In it together: Lessons the Victoria Music community learned from the pandemic


Same Scene, New Rules

Cartoon Lizard
Photo provided by Cartoon Lizard.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to live music in Victoria. Gone were the in-person jam sessions, backyard concerts, and mosh pits. Now, local bands are cautiously anticipating the return of live music venues and backyard D.I.Y. shows. 

Alex Maunders (guitar) and Trevor Lang (vocals and guitar) of alt psych pop band Cartoon Lizard have spent time during the pandemic exploring new creative and musical projects. Meanwhile, Victoria music community organizer Lucas Hayes embarked on a social media-based project aimed to keep the energy of the Victoria music community alive. 

“[The pandemic] presented us with an opportunity to be more introspective,” Lang said.

For a lot of artists, there are plenty of cobwebs to shake off before they can return to the stage. Artists have adapted to cope with the long pause on live music and, in doing so, they’ve had a chance to reflect on the Victoria music community and what it means to them to perform live. 

Finding new connections during the Pandemic

 For folks like Hayes, connection between musicians through the pandemic “kind of did just die.” 

But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for everyone.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more personally connected to a lot of people in the local scene,” Lang said. “It’s sort of this feeling of camaraderie.” 

Maunders says that the music community has respected the COVID-19 guidelines. Cartoon Lizard, for example, only played one impromptu outdoor park show last summer.Throughout the pandemic, Hayes has regularly released compilation playlists of new music from Victoria artists on his bandcamp page Quarantine Rock and on Facebook and Instagram as a way to promote local music.

Hayes said that Zoom shows “never really worked” for him, and releasing his weekly playlists was a way to keep the Victoria music community alive.

In some ways, Hayes says the pandemic has allowed bands to continue making music. 

“[There has been a shift to] focus on writing and recording, audio and video,” Hayes said, when asked how bands have been affected. “Some bands adapted and continued to put music out.”

One thing, however, is for sure — artists had no shortage of time during the pandemic. With this newfound spare time, bands have produced a slew of new projects and experimental work. 

For Cartoon Lizard, Lang feels that “[The pandemic] facilitated us all branching out into our own individual projects.” He tells me that “It’s been awhile since we’ve done anything as a group” perhaps because “Covid presented us with an opportunity to be more introspective.” 

The new normal for Vic Live Music

With the recent news that live music may be back in the fall, Hayes says he is looking forward to “a reason to get together and play music.”

As far as how the Victoria music community will handle a return to normal, Maunders predicts, “The transition back to live music is going to be a little rocky.” It is likely that backyard shows and gigs at outdoor venues will be popular and indoor shows will have limited capacities, in accordance with future guidelines.

“People who risk more might be rewarded, in a weird way,” Maunders points out when asked about what the return of live music might look like. He worries that bands will be eager to have a good show early on and may flout gathering restrictions. 

“Provided it feels safe to do so,” Lang says, “I’m going to be going to every single show that feels comfortable.”

BC’s Restart plan currently provides for a return to normal social contact by September 7th at the earliest.

When asked if Cartoon Lizard has done anything to prepare for a return to live music, Lang replies, “No, not at all.” This just goes to show that so much is still uncertain, and venues certainly aren’t jumping the gun in trying to book artists just yet.

While the Victoria music scene is generally thought of as inclusive and supportive, Lang, Maunders and Hayes all have hopes that some things will change when gatherings are safe again. Hayes feels that “we just might appreciate it all more,” while Lang and Alex both share a wish “that the value of performers and live music goes up.”

While much is up in the air regarding the fall, there is one thing Hayes is sure about: “It’s going to be different.”

You can find Hayes’s Quarantine Rock playlists under @vicmusicscene on Instagram.

Cartoon Lizard is currently working on a new record, due to come out this fall and Lang has a fresh single he produced solo dropping July 8.