Musicians Cope with COVID-19

I’m just going to jump into this. How are musicians coping with COVID-19? Simultaneously, many have lost the live gigs necessary to support life, a public interested in buying CDs or downloads (because everyone is focused on not getting sic), their side jobs working in public-facing gigs, and vital teaching income, too.

I read a story about a Washington, DC-based freelance musician who lost all three of her jobs—“working security at the 9:30 Club, one of the city’s most beloved music venues; providing paraprofessional support at a charter school; and playing a weekly gig at a local club.”

But musicians are amazingly resilient, and because they can’t not make new music, they’ve come up with work-arounds. My fiddler friend Andrea Asprelli writes, “Last week I couldn’t sleep and funneled my insomnia into getting my friends to play this song with me. I started to get nervous halfway through that I’d come down with a fever and never get to finish it. But here it is!” It looks like Zoom, a tool a lot of us are using to stay connected; instead it’s video magic by Kaitlyn Raitz:

Andrea adds, “Hope you’re all quarantining well—getting into baking or gardening or taking up the banjo, calling friends and learning something you never thought you wanted to know about your quarantine-mates. But no quarantine is complete without a good wallow, so let yourself have that too.”

Many musicians are hosting live streams. I heard a great one from Eilen Jewell and her husband Jason Beek from their living room in Boise, Idaho. That show was live-streamed on Radio Boise, which like my station, WPKN (and our sister station, WFMU) is producing a lot of content from home these days. Jewell and Beek have another live stream Friday, April 3. And here’s how independent radio stations are coping right now.

Ukelele queen Victoria Vox is just one of many musicians whose tour calendars were wiped clean for March, April and maybe May. She’s responded by doing a daily original song and cover with her husband, Jack, who’s right next to her in the living room. The heartwarming shows are on their page together as Jack and the Vox, with videos here.

The Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn usually has old-time music almost every night, but now it’s shuttered, and the Brooklyn Folk Festival it produces is postponed until November 6-8. In the meantime, there’s its “Stay the Folk Home” shows on Facebook Live. Nora Brown is at 8 p.m. EST on Friday, April 3. Past shows have featured Zoe Boekbinder, Stephanie Jenkins, Ali Dineen and others.

I’ve heard Miss Tess sing live at least five times; now I can also hear her virtually, via Facebook Live.

miss tess

The great chameleon Susan Werner is doing “Susie on Sundays” shows from 7-7:45 pm EST, again Facebook Live. Here’s an archived example on YouTube, with her taking requests.

Abbie Gardner of Red Molly is live streaming; check it out here. The Mammals blank tour page ends, hopefully, on May 23 with a gig accompanied by The Restless Age in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In the meantime they’ve been posting and emailing new songs, including “Radio Signal.” Last week, they said, “Today we are very pleased to present ‘Radio Signal’ the second single from our upcoming album Nonet. May it provide light during these trying times.” Check it out here. They also did Dylan’s “I’ll Keep it With Mine,” accompanied by the kids, for the Passim Emergency Artist Relief Fund here.

Our Band, featuring another couple, Justin Poindexter (guitar vocals) and Sasha Papernik (vocals, accordion and piano), has been posting regular new recordings, and emailing them out to all us shut-ins. The most recent was “Gayle’s Song,” which Justin explains:

Of all the many places we have travelled, the place that we return to most often is River House, way up in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Ashe County, NC along the Virginia Border. The lady who runs it, Gayle Winston, is a dear friend and hero to Sasha and myself. She is a real renaissance woman: the first female Broadway producer, an extraordinary cook and host, friend of many surprising celebrities, a spectacular designer, and much more. She is truly the great lady of the mountains. We wrote a song last summer for her 90th birthday, and I hope you’ll check it out. Paul Defiglia joins on bass. 

It would be possible to go on in this vein for hours. Don’t forget “Farm and Funtime,” the wonderful radio show hosted—even in the absence of COVID-19—by Bill and the Belles. Here’s a sample archived show:

Jazz at Lincoln Center is going to be releasing full-length concerts from the vaults to watch every Wednesday. The material includes Ted Nash’s “Presidential Suite”; Sherman Irby’s “Inferno”; Chris Crenshaw’s “God’s Trombones” and more.

lizzie

Jazz singer Lizzie Thomas is making every Friday Date Night, with “The Duo Series.” She promises “classic with a smidge of camp.”

Drummer Devin Gray is doing a live chat with fellow jazz skins man Gerald Cleaver April 3 from 2-3 p.m. EDT. Check it out here.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to Liz McNicholl, who’s my favorite ray of sunshine. She’s worried about John Prine, who’s critical with COVID-19, so here’s her take on “Angel From Montgomery” via the Localpalooza:

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