Coronavirus impact: Artists turn to live-streaming to connect with fans

Colm Mac Con Iomaire, The Frames

Colm Mac Con Iomaire of The Frames live-streams a performance on Sunday. Courtesy: Facebook.

In response to most of the country’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities being canceled, Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys on Sunday announced that it would stream a performance for free Tuesday at 4 p.m. PDT on the group’s Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages.

“For the first time in 24 years, we are not playing on St. Patrick’s Day weekend,” the band said in a statement. “The current world situation is the ONLY thing that would ever stop us from doing so.”

The Dropkick Murphys weren’t the only ones to get that idea.

On Sunday, the CDC recommended that all gatherings of 50 or more people be postponed for the next eight weeks to slow the speed of coronavirus. That would take concert cancelations into the second week of May. Earlier in the day, California governor Gavin Newsom officially closed all bars, clubs, wineries and brewpubs in the state. That meant even bar shows with significantly smaller crowds couldn’t be possible.

In Walnut Creek, U2 tribute band Zoo Station, which already had a larger show at The Chapel in San Francisco canceled, had a smaller performance at Dan’s Bar called off as well.

So instead, “Bonalmost,” “The Sledge” and “Adamesque” set three chairs six feet apart (as recommended by social distancing guidelines) and played for nearly two hours to a webcam.

Numerous artists, from large to small, have turned to streaming performances online. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong played a 13-song set of covers that was streamed via Irish violinist and guitarist Colm Mac Con Iomaire of The Frames set a phone on a stand and streamed a 90-minute performance of beautiful loops right from his living room, with his two cats making a nest right in his guitar pedal board.

“I will endeavor not to touch my face for the next hour,” he began. “This is all very surreal. We’re all in a strange dream together.”

Even the San Francisco Ballet planned to release a special live-streamed performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to ticket holders who never got a chance to see the company’s first staging of the ballet in more than three decades—joining numerous symphonies and other classical arts organizations to provide streaming content.

In San Francisco, popular orchestral pop band The Family Crest was set to leave for its second-ever European tour on Tuesday. Instead, bandleaders Liam McCormick and Laura Bergmann were cleaning and packing away their gear.

“We had to make a heartbreaking decision and cancel the tour, which left us with not only a loss of opportunity but a loss of capital,” McCormick said late Sunday. “In the end, the risks were far too high to move forward. As we’re all fairly young, we weren’t as worried about getting sick ourselves, but rather spreading the virus around to our fans and to the general public. Furthermore, the patterns seemed to lean towards not only venue and festival closures but also border closures. We’re releasing our new record, The War: Act II soon and are still working out the details of how the pandemic will affect production and future touring. It’s all quite uncertain.”

The Family Crest will also look to streaming to stay in touch with fans—not just to remind listeners that they are still here, but to provide comfort in troubling times. McCormick said he wants to schedule a handful of performances.

“There’s so much we can do with live streaming (which we’ve experimented with in the past) and to engage more with our fans on social media, our Discord channel, maybe even do some video chats and things like that,” Bergmann said. “We feel a certain level of responsibility to continue building our community and to be a positive body in the face of a really dire situation. Who knows? Maybe another record or two will come out of these few months of isolation.”

Editors Daniel J. Willis and Roman Gokhman contributed to this report.

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