I called Mark and I told him what it was. He’s like, ‘I don’t want it to be some shitty Zoom call. And I said, ‘No, this is going to sound great. It’s going to look great. The production is going to be great,” says Scoleri. “I told him about the MLSE guys and Adam and their team and he said, ‘Okay, let me talk to the guys.’ And he talked to the guys and they’ve known me for the last 30-plus years, and they said, ‘Okay, we’re in.’ And then we talked to The Trews and they got really excited.”
The host of Budweiser Stage At Home is Tara Slone who some might remember as a contestant on Rockstar: INXS. She is currently the host of Rogers Hometown Hockey on Sportsnet and still fronts Joydrop when time permits. She’ll actually be throwing to the segments from Budweiser Stage. Each one-hour episode will also include interviews with the performers.
“For now, it’s four weeks,” says Scoleri. “Hopefully, our partners at Rogers, Labatt and MLSE and everybody likes it and we get to do it for an extended period of time.”
Budweiser Stage has “a long, rich history as one of North America’s premiere concert destinations, and we know how important music is to people, especially at a difficult time. We wanted to keep the summer concert season going, even when we have to be apart,” said Live Nation Canada chairman Riley O’Connor in a statement.