“Everyone in the world needs to see this.”
In the very first moments of a live stream, an iPhone camera points at a room full of instruments and someone mischievously says, “It looks like there’s gonna be something going on here.” The camera turns to Rylie Saunders’ gigantic knowing grin that seems to tell us that it’s going to be something great.
On November 10, 2016, the very first episode of “Live at the Roslyn” premiered on Facebook Live – an intimate live concert experience that anyone can access from the comfort of their own home.
Whether Saunders and co-creator Kevin Repay knew that their idea would eventually earn them over four seasons of content, tens of thousands of views, and a Western Canadian Music Award is hard to say. But it’s no debate that now, being featured on “Live at the Roslyn” has become a rite of passage for bands all over Manitoba, with notable acts like Mise en Scene, William Prince, and Red Moon Road having graced the hardwood stage.
It all began in a picturesque coral and grey apartment complex that stands rife with history on the corner of Osborne and Roslyn. Inside one suite, friends gathered after a concert to party and pass a guitar around. Among those friends were unmistakable talents such as Kevin Hogg (Bright Righteous, Invisible Friends/Electric Feel), Bobby Desjarlais (Attica Riots), and Jamie Buckboro (Jamie Buckboro and the Honeysliders).
“We were like fanboying these guys,” says Saunders. “We kinda said, ‘we need to turn a camera on; everyone in the world needs to see this.’”
In perfect preservation of authenticity, they remained in that very apartment suite and got out their cameras and mics. They had a few noise complaints (or “compliments” as Repay puts it) in the early days, but they soon found out that the building managers were music lovers themselves and would allow the hour-long show to tape every Wednesday night.
“Every episode it’s grown.”
And so every week, Repay and Saunders upped their game by adding camera angles, lighting sequences and team members.
“Every episode it’s grown,” says Saunders. Most recently, they’ve made major upgrades to their cameras and lenses, “so Season 5 is just going to be astronomically better.”
The creators of the series are just a fraction of the people who have made “Live at the Roslyn” what it is today. The production team is known as The Village Idiots and includes Joey Senft, Kevin Maretz and Mike Osikoya (all photographer/videographers); Atom Dzaman (lighting); and Derek Benjamin (audio engineer). Also to thank are the people who helped push the evolution of the program like Morgan Coates, Evan St. Cyr at Arcade Studios, and James Hebert.
“We are all Village Idiots”
But “we are all Village Idiots” maintain Repay and Saunders, always quick to credit the community before themselves.
The reason The Village Idiots have grown so near and dear to Winnipeg’s heart is that they are champions for the music-loving community. “Live at the Roslyn” makes local music more accessible to audiences who may struggle with tight budgets or schedules. It’s a valuable cultural service that ultimately makes it easier for audiences to continue supporting local arts.
“When you really embrace the local, you can find what you want in life,” says Saunders. “It can be way cheaper, way more fulfilling. And I appreciate the relationships you grow with these people.”
“You can idolize people that you pay $200 – $300 to see at the Bell MTS Place, or you can find them locally here and you can be like, wow, I can idolize these people.”
Even the Village Idiots couldn’t escape the wave of cancellations.
Four years since “Live at Roslyn” began, live stream concerts have become more relevant than ever, but with the performing arts on an industry-wide hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even the Village Idiots couldn’t escape the wave of cancellations.
“Kevin and I are hopping in a car with Jeremy Koz to go to the Junos,” says Saunders. “March 12th we’re on the road, in the car, we stop in Eli at Tim Hortons and our phones are blowing up, ‘Did you see the Junos are cancelled?’ We were shocked…we turned around and we came back home! So, I remember that weekend, I remember everything about it so vividly because that was a big weekend for us and then life forever was different.”
They went on to tape one more “Live at the Roslyn” until it became clear that even having people over to the apartment was taboo.
Now the industry has been able to adapt a little to these tumultuous times where dates can’t stay set. The Western Canadian Music Awards were hosted online this September and The Village Idiots accepted the award for Impact in Music Marketing.
“It’s pretty surreal…it just goes to show that what we’re doing has a purpose and it’s being recognized.”
“We are available to support bands through the production process to go live.”
Another industry adaptation lies in the diversion of resources from touring grants to online performance media. The Village Idiots are presently calling on musicians to apply for the MFM Online Concert Support Grant, and artists can team up with the Idiots as their presenter.
“We are available to support bands through the production process to go live,” says Repay.
Once life is closer to business as usual and the “Code Orange” is lifted, The Idiots are encouraging people to keep a lookout for the continuation of their regular occurring shows: Sonix Open Mic is a free event occurring every Tuesday at Sonix Bar and Grill (423 McMillan Ave) – an excellent networking opportunity for artists, both established and new; And Original Thursdays at the King’s Head (120 Kings St) is a great way to catch up with your favourite acts over a pint.