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Country musician Brett Kissel says his drive-in concerts in Regina on June 20 will be a “once in a lifetime (event) for everybody.”
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Regina Leader-Post Photo by Fish Griwkowsky /Postmedia News•
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The last time Brett Kissel was in Regina, he was caught with his pants down.
It was Aug. 9, 2019, in a dressing room at Mosaic Stadium. He was changing back into his street clothes, because his gig — opening for country superstar Garth Brooks — had become a casualty of the weather.
When Kissel answered a knock on the door, he thought it would be one of his bandmates.
“I’m wearing no clothes except Ellen Degeneres underwear. And (Brooks) walks in and he starts to laugh, he gets out his phone, takes a picture of me and he’s like, ‘I got to send this to Ellen,’” Kissel recalled Thursday in a phone call from his 306 cell number.
“And I’m like, ‘Oh my God, of course he knows Ellen … OK, so what do you need, Garth?’ And I was so embarrassed.”
Brooks was there to invite Kissel to join him on stage for one of his many hits, “Friends In Low Places.”
“He says, ‘Do you know the words?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve only sang it 10,000 times.’”
With that, a disappointing situation turned into an “unbelievably happy” one.
It was a memorable night for Kissel.
His return to Evraz Place should create some more memories for the Alberta-born country musician.
Kissel is scheduled to perform three drive-in concerts on Saturday, in the parking lot just south of the Brandt Centre.
His audience will be in their cars, getting the live performance’s audio fed through their radios.
Photo by Fish Griwkowsky /Postmedia News
When they announced the shows just last week, “We thought, well we know there’s a great appetite for country music in southern Saskatchewan, but we didn’t expect that we’d sell out three in an hour,” said Kissel.
“It just goes to show the appetite for live music is very strong.”
Kissel believes this will be a “once in a lifetime (event) for everybody, because our collective hope is that normal life is going to be coming around the corner pretty quick, and hopefully sooner than later.”
This will be Kissel’s second round of drive-in concerts. He played eight hour-long shows in Edmonton last weekend and his voice on Thursday was still a little raspy as a result.
For those first shows, Kissel said representatives from Alberta Health Services and Health Canada were there, “watching our every move.”
“This could have been an opportunity for something bad to happen, so we all toed the line,” said Kissel.
His bandmates — Matty McKay on lead guitar, Tyler Vollrath on fiddle, Justin Kudding on bass, Connor Riddell on banjo and guitar, Brendan Waters on keys, and Spencer Cheyne on drums — played behind Plexiglas shields.
It was a “really tough” experience — “you see your band members the first time in months and all I want to do is go give them a hug,” said Kissel — but an “extraordinary” one too.
He said his performance required more energy to reach his audience through their windshields, while his audience honked their horns and waved flags in support.
“They all knew that they needed to give five, 10, 20 times more energy than usual so that I could feel it on the stage, because we had this barrier,” said Kissel.
At the risk of sounding “mushy and really overly poetic,” he added, “The only way I can describe it is that we were all in it together; everyone in the crowd wanted to bust loose the same way as me on stage.”
Photo by Fish Griwkowsky /Postmedia News
Kissel has been “cooped up” during quarantine at his family’s farm near Flat Lake, Alta., about 180 kilometres northwest of Lloydminster.
Kissel, his wife Cecelia, and their three young children live in Nashville, but after a tornado tore through their neighbourhood in early March, they decided it would be a good time to visit Canada. Shortly thereafter, the borders were closed due to the pandemic.
“The very beginning of life in quarantine was very tough for me. I’m a very social person; there’s nothing I like more than getting out and performing and I live for the stage,” said Kissel.
Switching his focus to the “inside world,” he says “there are way more positives that have come out of this COVID-19 pandemic, for me, than negatives.”
Although, there are those too: “Our revenue was just gone in a blink of an eye. We were hit hard, we had to do layoffs, we had to cancel tours, we lost deposits on big things. It was tough. But if you focus on how bad it is, that’s how bad it’s going to be.”
Kissel’s drive-in concerts are a fundraiser; he’s asking people to donate food and money to the Regina Food Bank.
If you can’t attend the concerts — since only about 600 tickets were available in total — catch the 7 p.m. show live-streaming on Kissel’s YouTube page.
Next weekend, he is scheduled to perform three more drive-in concerts in Saskatoon.