B.C. singer goes live with high-tech performance in iconic, long-gone Vancouver venue

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What do you get when you combine a livestream, cutting edge computer animation and virtual effects, a live musical act and a long-gone, iconic Vancouver venue?

No one is 100 per cent sure, but they’ll find out later this month.

That’s when Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Jill Barber, aided by a team of tech wizards at Burnaby’s Shocap Entertainment, will step onto the stage of the Palomar Supper Club, a Vancouver institution that operated from the 1930s to the 1950s.

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“COVID has forced us all to become really creative,” Barber told Global News. “It’s a mixed reality virtual concert.

“It’s a combination of real people. For instance, I will be 100 per cent real, me appearing in the virtual space, but the band that the audience will see will be real people behind the scenes (in motion capture suits) but up here as kind of animated avatars, virtual reconstructions of characters.”

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Barber and the Shocap team had originally envisioned taking people out of their pandemic living rooms and into the sensual environment of a 1930s nightclub in Paris.

Barber, inspired by Vancouver After Dark, a book that dives into the city’s forgotten nightlife history, wanted to ground the project in place and history, and the Palomar concept was born.

“All of the big famous jazz acts of the day came through there. You’ve got Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, The Ink Spots, just a long list of the who’s-who,” said Shocap executive director Athomas Goldberg.

The recreation won’t be perfect, Goldberg said, owing to a lack of good photos or film shot inside, but the product is designed to capture the feel.

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“I won’t say that the club we’ve created is a really authentic architectural reproduction, it’s really intended to give you the feel of what a club was with a lot of references and homages to the Palomar.”

Aided by green screens, motion capture suits and 50 motion capture cameras at the Animatric studio in Burnaby, the crew plans to put on a two-act show, complete with intermission.

Goldberg says he’s hoping they can create something both radically different from the usual pandemic live streamed concert — often broadcasting from the performer’s home — and breaking away from how computer animation is traditionally used.

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“It’s frequently used to create the sort of spectacle of the big concert, big projections, fireworks and special effects. Not something you would associate with an act like Jill’s,” he said.

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For Barber, it’s a chance to personally connect with the city’s history — and to share that connection with her audience through a performance that feels like a night on the town.

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“The very cool thing from doing this project is I have heard from so many people who have told me what it was like, and people have shared their really special memories of being inside,” she said.

“What (the audience) will see on their … screens is the view as if they’re sitting right in the Palomar. They will see the view of the stage, they will see the environment, they will see the phantom band, they will see me and they will see the patrons.”

The show goes live on Nov. 20, tickets are $16 per household.

— With files from Linda Aylesworth

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