After lip syncing singers, auto-tune rappers, and full-on holograms – the last illusion rests with us, the audience. 

Now, instead of bands playing live, we pretend we’re seeing them live.

At 5 p.m. Friday, six-piece fusion band John Welsh & Los Valientes are scheduled to rock Coquitlam’s Facebook page and their YouTube channel.

The concert was recorded in mid-July when the temperatures were high and COVID-19 cases were low. For singer Welsh, playing for a live audience – even a drive-in crowd practising social distancing guidelines – was tremendous.

“That was our first time performing publicly in the Lower Mainland for almost two years,” he says. “It felt really great to be on a stage again . . . to see the response of the crowd.”

The band’s songs are a fizzy cocktail of Latin arrangements, folk lyrics, Calypso rhythms and even bits of hip-hop swagger. Sayulita, the group’s most popular tune on Spotify, opens with a Springsteenesque invocation of: “the old radio blaring CCR, out the window the ocean rolling past us with the smell of tacos on the salty air.”

Welsh’s love of Latin music largely stems from his days as a UBC student searching for the most interesting way to get credits when he enrolled in an exchange program that allowed him to study Spanish and anthropology in Guatemala. 

“It was a big eye-opener to be exposed to different rhythms and sounds.”

He’d learned to play guitar as a teenaged Oasis fan, but the music he found in Guatemala gave him a new vantage point and a way to bring people together.

“When I came back I was playing at a lot of college parties with international students,” he explains, noting that he played in Spanish and English while adding calypso and reggae for students from the Caribbean.

Along with a day job as an occupational therapist, Welsh started a band along with percussionist (and fellow occupational therapist) the late Courage Eigbike. 

The band spent years honing their sound, touring and playing music festivals when COVID-19 knocked them off the road.

Gigs fell of the calendar and the few that remained tended to be geared for solo artists rather than a six-piece band that likes to pack the dance floor.

There have been advantages, Welsh says.

“Not playing as many shows kind of allowed us more creative time.”

With funding from Creative B.C., the band recently finished recording their new album. The plan is to release a single this fall and put out the album in the spring of 2022.

Friday’s concert should get music lovers tapping their toes, Welsh says.

“It will definitely put a smile on their face, even if they’re just watching on their phone or their computer.”

Coquitlam’s streaming concert series also features rage-funk band Raincity.