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Calgary musician makes a comeback in an unexpected way at Congress Coffee shop

After COVID-19 restrictions eased up, many people were excited for a return to “normal”.

For Calgary musician Shane Rempel, this return only filled him with anxiety about his health and his future.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rempel was on medications that rendered him immunocompromised. The thought of returning to live music made him nervous, as he didn’t know what could happen to him.

This thought landed him in the hospital, as he had a full-scale panic attack when he tried to attend a local show. Six months later, he discovered a way to keep the anxiety at bay, while also taking part in the art that he loved so deeply.

Rempel started doing photography.

Johanna Schwartz, owner of Congress Coffee, saw his work on Instagram. The work primarily consisted of his dynamic photography as the Ship and Anchor’s in-house documentor.

“I was astounded to learn that Shane had only been shooting for a year, and when we figured out that the date for our next art show coincided with the one-year anniversary of this project, it made perfect sense,” she said.

“Congress is a huge supporter of local music and is excited to be one of Calgary’s newest all-ages spaces. Having this show on our walls complements how we have been telling the story of the local music scene, past and present.”

Photography show

The show has 275 photos spanning a 40-foot wall at Congress Coffee. It tells the chronological story of Rempel’s journey back to the music scene, as well as the story of the scene’s survival post-COVID.

Local festivals and venues were all documented in this journey, as a tribute to the recovery during three years of the pandemic and the restrictions that came with it.

For Rempel, making his experiences into art was cathartic, and it helped him guide his photography career.

“The show, to me, represents a significant journey. A journey towards finding a new way to experience old joys. When I started doing live music photography, I never imagined it would be such a catalyst for growth and progress both in my art as well as personal life. And now, looking back a year of incredible experiences, ups, downs, etc. I am at once amazed at what I discovered about myself, and proud of my accomplishments,” he said.

“Having my photos published in Spin magazine, having my own exhibit in an amazing new hub for culture in our city, but most of all the connections I have forged with so many wonderful and talented people in our scene; these are the things I will cherish for the rest of my life. The support of this amazing scene has reminded me why supporting the arts – and each other- is so important.”

According to Schwartz, customers love the art display.

“I love seeing the reaction of our customers as they come through the doors and see the scope of this show,” she said.

“It’s a reminder to all of us that we got through something pretty heavy together and that these venues and festivals survived, the artists are here, and that music and art are truly the lifeblood of our community.”

“New Normal” is on display now at Congress Coffee until June 10. All pieces are currently for sale.