The last gig I played (a solo show in-the-round with two other songwriters – Andy Baker and Nicholas James Thomasma) was on March 13th. And even as I headed out on the long drive to South Haven from our home in Chelsea I was questioning whether this was irresponsible and should I just turn around. But damn! I had been looking forward to this evening for a long time. And though many other larger concerts had been cancelled, the organizer made the decision to go ahead with this show. Who am I to say whether it was right or wrong. We had a small attentive audience who took care not to hug or touch but we were definitely not staying 6 feet apart. Within a couple of days, EVERYTHING came to a halt, grocery and big box store shelves were bare where things we take for granted used to be in plenty, the uneasy shoppers were doing their best to smile at each other while hiding the panic, and youthful cashiers seemed unaffected. Two weeks later, the news has been getting steadily worse and now we’ve barely left the house. Rod’s been working from home for a little over a week and other than one quick stop at the store for some groceries (and wine – that’s an essential, right?) we’ve stayed put.
So far, we’ve had 6 gigs cancel through early May. Not a huge number and nothing like our full-time touring artist friends who depend on every gig dollar for food and shelter. Almost immediately, the live streaming concerts from living rooms, kitchens, and even bathrooms by everyone from Joan Baez and Elton John to those who just play music as a part-time hobby started crowding the social media platforms. Some were asking for money for themselves or a charity, others just wanted to share a song or two for free.
Not gonna lie. I still can’t quite figure out how to navigate this new paradigm of performing to a screen without someone booking me to play on their stage. I mean, live streaming has been around for a long while now. Long before coronavirus people were filling gaps in their schedule or sharing a song via Facebook Live. But until now, we haven’t gone there. For some reason, I’m more confident with the experience of performing for live humans on a stage in a venue.
I’ve never been one to spend a lot of time on Facebook or Instagram anyway. I post when I have something to say or share or promote but more often than not, I start typing something that I thought was interesting and then think better of it. Yes, I’m an over-thinker. But the truth is, while I want to be supportive, it brings me down a bit to spend too much time paying attention to what other people are doing. It’s too easy to fall into the dangerous comparing mentality.
But are we not still real artists even if we’re not rushing to “Go Live” from our home? Will people forget about us when all this goes away? It’s not like we had that many gigs in April so we didn’t lose as much as those who are out there trying to make a living. We’re lucky that Rod has a stable day job that will keep our bills paid. So I ask myself if or why we should take up space on the airwaves trying to pull people into OUR living room to listen to our music? We’ve been told our shows bring joy to people and that’s as awesome a thing for any performer to hear. But it’s hard for me to imagine, when there is so much great music being streamed every hour of every day, why someone would want to tune in to watch us.
Nothing’s gonna stop me from playing my guitar, or banjo or working on some new songs. I hope to come out of this sequester with a bit more clarity and purpose. We’ve got another month at least of being told to stay the f&*k home so I imagine this won’t be the last rambling musing from my writing room.