“We’ve all had the wind knocked out of us due to tech issues. Challenges with live streams are like when you’re in the flow and the monitor feeds back.”
In the midst of so many peaceful protests against police brutality, something feels different and in a good way. I’ve been inspired by the thousands marching all over the world and it seems that despite how awful things look, there might still be some hope for humanity. I recognize that it’s going to be a long process to undo systemic problems that have affected the United States for generations, but one can hope—that the issue of cops killing black people is addressed, and also that COVID-19 stops killing people and putting whole communities in jeopardy.
The purpose of this column isn’t to be negative. It would be great if live music could return in full swing, but in the meantime I am focused on the few positives of this situation that we’re in, which are mostly related to livestreaming. Its value during this time can’t be touted enough; streams offer relief for the scared and nervous. Simply watching a musician perform through your phone or computer can be a silver lining, especially as the creativity of the medium steadily improves.
This week’s edition of COVID-19 Streams examines a digital house party, a virtual single release show, a punk rock band raising money for a couple of the coolest small venues in New England, a special day that’s coming up, and other events happening this weekend.
Cambridge digital media production company HipStory will start its House Party Digital Series on June 13 at 7pm. The first installment will have local musicians Anjimile, Najee Janey, and DJ WhySham, with all the proceeds going to benefit the Mass Bail Fund. There will be a pay-what-you-can ticket price, and moving forward each installment of the series will go to benefit either a national justice-based organization or a local nonprofit with a set goal of $500.
“In terms of the future of streaming, I think concerts were headed this way in the long run regardless,” says Cliff Notez, who is the founder of HipStory and one of the region’s most applauded hip-hop creatives. “Our society has grown increasingly more digital and we’ve lost a bit of human connection everyday. This was one of the reasons I wanted to make a digital media company, get ahead of it, and try to do things that continue to push the culture in the way we usually do. I’m excited about the future of this event.”
North of Greater Boston, Salem singer-songwriter Sarah Blacker has been working on new music during the pandemic and will stream a release show for the single “Beautiful Murderer” on June 11 via Zoom at 8pm. She’s familiar with the technological challenges that may come, but she’s looking forward to interacting with fans.
“Uncertain times call for drastic measures to get music to people when they need it most.” Blacker raps about the current situation. “As soon as the pandemic became local, I immediately felt it was time to go live. I started with songs that I knew would calm anxiety and even lullabies. As more and more people now take their careers to the internet, we are being called to be more and more creative with how we reach people, so as not to be just another thought in the wind. During live streams, the most challenging part for me is not seeing and being able to interact with the audience.”
“On Thursday, I’m inviting people into a private listening space and I plan to interact as much as possible while being able to see their lovely mugs,” Blacker adds. “I’ve gotten better and better with Zoom due to my music therapy practice landing there too, so I’m hopeful that technology will be on my side. I know we’ve all had the wind knocked out of us during a live stream due to tech issues at this point. Challenges with live streams are kind of like when you’re in the flow and the monitor feeds back in your face, but there’s no one to blame but the times.”
Tickets for a spot for the digital show are $11.11 via either Venmo at @SarahBlacker or PayPal.
Meanwhile, Providence punks The McGunks are going to be streaming via their Facebook page to raise money for both the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain and the News Cafe in Pawtucket on the 13th at 7pm. They plan on performing a bunch of new covers as well as new originals while maintaining their usual sloppy way of doing things.
“Livestreaming is a clever alternative for not being able to have live shows currently,” drummer Bobby Forand says. “It’s a good way to see a band without having to leave home. Another benefit is that the stream is recorded, so you can go back and watch the performance even if you miss it live. The McGunks love getting together to play, whether it be alone at our practice space, at a venue, or to a virtual audience. The crowd or views don’t matter as long as the venue has a bar or we remember to bring beer for the stream. We plan to have livestreams on a monthly basis with each one being a fundraiser for a different place.”
On June 17, the Emerson College radio station WERS will put on its second annual 617 Day to shine a light on local music and artists. It’s an all-day event that will broadcast on the radio, online at wers.org, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@WERS889) and Instagram (@WERS889). The lineup is still in flux, but no matter what, at 9pm there will be a special edition of the Wicked Local Wednesday music program, so make sure to tune in. DigBoston is among the many partners for this event, so it’s already guaranteed to be awesome.
Another weekend’s on the way, which means that Club Passim has some more Passim Streams happening. Julian Loida & Charles Overton will perform at noon on June 12 as part of a joint presentation between the Cambridge nonprofit music venue and Harvard Common Spaces. Then at 8pm that evening, Ruby Mack will perform, and the following day will be jam-packed with BB Bowness & Alex Rubin at 2pm, the Song Doctor putting on a workshop at the same time, and Tall Tall Trees doing the one-man-band thing at 8pm. June 14 will also have Iguana Night, which will highlight the 2019 recipients of the Iguana Music Fund at 7pm. All of the Passim Streams will be available at Club Passim’s Facebook page, with the performers and the venue splitting the donations.
ONCE in Somerville will also resume its status as a virtual venue with a disco-funk dance night called “Flaccid Friday” featuring DJ Flaccid at 9pm via Zoom. Or you can check out blues dynamo Julie Rhodes, who will be part of a free tie-dye event on the 13th at 7pm via Eventbrite. While that same night at 9pm, there will be a “ZOOM BOUM” fundraiser to benefit The Okra Project and The Marsha P. Johnston Institute (also via Eventbrite).
There are a lot of great digital events helping organizations that help those in need, which is a fantastic thing to see. Be sure to tune in and donate what you can.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Pandemic Democracy Project.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.