“There’s no playbook for how we deal with this as entertainers … All I can do is try to continue to entertain in whatever way that I possibly can.”
Another week of COVID-19 means another week of livestreams. What’s been your favorite so far? I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Vic Ruggiero from the New York City ska act The Slackers and the RZA vs. DJ Premier mixing battle that happened on April 11, and I’ve still been meaning to check out Bruce Springsteen’s weekly installments.
A big shoutout goes to the folks at the Madcap Monday open mic, which usually happens at Dusk on 301 Harris Avenue in my adopted home city of Providence. They’ve been keeping me occupied online to start my week since the pandemic started. As for the Boston music scene, there’s been a steady stream of bonafide locals and bigger acts who got their start in the city hopping online to perform.
Soul artist Eli “Paperboy” Reed, who grew up in Brookline and started his music career in Boston, has been doing a weeknight series called “Lockdown Livestreams” via Facebook. He began the series out of his current home in Brooklyn in order to keep himself occupied rather than be in the muck that sheer boredom can bring.
“When I first started doing the ‘Lockdown Livestreams’ it was really just a way to break up the monotony,” Reed said about what got him streaming. “I’m home with my wife and our two little kids, which in some ways is wonderful, but in other ways is incredibly trying. As the days went on I at least knew that every day I’d have an outlet to do some singing and get out some of the feelings I was dealing with. As the audience got bigger it became kind of like collective therapy for myself and everyone watching. I love making people happy by being able to play their requests, no matter how obscure.”
“There’s no playbook for how we deal with this as entertainers,” Reed added. “All I can do is try to continue to entertain in whatever way that I possibly can. That’s my coping mechanism, and if it helps others, that’s great too.”
One of the few things that hasn’t changed because of the crisis is the output of new music coming on a weekly basis. Local indie rock act Alex & The People have a new album titled Boys Will Be Boys dropping April 25, with a virtual album release party that night at 8pm. People can RSVP via the band’s website at alexandthepeople.com/albumdrop.
“We’re obviously hosting a virtual album drop party because of COVID-19,” frontman Alex Alvanos said. “In a way it feels fitting since the album was recorded in bedrooms and small spaces like we’re all cooped up in now. We’re going to play the album, perform a few songs stripped down acoustic, and do some Q&A with me and the producers. I wrote this album on my morning train rides to work and recorded most of it late at night in the empty room of a music school in between construction noise. Any time I put pen to paper I found myself questioning boyhood and the parts of me that died too early or lived on too long.”
Alvanos continued: “I was pulled deep into feelings, some fresh and new like a scraped knee, and others as old as I can remember. Writing this album changed who I am and what I believe. There are some songs that still hold me in a trance, like the gypsy violin players my grandfather used to tell me about, weeping about the motherland while drinking brandy by a fire. There are others I can’t help but dance and sing at the top of my lungs while performing them. There’s a beautiful paradox to the record, in the music, in the feelings and questions I explore. I invite you in to wonder, to feel, to question alongside me.”
Boston art rock dynamos Bent Knee did some live streaming with a different approach. They recently put on an SEB Remix Contest, which can be viewed on their Facebook page. It’s a unique series accompanied by fun banter between the band members.
“After we had to cancel our headlining tour in April, the six of us in the band really wanted to share something special with our fans,” keyboardist and vocalist Courtney Swain said about the contest. “Vince [Welch] had the idea to release the stems from our second album, Shiny Eyed Babies, and we thought it might be fun to tack on a remix contest. It was a casual thought and we weren’t really expecting a huge response. Once we announced the stems and the remix contest, it brought us a lot of joy to see how excited people were. At this point we’ve had about 300 downloads and counting, and stems are still available at bentkneemusic.com/remix.”
“We received a lot of incredible submissions to the remix contest which were a thrill to listen to,” Swain added. “Some people attempted a remix for the first time and some people were going to try a remix but ended up enjoying listening to the stems. Though the contest has closed and announced its winners already, some people are working on their remixes at their own pace and plan to send us their projects when they’re done. All of the reactions have been 100% wholesome and much appreciated. Instead of announcing the winners on our website, we decided to host six nights of live streams and announce a winner each night.”
What the band enjoyed the most about the contest was getting to interact with the people who love their music. It brought a bit of positivity in times where that notion can seem a bit redundant.
“Some of our fans tuned in every night and we heard that the livestreams were something to look forward to each day” Swain concluded. “Every night was a lot of fun and it was a wonderful opportunity to get deep with people who are most engaged in our music and our community. For us in the band, we’ve taken a lot of comfort in knowing we were able to provide some sort of a project to work on, a form of entertainment, or a little bit of company during these times. Links to the winners’ remixes, the live streams we did, and downloading the stems are all available on our website: bentkneemusic.com/remix. We’re also planning on doing a weekly live stream to keep in touch with everyone, and you can find out about that on our Facebook or Instagram.”
Also worth checking out … Berklee grads and soul-funk partystarters Ripe will be livestreaming on April 25 as part of Live From Out There on Nugs.net at 7pm to benefit the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. Volume 5 of the Social Shutdown Show featuring Penelope Alizarin Conley, Hands O’d, Bad Lesbian, Singer Mali and Linnea Herzog to benefit ONCE in Somerville will be happening that same night at the same time on Facebook. Cambridge nonprofit arts organization and music venue Club Passim will be resuming its Passim Streams series to benefit both the organization and performers, with Alice Howe on April 23 at 5pm, DoYeon Kim on April 24 at noon, Lauren Cortese on later that day at 3pm, Catie Curtis on April 25 at 7pm, and Ryan Montbleau on April 26 at 4pm. All the streams can be accessed through Facebook and in some good news, more than $100,000 has been raised so far for the Passim Emergency Artist Relief Fund. You can make a donation at passim.org/pearfund.
It’s common to see links to the performer’s PayPal or Venmo account during a livestream, sometimes you’ll even see both accounts. That’s because just like the rest of us, musicians still have bills to pay during this crisis. While you’re being entertained, make sure to shell out some money to whoever is playing their music if you can. It helps in many ways.
This article is syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism’s Pandemic Democracy Project. Contact email@example.com for more information.
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.