Playground.is - the Events.

Playground is simple.

We take a venue and turn it into a make-shift recording studio.

We add a band, an audience, and give them one goal - create a song together in an hour, and then record it in one take.

It's a free event and anyone can sign up - the only rules being you leave your wallets at home and egos at the door.

Thanks in large part to production support from TELUS Optik Local, we were able to take Playground and the crew outside of Vancouver for the first time. Calgary was the second stop on a four event tour of BC and Alberta.

When we first drew up a shortlist of bands to approach for Calgary there were six acts on the list. Danny Vacon was in three of them - The Dudes, The Dojo Workhorse, and High Kicks - each a unique blend of talented musicians fronted by a man with a voice that sounds like a mixture of creme brûlée and gravel. But tasty sweet gravel.

We finally landed on The Dojo Workhorse. It was meant to be.

We did a few little extra things in the lead up to PGCGY, all in the name of trying to overcome the language barrier that can exist between musicians (the band) and non-musicians (us).

First, we wanted to watch a group of musicians re-orchestrate a song to see how the process evolved, and we were lucky enough to have the help of a ton of talented artists including Dominique Fricot (dominiquefricot.com/), Kate Morgan (katemorgan.ca/), Chris Gestrin (chrisgestrin.com/), David Ward (davidwardmusic.com/) and Rob Hamilton (more on him in PGVIC#9).

Next we attempted to understand how non-singers can feel a bit more comfortable when you throw them in front of a mic, and renowned vocal coach Spencer Welch (spencerwelch.com/) kindly offered to help us out. It was a big step for us - the problem with most people isn't that they can't sing, it's that they're a bit too scared to.

Finally we pushed for some less typical instruments, and despite seeing a glorious history of every conceivable instrument at Calgary's National Music Centre (nmc.ca/), Adam fell in love with the Boomwhacker. It's basically a piece of PVC pipe cut to a specific length, so when you hit things with it, it plays a given note.

We also enlisted the help of a guest director for the music video for the first time, and with Calgary's Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdi of Nur Films (nurfilms.net/) calling the shots.

For the night itself, the theme was a given. When the band are working with a song called New Year's Eve, you should probably throw a party. Turns out getting decorations for a New Year's Eve party on a sunny day in May isn't that easy, especially in the middle of a helium shortage. Yep, helium is scarce. Who knew.

The crowd turned up dressed better than any of us, and jumped on the plentiful supply of Village beer (villagebrewery.com/). The cherry on top was Shayne Johnson, who tap-danced the percussion in the break down.

Playground is produced with the support of TELUS Optik Local (optiklocal.com/).
Huge Special Thanks to:

Jim Button and Colin Smith at Village Brewery (villagebrewery.com/)
Chad Saunders at The National Music Centre (nmc.ca/)

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Playground.is - the Events.

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The final product from each Playground event.

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