'People are crying, excited': Chatham music tech rejoins rock band Shinedown for US tour dates

Jeramy “Hoogie” Donais, a bass guitar tech for the band Shinedown, has re-joined the band for a 22-date U.S. tour kicking off on Labour Day, 2021. (Source: Sanjay Parikh)

When the pandemic reached Canada 18 months ago, the music industry was absolutely decimated.

That’s why it was so important for Jeramy Donais — known to his musical colleagues as “Hoogie” — to get back on the road.

“Ya’ll go to a concert. The lights shut off. You get that feeling,” Hoogie says. “Nothing can replace that, night after night, getting to do that with the guys.”

It’s something he and many other musicians didn’t get to feel throughout most of the pandemic.

Hoogie is a music tech for Shinedown, considered by Billboard as one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time.

The Chatham resident has travelled the world making musicians sound good for decades

“But when COVID happened, everything changed overnight,” Hoogie recalls, saying aside from some studio gigs, work all but dried up with tours postponed and eventually cancelled throughout the pandemic.

But they’re finally back. Shinedown is now embarking on a 22-date tour, which kicked off on Labour Day. Hoogie considers himself lucky to be travelling back into the belly of the beast.

“I just feel like we go head on, take it head on. We’re not going to live without COVID now, it’s going to be around all the time, there’s no way around that,” he says. “So we’ve got to find out ways to open up industries with it.”

He says the band is doing its best by following public health measures like getting vaccinated, backstage masking and limiting contacts — because they know the alternative and it’s untenable.

“We’re not going to survive if we keep shutting down,” Hoogie says. “We rely on people coming to the events and giving fans that moment of peace, that escape of reality.”

Even with those precautions — drummer Barry Kerch contracted COVID in July, missing the first three shows of an eight-stop tour. It hit close to home, says Hoogie — and underscored the importance of having back-ups ready to fill in for every position — even the performing artists.

“If you don’t want to shut down the machine we’ve got to figure out a way to keep rolling,” he says.

Hoogie admits touring during a pandemic is full of risk, but it’s a risk he and the band is willing to take for their livelihoods and their legions of fans.

“You don’t want to be that guy to stop the tour or come in and make everybody sick with COVID, but at the same time it’s exciting. People are crying, excited,” he says. “Everybody’s missed it. We’ve all missed the live entertainment industry.”

“Hopefully everything works out over the next couple of weeks and I return home safe to the family.”