With crowd restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 preventing people from going out and seeing concerts in the Cape Region, area musicians are bringing the concerts to the people over Facebook Live.
On Saturday, April 18, the Bottle & Cork in Dewey Beach will offer a virtual jam session from 5 to 11 p.m., bringing 12 acts to the stage to each play 30-minute sets. The event serves as a fundraiser for musicians who have been put out of work by the closing of bars, clubs and restaurants. The full lineup for the show and donation information can be found at www.facebook.com/bottleandcork.
Vikki Walls of the Bottle & Cork said, “We encourage fans of the Cork Jam, and the bands, to donate to these artists who have worked so hard to entertain us all during the summer for many years.”
LauraLea Taraskus, vocalist and guitarist for longtime Dewey fixture LauraLea and Tripp Fabulous, said she will be performing an acoustic set from her house in New Jersey with help from keyboard player and fiancé Keith Mahon. Virtual shows are nothing new for Taraskus, who has been playing acoustically from her house for more than a month now – long enough she’s figured out which room sounds the best.
“The basement works because it has echo,” she said.
Reliance on virtual performing has been an adjustment for Taraskus, who typically performs two to four gigs a week and is a full-time musician. Taraskus said the difference between performing live in front of people and performing over Facebook Live is the absence of the energy a live audience provides. Facebook Live does allow for instant feedback from those watching, but it's different.
“It’s hard not to look at the comments,” she said. Live or over Facebook, the shows are similar; she doesn’t use a setlist, preferring to take requests from the audience. At the live shows, the audience may request songs she’s played before that they know, while on Facebook, the requests can be more unpredictable.
“Sometimes they ask for really challenging songs,” she said.
Still, Taraskus has honed her virtual act to be very loose and carefree. Some sessions have gone as long as six hours – as long as the audience wants her to play. She joked that the 30- to 45-minute sets she’s been playing for benefit shows are maybe more challenging since the time is tighter than she’s used to.
She said the last time she and Tripp Fabulous had a full-band show was Feb. 29; her last gig in Dewey was an acoustic show at the Rusty Rudder March 8. She said she has always made sure to have a backup plan and socked away money for retirement, so she’s been able to survive financially without gigs.
Taraskus said the only time like this was in 2015 when she ruptured her eardrums and became ill with pneumonia. That put her out of work for two months.
“I just recovered from that financially,” she said. “Now this.”
While the Bottle & Cork is throwing a large-scale event, acts from The Pond in Rehoboth Beach are performing virtual shows five days per week, Wednesday through Sunday. The Pond began streaming live shows March 27, with acts including Wheezing The Juice, Freshly Squeezed, Lower Case Blues, Second Time Around and Share The Road with Jodi and Keri. The shows can be viewed through the bands’ Facebook pages, and showtime information can be found at The Pond’s Facebook page. Some of the bands have links to their Venmo or Paypal accounts to serve as a virtual tip jar.
For Ashley Ruark of Freshly Squeezed, the band’s April 16 show was something brand new. The band played live at The Pond, with no audience, with the sound dialed into a soundboard connected to an iPad to stream the show over Facebook Live.
“As a band, this experience has been pretty surreal,” she said.
“Freshly Squeezed has been performing live shows for over 13 years, and this is the longest we have ever gone without performing for an audience. However, we are beyond grateful for the opportunity to connect with our supporters. And of course, so thankful for The Pond and their efforts to keep our local music scene thriving during these times.”
Ruark said while the experience is mildly awkward - playing a high-energy rock show to an empty building - there is also a level of catharsis to just perform again. The band already had to cancel a handful of shows, and future shows are still in question, including a wedding the band was due to play in July. Still, Ruark is hopeful that the shows will help put smiles on people’s faces.
“In these uncertain times, the arts are more important than ever,” she said.