Lockdown Blues: Artists rally around fundraiser for beloved Calgary live venue Blues Can

Times are tough, but you gotta love the spirit emulated by Teena Wilson, manager of Calgary’s cherished live music venue The Blues Can for the past decade, with her vision of the fundraiser for said venue, which starts online at 6 p.m. May 21 and continues 24 hours daily until at least midnight on Sunday. Accessible via their Facebook page or website, it will feature non-stop music, messages and anecdotes about playing at The Blues Can from musicians both local and abroad, and good vibes no matter what else is going on out there in the world.

“My hope sincerely is that everybody brings the festival up on their smart TV with the big speakers, or maybe brings it outside, and enjoys themselves. Maybe they dance and they sing in their safe units that they have and it just gives people a little distraction on a long weekend,” says Wilson, who organized the fundraiser along with Blues Can owner Greg Smith while counting on the tech savvy of longtime soundman Marco Levesque.

Like many others, the venue is finding ways to hold steady after the bucking bull ride of shut downs and re-openings since March, 2020. While their take out menu is delicious and helps keep possibilities for live music afloat, more was needed. “You know, we never really stopped. Even during that reopening when we could have music, we did 280 shows in that small time.

“This fundraiser came about because we were doing a lot of recordings anyways in the daytime and were showing them at night, and (with the recent restrictions) we couldn’t do that anymore. We started collecting these recordings and accolades and it just evolved into what I thought would be an online festival. Then I started this auction with Elevate Auctions and it kind of took off.”

The auction, which closes May 24, features everything from music libraries of esteemed local musicians to guitars to Flames memorabilia to bath products. Heck, there’s even a pair of Chuck and Di wedding plates in there.

Artists featured via video recordings include Peter and the Wolves, Brother Ray Lemelin Band, Amy Bishop and The Hopeless Sinners, Tim Williams, Tom Phillips and The DTs, Israel’s Sobo Blues Band, Steve Pineo, The Lovebullies and so many more. Wilson hopes to have a schedule put together, but as the team works to get all of the videos into the same format and ready to stream, time is tight.

“We are showing every single thing that everybody submitted … because they went through the trouble to get it to us. Even things recorded on a cell phone.”

Serendipity intervened when Wilson, despite her trepidations, booked the fundraiser for this weekend. “I was nervous, months ago, when I picked the long weekend and I thought, ‘Well, it’s usually raining.’ I picked the Friday night on the long weekend and then got so much recording done, and people were so interested in everything it started to grow. Then they (suggested limitations to travel at) the border to BC so you can’t go over there camping for the long weekend. Then another lockdown came.” 

To view or contribute to The Blues Can fundraiser, go to

Mary-Lynn Wardle is a Bragg Creek writer whose husband built the original bar, wine rack, and other parts of The Blues Can a long, long time ago.