As COVID-19 is prompting restrictions on gatherings and venues are closing their doors, musicians are making the move to cyberspace.
“I just hate not doing my job,” Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo said. “On Sunday when I realized I’m going to have to pull the plug on all these dates, or they were already pulled for me, it was depressing. And also financially because I was supposed to make a certain amount of money so I pay my bills.”
On March 20 Gogo got to do his job at the Duncan Showroom, and while he wasn’t be able to see the audience, they were able to see him from the safety and comfort of their own homes. That’s because the concert wase live-streamed.
“It’s an opportunity, hopefully, fingers crossed, for me to make a couple bucks just to have some walking-around money,” Gogo said. “Plus … for people that are self-quarantined, it’s entertainment for them and it’s just a chance for people that follow me that maybe live in the States or somewhere that I don’t play a lot, they get to see the show.”
Gogo joked that he’s played for empty venues before.
“I thought about that today when we were setting it up and it will be strange,” he said. “I just have to pretend it’s a TV show or something.”
Gogo said now that touring and in-person performances are out of the picture, musicians are feeling the financial consequences of COVID-19. In the long term, he said it’s going to be a “scramble” for musicians to reschedule everything in the future. Gogo said he’ll be discussing the impacts of COVID-19 with Shawn Hall of West Coast blues duo the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer on one of the upcoming episodes of his Soul-Bender podcast.
In the face of all the disruptions, Gogo is still keeping busy.
“I have an album I’m going to start recording in June with a friend of mine, so I’ve got to write some songs, still work on the podcast,” he said. “There’s always things to do but you don’t get paid for sitting on the couch and writing a song.”
Although pubs and theatres are closing their doors to help mitigate the spread of the pandemic, one Nanaimo venue is keeping the music playing through its new video concert series.
On March 18 the White Room launched its Quarantiny Desk Concerts on its Facebook page. The series is a reference to National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians play music in a small office. The Quarantiny Desk videos feature local artists performing to no one.
“Since we can’t do any live shows to audiences, what’s stopping us from just filming performances so people can still get a taste of what’s going on at the White Room?” asked Dave Read, White Room co-manager.
Read said the artists they approached were eager to be a part of the video series.
“Everybody was incredibly enthusiastic and positive and everybody jumped on it and said, ‘When can we start?’” he said.
Read said this is a difficult time for places that rely on ticket and food and drink sales to pay salaries and rent. The White Room itself is “in real danger of going out of business,” according to a Facebook post, and recently started a GoFundMe campaign in an effort to get by.
“Luckily, we’re a community thing so there’s no salaries or anything like that,” Read said. “It’s only the bills that we get for the rent and the other utilities that we want to be able to cover … because without shows going on in there it’s very difficult to keep something like that rolling.”