‘Fighting for our lives’: The Blues Can in Calgary struggles to survive pandemic

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WATCH: A longtime local music venue is appealing for help as it fights to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. As Gil Tucker shows us, dozens of creative Calgarians are pitching in as the Blues Can takes one last kick at the can. – May 18, 2021

Singing and strumming along on a guitar, veteran Calgary musician Tom Phillips was working on a new song Tuesday.

“Weirdly, I just came up with that on the way down here today,” Phillips said. “I don’t know if it was about rain or if it was about the pandemic.”

Phillips was playing the tune in a longtime live music venue that’s been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Blues Can, a club in Calgary’s historic Inglewood neighbourhood, has been shut down for most of the past 14 months — a huge blow to so many.

“We employ a lot of musicians (doing) 12 to 15 shows a week here every single week,” Blues Can manager Teena Wilson said.

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Musicians in Calgary and across Canada are hoping the club can win the fight to survive.

Read more: Calgary ER doctor sings about grief and healing during COVID-19 pandemic: ‘Stress changes you’

“They’re, to me, the biggest supporter of roots music in Calgary,” Phillips said. “They’re known internationally, and it’s just a fantastic place.”

Wilson is one of dozens of people performing as the Blues Can holds a marathon online fundraising show this May long weekend.

The show starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 21, running through until midnight on Sunday, May 23.

The event also includes an online auction, currently underway until 8 p.m. on Monday, May 24.

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One of the items up for auction is the guitar Phillips was playing Tuesday at the Blues Can.

“It’s got signatures from people who played here — lots of Calgary musicians, lots of international musicians,” Phillips said. “It’s kind of a cool museum piece.”

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Everyone involved in the fundraiser is doing everything they can to make sure the club doesn’t become history.

“I just hope it can survive until they can open again,” Phillips said, “and have a party all the time.”

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