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Taverne Tour Goes Into The Matrix with Digital Edition

The Montreal-based music festival adapts to offer an 8-bit and interactive edition — right down to the usual bars. 

by Ben Boddez

While the return of live music feels like it’s inching tantalizingly closer, one of Montreal’s most notable emerging music festivals had no choice but to adapt this year, offering an innovative virtual edition that’s about as close as you’re possibly going to get to the real thing. In the sixth instalment of Taverne Tour, which usually sprawls across the city’s iconic Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood, the the multi-day, multi-venue event has partnered with virtual open-world gathering space Aire Ouverte to bring its diverse musical lineup of local pop, hip-hop, rock and R&B to fans – only this time, they’ll be looking like a digital cartoon avatar and bar-hopping at all the usual stages as if completing quests in an RPG video game. 

Originally announced as an in-person edition back in November, shifting COVID restrictions changed plans and Taverne Tour instead recreated an interactive model of the familiar festival space to be explored, landing some of the best local talents like experimental garage rocker Gus Englehorn, lo-fi hip-hop artist Emma Beko, and disco-flavoured rock outfit Barry Paquin Roberge. Perhaps inspired by the legendary franchise’s return to theatres, the poster now offers a trip “into the matrix” as fans will be able to make those agonizing decisions about which sets to catch and which to skip with their arrow keys instead of their feet. 

The festival takes place on February 4 and 5 online in a space that you really need to see to believe. RANGE caught up with Taverne Tour organizer Phil Larocque about facilitating the switch to the online world.  

When did you get the idea for a virtual music festival?

When we had to cancel the “real” festival, we just had to adapt. We knew of this platform “Aire Ouverte” since it was used for a couple of industry events in the past. We contacted the people who created it and decided to do the festival there. 

How did you capture the spirit of downtown Montreal in the virtual world? Why did you want to make it look like a video game?

The map of Quebec was already made on the platform but wasn’t really used for public events. We though it would really work with the concept of the festival, Taverne Tour being a bar hoping event. We just worked with the team behind Aire Ouverte to build more venues to the city of Montreal like Sala Rossa, The Diving Bell & Le Ministère. 

We loosely added the “matrix” nickname to the event to make it more fun and it was a good fit with the world looking like an old school game.

What has been difficult to pivot amid the changing restrictions?

The difficult part was to go back to livestream. We never thought we would have to go back doing that, it felt like doing two steps back but at this point, we are used to adapt with all the restrictions. We just wish the people in power would have a long-term vision about the pandemic at this point and that this is our last online festival. 

See you down the rabbit hole!