Live street music at Providence Bay helps break up monotony of COVID-19

Musician Cameron James plays classical guitar at Providence Bay and Spring Bay Lions Club live music event on August 5.

PROVIDENCE BAY – Live music offers summer fun for all ages and on Thursday evening, August 5, there were a lot of relaxed, smiling faces at the Harbour Centre, off McNevin Street in Providence Bay for live performances by Elijah and the Backburners, Cameron James and the DJ sounds of John Roy. It was an event for all Islanders, to help break up the monotony of COVID-19, said John Bisaillon, president of the Providence Bay and Spring Bay Lions Club that hosted the event.

“The pandemic and the lockdown have been hard for everybody,” Mr. Bisaillon said. “The Lions Club has had its hands tied with respect to hosting of activities since March 2020, so with the relaxing of COVID rules, we were able to organize this free outdoor event.” The club has had a successful fundraising year despite the loss of revenue from not being able to hold events like they usually do at Halloween and New Year’s. Their spring yard sale and ongoing bottle drive collection allowed the club to host the musical evening. 

DJ John Roy of The Island Music Showcase started out the show and played in between live sets. This was his first time out since the beginning of the pandemic. “I’ve been aching to get out,” he said. He’s operated the service for about 12 years and it’s been tough staying home and keeping that distance from everyone. “We all do our part though,” he said. “Things are starting to come together.”

Guitarist Cameron James is new to Manitoulin. He came here with friends and hopes to stay. Mr. James has been playing guitar for about 17 years. He also plays banjo and bass. “I learned to play guitar to impress people,” he joked. “When I began to play classical guitar, I found I was not focused on impressing people. It was actually fun.” This was his first live show since the March 2020 lockdown began. “It’s good to be back out in front of any audience,” he said. He grew up on the east coast and moved to Toronto, where he managed a jazz bar for a time and played “here and there with different bands: country, rock, bluegrass.” 

Headliner Elijah and the Backburners really got the crowd of about 100 people moving. A family danced on McNevin Street and another hula hooped by the boardwalk. The hula hoops were in place to mark out COVID-appropriate physical distancing on the grass. Lead singer, Wiikwemkoong’s Elijah Manitowabi, was happy to be playing again. The band had played the previous weekend at a private party but the McNevin Street event was their first formal show “since the last one,” he said. “It’s been a long time. I’m not afraid of the pandemic. We just need to be respectful of each other. The best thing is to be outdoors.” He’s very happy to get back to live music. Playing and singing live is the best therapy for his stuttering problem, he said. “The more I sing the more it helps. It’s just great to be out here and see everybody smiling.”

The event was approximately four weeks in development. “This event falls within the rules of what a Lions Club can do,” Mr. Bisaillon said. “This is giving back to the community.”