The Belly Up, Casbah, Soda Bar and Dizzy’s are closed, for now, but San Diego musicians have online options to perform
The San Diego rock bands Dirty Sweet and Low Volts will be rocking out as scheduled tonight at Seaport Village, with one coronavirus-fueled change: There won’t be an audience.
“The show was canceled, and then they said to go ahead and do it as a streaming event,” said Dirty Sweet guitarist Andrew McKeag.
“It sounds like we’ll play down there to no one but a camera. ... This will be the reality, where we have to figure out new ways to entertain ourselves. In Italy, people are singing from their balconies and windows. We’ll have to come up with new things.”
The decision for the Dirty Sweet/Low Volts show be an online-only event was made even before Monday’s White House recommendation that Americans avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, at least until the end of March.
That recommendation followed Sunday’s statement by California Gov. Gavin Newsom calling for the closure of all the state’s bars, nightclubs, brew pubs and wineries. This superseded Newsom’s March 11 call for all venues with a capacity of 250 or more to cease operating, in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In the brief window between March 11 and Monday, several smaller San Diego venues — including the Casbah and Soda Bar — continued hosting live music events. But no more.
“We’re closed as of (Sunday’s) request by Gov. Newsom that all bars close,” Casbah and Soda Bar co-owner Tim Mays told the Union-Tribune Monday, via email.
Sunday also saw top San Diego jazz pianist Joshua White perform at the free weekly concert series at the 950 Lounge in Mission Valley. That series has been suspended for the time being. So have concerts at another San Diego jazz venue, Dizzy’s in Bay Park.
“There will be no Dizzy’s events this week. Seems like things are changing every day,” Dizzy’s founder Chuck Perrin said.
Today’s Seaport Sessions concert series performance by Dirty Sweet and Low Volts will be live-streamed on Vimeo, starting at 6 p.m. It may be the only concert — rock or otherwise — held in San Diego today, if not for the rest of the week or month.
Or is it?
Other area artists are also looking to play live online, especially in the wake of their concert bookings having fallen through.
“All of my March, and probably April, shows are canceled,” leading San Diego troubadour Lisa Sanders posted on her Facebook page. “I’ll just post some vintage videos of me, and some of my friend’s videos from time to time, and plan an online concert from home.”
So is veteran singer-songwriter and album producer Jeff Berkley, who saw all of his performance and recording bookings evaporate because of the pandemic.
“Like everybody else, we’re talking abut live online performances,” Berkley said Tuesday, while wrapping up his last recording session for the foreseeable future.
“We’ll be singing songs, telling stories, laughing, crying and being together through our magical, musical friendship with ya’ll!” Selis wrote in a Facebook post.
“We are so grateful for all your support over the years...29 and counting. We’ll get by with a little help from our friends! We’ve been through a lot together and we’ll get through this (coronavirus) together too. Let’s help each other any way that we can. Even a DM can brighten someones day. Check in with the people you love and tell them you love them...”
The performance by Selis and Intravia is free to viewers. However, Selis wrote: “We’ll have an online tip jar available through our Paypal address firstname.lastname@example.org and through Venmo @Eve-SelisGulotta.”
A digital tip jar will also be in use for today’s 4 p.m. PST live stream of Willie Nelson’s “ ‘Til Further Notice.” It will replace “Luck Reunion,” the annual all-star outdoor concert Nelson hosts at his Texas ranch during Austin’s South by Southwest festival, which this year was canceled because of the coronavirus.
The lineup for today’s “ ‘Til Further Notice” live stream performance is scheduled to includes Nelson, his sons Lukas and Micah, the husband-and wife musical team of Paul Simon and Edie Brickell, former San Diego singer-songwriter Jewel, Lucinda Williams, Nathaniel Rateliff, Margo Price and more. The majority of the guests will be performing “call-in sets” from their respective homes.
Veteran San Diego guitarist and singer Robin Henkel turned online to perform six days ago, after his bookings dried up, and was very pleased with the results.
“A couple of people suggested that I should do a live video on Facebook, so I did one last Saturday.” Henkel said.
“The positive response was overwhelming, so I did (another) one the following day. I guess I hadn’t figured how great it was for people, since they were cooped up in their houses in voluntary quarantine. The enthusiasm and appreciation I received was really terrific. It’s already clear to me that this is a new format for music to reach people —especially with AB5 legislation also drying up gig opportunities.”
Of course, musicians have been performing live online for years to promote their work or worthy causes. What’s different now is that — at least for the next few weeks or months, if not longer — online may be their only option.
“I’m looking into using Patreon as a platform to present all kinds of video stuff,” said internationally acclaimed San Diego guitarist Mike Keneally. His half-completed North American concert tour with Canadian singer-songwriter Devin Townshend ended abruptly last week because of coronavirus-related concerns.
“I’ve heard from others who are looking to do live-streaming projects which they’d like me to be a part of,” Keneally continued. “Plans are definitely in the works.”
Ditto for Pacific Beach violinist and music teacher Jamie Shadowlight, who after seeing all of her scheduled shows evaporate, plans to “eventually be meeting with other musicians to play live-streams to keep the music out there.”
This trend has also caught the attention of multiple Grammy Award-winning San Diego album producer Chris Goldsmith.
“I’m starting to see it, yes,” said Goldsmith, who oversees the music talent buying for both the Belly Up in Solana Beach and the Music Box downtown. “I’m not sure how it works as a business model for venues, but maybe for the artists. … But with ‘shelter in place’ seemingly in our future, even that doesn’t seem like it works for our situation.”
In another sign of the times, English guitar legend John McLaughlin on Monday announced on his Facebook that he is offering free downloads of his new album until the end of April — because, he wrote, people “are obliged to spend more time at home” because of the coronavirus.
The album’s questioning title, coincidentally, seems to underscore the suddenly shifting musical landscape and growing lack of reference points in these extraordinary times. It’s called “Is That So?”
At least for now, the answer is: Yes, it is so. As for next month, well, who knows?