CVIndependent

Fri05292020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

18 Mar 2020

Pandemic Stories: Cancellations and Sheltering-in-Place Have Left Musicians Reeling—but Some Are Turning to Social Media to Keep Rattled Fans Engaged

Written by 
Giselle Woo and the Night Owls were disappointed about the postponement of Coachella—but the band is making the most of a bad situation. “We are excited to play, and now we have more time to prepare a better show,” said drummer Jose Ceja. Giselle Woo and the Night Owls were disappointed about the postponement of Coachella—but the band is making the most of a bad situation. “We are excited to play, and now we have more time to prepare a better show,” said drummer Jose Ceja. Brian Blueskye

It all started—or, well, seemed to start—with Goldenvoice’s cancellation of Coachella and Stagecoach.

“I completely understand the stance of Goldenvoice in postponing Stagecoach in light of the virus threat right now,” said Alice Wallace, who was slated to play in Nikki Lane’s Stage Stop Marketplace at the festival. I had an interview scheduled with her, and she was kind enough to give me a statement after the postponement was announced. “From everything I'm reading, the postponements and cancellations of this festival and others are warranted and necessary, and I certainly want all of my fans to remain safe and healthy.

“But as a musician who makes her living playing music on stages across the country—as so many do—the next few months could prove to be pretty devastating. I think we are only seeing the beginning of cancellations, and I worry about the impact it could have on the music industry as a whole.”

Of course, we now know that Wallace’s fear of more cancellations was correct.

Giselle Woo and the Night Owls were selected to bring their Latin rock to this year’s Coachella festival. Before the cancellation, I spent a few hours talking with them about the upcoming performance—and I could see how excited they were for the show.

Then the news broke about the cancellation.

“It was a shock to us all, but I’m glad that it was postponed rather than canceled,” said drummer Jose Ceja. “We’re all in good spirits. We are excited to play, and now we have more time to prepare a better show. For some of our friends, it has affected their shows, and it has unfortunately canceled a lot of really important events, but our hope is that all safety precautions are being taken, and that it will help prevent the spread of this virus.”

When the governor of California directed that all bars be closed, a shock wave went though both the bar and music scenes.

“It's hitting the local economy pretty hard,” said Josiah Gonzalez, of Little Street Studio and local band Avenida Music; he’s in a unique position, being both a gigging musician and a talent-booker. “Multiple hotels have suspended music programs and residencies until further notice. Events are either moving to the fall or being cancelled altogether. Enquiries about new events have slowed to almost a halt.”

I, too, am a musician, and I’ve seen all my gigs pushed back or flat-out cancelled. Not surprisingly, morale among local musicians is very low—but if there’s one thing I know about music, it’s that it will never die. People aren’t letting the fear of the virus take over; they are taking precautionary measures to combat spread of the virus and “flatten the curve”—to ensure music is still able to be enjoyed by all.

One of my favorite musicians—also a friend—helped pioneer an idea that is now being used by other performers during this shelter-at-home stage. Garage-rocker Ron Gallo, out of Nashville, Tenn., as of this writing has so far hosted two Instagram live shows, during which he and his band performed a set to anyone watching—from the safety of home. He is encouraging everyone to #StayTheFuckHome, while throwing up a Venmo so people can support the band. Check out his Instagram, @rongallo, for more info.

“As artists, our livelihood depends on traveling around and cramming as many people as possible in not-always-big spaces, so if we all sacrifice that right now, it’s 1,000 percent the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s a really powerful message to get people to take this seriously, and in turn, do our real job—which is make people happy and use our voice for truth and positive influence on the world.”

“This kind of lifestyle change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, either. Trust me: I can’t sit still for five minutes, and I’m enjoying it. … The time is NOW, and there is a lot of positive in slowing down, being with loved ones, and returning to simplicity and pausing the chase for a minute.”

He said he came up with the Instagram idea when the show cancellations started.

“My brain started racing to figure out how to get creative with this situation,” Gallo said. “So I got some necessary gear and we … broadcast two shows from my house on Instagram live (one for the U.S., and one for Europe). This gives people what they need right now while also being in the safest place we can all be—home. Not to mention, there’s more freedom in this way to be conversational directly with people in the audience—from afar! We can offer comfort, play new songs, etc. Feels like everybody wins.

“Until this looming crisis, I never even considered something like this, but now that I have, I do see a future in it. I kind of want to find a way to do the first online world tour, or even the first world virtual-reality tour. … Possibilities are endless, and I think artists just have to get super-creative with it right now. Hit me up. I’m ready.”

Ron is setting an example for what could be the (at least temporary) future of live performances. If we need to stay inside for longer than anticipated, we could very well see many bands turning to live-stream shows. Along with those shows, Gallo is hoping the kindness of others can help substitute for the money being lost due to the inability of musicians to play in-person gigs.

“I’ve been telling people to Venmo or PayPal me if they can or want,” he said. “It’s not exactly covering the money lost on cancellations yet, but even one day after announcing (the first show, contributions by fans) at least covered the flights to get my drummer, Josh, here for the show. That's a positive, and I will give and take any and all of that I can get right now.”

Other artists have followed suit. The Purple Room broadcast a show by Michael Holmes and Keisha D live on March 16 (which you can watch at www.facebook.com/purpleroomrestaurantstage), and there are talks among various local bands to begin live-streaming shows. I’ll be posting updates on the Independent’s Facebook page as these develop, so please follow along, and feel free to message us.

The Coachella Valley is one of the world’s music epicenters. The current situation is less than favorable—yes, that’s a gross understatement—but it’s up to all local musicians and music-lovers to band together, and make sure that music continues to thrive.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.