Windsor musicians long for border reopening, live indoor performances

Russ Macklem and Michael Palazzolo make up one half of the band, 'United.'

But right now, their performing options are limited.

"We're four world class musicians and we're busking in a parking lot. Like that's what we've been reduced to," says Macklem, who has a PhD in music.

In Step 2 of Ontario's reopening framework, musicians are permitted to perform outdoors to limited crowds.

But the pace of the steps is moving too slowly for the bandmates.

"I don't like how they can dictate everything about my life to the point of me making no money as a result of it," says Palazzolo.

The bassist has toured the world with famous jazz keyboardist Bob James and was playing four to five gigs a week in Detroit.

"I was on my way to quite a good living," Palazzolo recalls. "And then the pandemic hit and everything went downhill."

Along with that, Palazzolo says he’s suffered bouts of anxiety, depression and extreme loneliness – disconnected from his bass instructor stateside.

Not only does the quartet of Macklem, Palazzolo, drummer Kevin Venney and Kevin Grenier miss the money, they miss their friends and they miss entertaining.

"I miss everybody in Detroit. I miss everybody in America," says Palazzolo. "I miss playing gigs for people, I miss playing to people."

Their band has recently started playing again at the Phog Lounge parking lot -- for tips.

Macklem is anxiously awaiting Step 3 in Ontario, which will allow indoor performances.

But what he really wants is to get across the border.

"I'm getting calls to do gigs, I can't take them. The border's not open," Macklem says. "The government has no answers on when the border will be available for those who work in the United States in our industry."

Until then, the musicians will slug it out in the parking lot hoping for better times ahead.

"It feels certainly like we got the short end of the stick on this one," Palazzolo says.