Horsefly couple hopes to heat up Coldsnap

You forget she can't see you as you get lost in the intensity of her emotions.

She is mesmerizing.

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Pharis Romero sings Bet On Love on the Coldsnap Winter Music Festival website with her husband Jason and when you watch you finally understand how all this is going to work as a live to livestream experience.

Pre-pandemic Coldsnap used to rely on their live audiences to help performers bring the energy needed to engage an eager crowd for a body-boppin' dance party or a foot-stompin kitchen party.

This year during the pandemic, the majority of the performances are live to livestream from the black box theatre provided at the Enchainement Dance Centre in Prince George. It will offer professional production standards while following all the protocols to adhere to pandemic restrictions.

This year thanks to sponsorship, grants and private donations, there is no charge to the viewing audience.

Jason and Pharis Romero will come to Prince George to perform on Jan. 31.

Pharis and Jason are no strangers to recording engaging award-winning music and are currently nominated for six Canadian Folk Music awards for their latest album Bet On Love.

They live in Horsefly where Pharis grew up and she and Jason have two little children and run a successful banjo making business. Their hearts belong to the land.

"If we didn't ever have to leave the land, we wouldn't," Pharis said. 

So they learned how to shoot engaging videos and their latest are in the series called Sauna Sessions.

Pharis grew up in a musical family and they played as a family band and when she got a little older she studied classical music. She teaches music now.

"The thing that's always drawn me to playing music has also been to play music with other people," Pharis said. "The country and bluegrass and old time aspect of it is being a community of musicians not just to perform but getting together to feel the groove, dance, play all that together - that was a lot of what drew me into this style of music."

When Jason and Pharis met, they bonded over old-time music, especially records where the scratches at times overpowered the music.

"There's a very large group of people who are into this music," said Jason or J-ro as Pharis calls him unless she's mad. "It's by no means popular but the thing that most differentiates us from fans of other music is the people who are really into it are also musicians who play it."

Pharis said when people attend a bluegrass festival half the audience is watching while the other half are in the parking lot playing.

"There are some people who just go to the festival to jam," Pharis said.

Jason added that throughout North America people will come together.

"And play from the communal songbook because it's a repertoire everybody there knows," Jason said. "And that's where we came from."

And now they're in the sauna.

"It's just a good spot to play in," Pharis said.

"It starts with us trying to have balance in our lives," Jason said.

They could stay on their land, building banjos and playing with their kids for the rest of their lives, they agreed. 

Touring as a family comes with its challenges so making a turn inward even before COVID was a thing and trying to figure out how to make music and send it out into the world was the goal, Jason said.

"So the idea of Sauna Sessions was about us playing our music and making a video of it and trying to make it look nice and sound nice and then send that out into the world so we can stay home and garden," Jason said. "And then COVID happened and then everyone was circling the wagons even more."

The entertainment industry took a huge hit when those who make their living providing live entertainment and the team that comes with them were immediately shut down.

"So we will continue to use our sauna because we use it a lot and it does sound pretty fantastic inside," Jason added.

The setting is amazing, Pharis said.

"We feel like we get to share a little piece of our world with people and put what we do into context because the music we play is very much linked to the land we live on," she added. "Where we live is very important to what we play because it gives a sense of ourselves."

So Pharis and Jason are no strangers to performances like the one they will do in the black box theatre as they've been doing their own version in their Sauna Sessions for a while now.

"So much of the playing when I'm on stage - as I am an extrovert - is about getting amped up by the energy in the audience, but Jason is quite an introvert and so for him after a show he actually has to sit and be quiet by himself for a little while because he's put out so much and he doesn't get the same input I do."

So now moving into the black box theatre, Pharis said it now becomes less about feeding off the energy of the audience and more about feeding off each other's energy.

"There still is an interesting adrenaline rush that happens whether there is an audience in front of you or not," Pharis said. "You still get that rush being filmed and recorded."

Jason always says the farther the music they play gets from the kitchen the harder it is to key into the root of that music and why they love it, Pharis explained.

In the sauna or the black box theatre it's the same for this couple.

"We're trying to channel the feeling we get playing together in the living room while enjoying the slightly amped up feeling of having microphones and cameras in front of us," Pharis said. "You're just so absolutely focused on the moment that you're in and I think that's why playing in a black box doesn't make me feel isolated. When Jason and I key into each other we are lifted up in that moment."

"Every single musician is dealing with the exact same thing right now," Jason said.

Pharis, as seen in the Bet On Love video, engages with her audience to the point where you forget she can't see you. She completely mesmerizes the viewer.

Pharis understands the other way of performing when a musician ignores the camera completely.

"It's just so magical when you can get into an artist's house and just watch them play," she added. "There's something really special about that."

Jason said he'd watch that.

"When I watch a musician, especially when it comes to old time music, I don't need them to respond to the fact that I'm watching them," Jason said. "I would rather just watch them play and sing."

While most of the performances will be a live to livestream format, there will also be prerecorded performances from those musicians who chose to produce their own shows.

The Coldsnap Winter Festival goes from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6 with the focus of Northern BC artists and BC artists. People can check out all the performers and tune in at

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