Not so bad, and you?

Back to Streaming… 

Emily and I just completed our third live stream after having hung them up at the beginning of April. I hope to continue them through the winter, even though my schedule is looking pretty solid until February, with two separate month-long weekly residencies in January filling out my weekends.

I must admit, we were rusty with the streaming. The sound on the first, especially, was a big problem. Due to operator error, we ended up streaming the entire hour through the mic on Emily’s computer. It was so bad that I took it down, never to be seen again. The second and third attempts, while much better in the sound department, ended up freezing the system by the last song of the night, leaving everyone involved on both ends of the screen wondering what happened.

As far as I can tell, sometimes the connectivity on either end makes for drooped frames, some frozen screens, and choppy sound. I don’t know how to fix it, or even if it can be fixed. Live-streaming is imperfect in many ways, but in an arts economy like we are all facing today, every little bit helps.

So here is my plea: Be patient with streaming musicians. Check out their shows, leave comments, and send hearts. If you can, send them a tip. Streaming is imperfect in so many ways, but for some, it’s all they’ve got right now.

I just did a quick count for 2021 and realized that, not counting livestreams, I had 85 live gigs this year. I hope to double that in 2022, and we’ll see how that goes. While 85 shows is, I think, pretty respectable, it’s far fewer shows than I was playing before the pandemic. I’m always shooting for more performances, and I’ll get there.

But for now, like so many others, you can always catch me online over at my Facebook page on Thursdays from 7-8. I can’t guarantee that the show won’t have it's technical issues, but I promise we (Em and I) will always do our best to entertain!

Covid strikes! 

No, I don’t have the virus. At least not that I know of. But today I got the disappointing news that a house concert that was scheduled for October has been cancelled because of the new wave of Covid blasting through the country.

It was definitely the right call, and not unexpected. Really, the presenters and I have been in touch, and we waited to cancel until now because, well, one never knows. Things change seemingly overnight, and we wanted to see how things looked as we got closer.

It looks bad.

So it’s cancelled, and it’s ok. But it’s bringing back some of the feelings I had in March and April of 2020 when the gig calendar slowly and steadily emptied over the course of about two weeks.

At the time, the fear was real. Self-employed gig workers, an extremely large chunk of the US economy, we’re not able to file for unemployment, and there was no way to work in the arts. That changed, thankfully, although that change was recently rescinded.

(Funny that gig workers like myself, real entrepreneurs in the truest sense, can’t receive that kind of government help when it’s needed, but that’s another story.)

Very few musicians had really figured out how to stream online with any sort of quality. That also changed, and working for tips online became a main source of income for many artists - from musicians to comedians, from authors to dancers.

Emily and I started from zero, but ended up with a decent streaming studio by the end of that first summer. Em actually taught piano via Zoom, creating a bigger studio than she had before Covid. I played two shows weekly for tips, and started what has become a fairly solid Patreon account.

We made due, thanks to the kindness of friends and strangers who find value in what we do.

But seeing this show cancel, a full 20 months after the start of the pandemic, is a reminder that we have to keep fighting. I’ll be online streaming this winter, on Facebook for sure and Twitch maybe. Em will continue teaching, at least partially on line. I’ll keep posting every new song on Patreon, and work to increase the number of patrons.

We will do the best we can.

Next fall, with any luck, we can safely hold an indoor house concert. If not, then the fight will continue.

Stay healthy, everyone!

Does the world need another blog…..? 

I just realized that I promised, more than a year ago, to start a blog on this site. It’s funny, but I can’t seem to make it happen. Part of me thinks that there isn’t really an audience for such a thing, and the other part feels like my blogging muscles flex best on my Patreon page.

Still, a promise is a promise, so I’m going to try. And when gigs dry up once the weather turns in the late fall, I’ll probably be looking for an outlet. Is there a better time to start than right now? My sources say NO.

Tomorrow night I’m playing a beach gig in Lutsen. I call it a beach gig because, while it was originally booked as a campfire gig, campfires are not allowed in northern Minnesota right now due to extreme fire danger. So what was originally booked as an unplugged performance for people around a campfire has become a rather ragtag affair of sitting on a picnic table in the middle of a beach playing for people who aren’t really sure why I’m there. Without the campfire, there is no stage - no place to perform without looking like a random guy on the street corner playing for tips.

Since there is no place to congregate, it’s tough to find a rhythm with an actual audience. People may stop for a song or two. Some might sit longer. Others might pass on by without stopping at all because they don’t realize that I’m supposed to be there, or they may have somewhere else they need to be. It’s not the easiest way to play, and it would ruin musicians who need strict structure in order to perform.

But I grew up learning to be artistically flexible and tolerant. I played on the street a lot as a kid (and as an adult, frankly) and really enjoy the challenge of entertaining a moving audience. It takes thick skin, confidence, and a sense of humor, but once you find your way it can be very rewarding.

You just have to remember that there are people who aren’t going to like what you’re doing. You will never please everyone, but on the street (or a beach), they are free to move on. And those you DO please will like it a lot. It feels good to get a thumbs up, or even a smile, from someone passing you on the street. People might wave from a car window, or wiggle a kayak paddle in the air. Children might giggle. And there might be a nice tip in it for you.

As it turns out, most people like to be surprised by a singer on the sidewalk. Or the beach.

So, despite the lack of a fire at tomorrow’s campfire gig, I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be great fun, and a real chance to practice making quick, but meaningful, connections with an audience. Plus, I’m playing music on a beach! What’s to complain about?

Coming Soon! 

Watch this space for my new blog! Whether it be talking about my work, sharing a funny story from a gig, or trying to turn you on to a few of my friends, I always have plenty to say. As I get back on the horse, I’ll be adding more stories and links to this.

How am I? Not so bad, and you?