Ottawa concert with rapid COVID-19 screening a dry run for bigger shows

Bluesfest organizers held a drive-in music festival at the Zibi site last summer in Gatineau. Organizers are teaming up to put on a live concert later this month at Lansdowne Park with rapid COVID-19 testing. (Jeremie Charron/CTV News Ottawa)

OTTAWA -- An outdoor concert at Lansdowne Park later this month will feature rapid COVID-19 screening and could serve as a dry run for larger concerts later this year.

Organizers are calling the “Long Road Back” on March 27 the first event of its kind in Canada, and say it could pave the way to safely reopening the live music industry.

“As we look ahead to the summer of 2021 and beyond, establishing best practices for live music events now is critical,” said Mark Monahan, the executive director of Ottawa Bluesfest. “In order to produce summer and fall events, rapid COVID-19 antigen screening is needed to demonstrate live concerts can happen safely.”

The concert will take place at the Casino Lac-Leamy Plaza, the outdoor area near the Aberdeen Pavilion, on March 27. It will be limited to 100 attendees, all of whom will be required to undergo rapid COVID-19 antigen screening.

Shoppers Drug Mart stores will offer the screening during a 48-hour period leading up to the event, from 3:30 p.m. on March 25 to 3:30 p.m. on March 27.

The Commotions, an R&B and soul group from Ottawa, will perform.

The Ontario Festival Industry Task Force, a coalition of festivals and other organizations that Monahan chairs, is organizing the event with help from other groups including the National Arts Centre.

“The learnings from this event will be invaluable as our industry prepares to safely welcome audiences back to our performance venues,” said Heather Gibson, the NAC’s executive producer of popular music and variety.

Organizers say they are producing the event under the guidance of Rapid Test & Trace Canada, a coalition of epidemiologists and medical experts. The event is being run with the cooperation of the city, province and local health authorities.

Tickets and more information about the concert can be found here.

Bluesfest, the city’s largest music festival, is still scheduled for July 8 to 18 at LeBreton Flats. It was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.