What: Satellite and the Harpoonist
When: Saturday, Nov. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15.75 at tidemarktheatre.com or 250-287-7465 (ticket includes a CD, toque and access to the livestream)
Nanaimo musician Shawn Hall, frontman for the Juno-nominated Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, has been livestreaming through the pandemic. But on Saturday, he was all set to take his new side project, Satellite and the Harpoonist, to a live audience at the Tidemark Theatre in Campbell River.
The event is now exclusively online, however, after the provincial health authority quashed in-person performances last week.
“I was doing it for everybody — for my family, for my community — just so we could have one social event,” Hall said. “The silver lining is knowing that you’re getting stuff out that is affecting people’s lives, that there is brand-new creative content for people to enjoy. But spending too much time online doesn’t feel good.”
Cumberland musician Doug Cox will join Hall on mandolin, lap steel and dobro for the livestream, which gets underway at 7:30 p.m.
Hall will play piano for the first time on stage during the performance, and will also employ guitar, synthesizer and harmonica, an indication of the musical variety on Satellite Man, his six-song debut with his bandmates in Satellite and the Harpoonist.
“Piano has not been part of the Harpoonist and the Axe Murder — we’re not the most ‘piano’ band,” Hall said. “So I get to live out a different role.”
He made the record with musicians he knew but who were not familiar with each other. Banff-based Geoff Hillhorst of The Deep Dark Woods plays Hammond organ and synthesizer, while Theo Vincent of Vancouver’s The Boom Booms handles percussion.
Brooklyn’s Bradford Reed, who plays drums and Pencilina, a double-necked instrument of his invention, rounds out the group.
It’s a unique quartet, and the most off-the-wall project of Hall’s career. He can’t wait for the moment Satellite and the Harpoonist gets to show Canada its horsepower in front of a live audience.
“All the people I assembled for the band, they are live beasts — all they want to do is play. They are chomping at the bit.”
Due to social distancing, Hall hasn’t seen his longtime Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer bandmate, Vancouver guitarist Matt Rogers, since their show together in February, the longest break of their 15-year musical partnership.
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murder will return in the near future, he said, but the pandemic, which has forced some artists underground and others out of the picture entirely, has been difficult to navigate even for a veteran group. “It’s really abstract. Everyone’s careers are just online now. Which is so f***ing lame.”
Hall kept busy in recent months with a variety of projects, from building a studio/art space in downtown Nanaimo with his wife to co-hosting 10 episodes of The Shouting Hour with Terry David Mulligan, a music performance and interview show on YouTube.
He’s also had plenty of work on Satellite and the Harpoonist. A film crew documented the recording of Satellite Man last winter, and videos from each song on the E.P. will be made public before the album cycle completes.
He’s also thinking a lot about what’s next.
Hall has a mind for business, but he remains uncertain about the future for veteran artists such as himself, who learned their craft using the pre-pandemic music model.
“I can see this being a fork in the road for a lot of musicians who are younger, who want to carve out online careers and things based on computers. But people need events. We need to not forget that we are social beings, and we need each other to thrive and to grow, and to be inspired. We can’t just live on Spotify and Nextlix.”