Music Scene

A look at the COVID-19 era and what may lie ahead.
Man playing guitar at intimate venue
Jeff Tamelier at Armando's Patio

Normally, we would be submitting a schedule of local music listings for the month ahead. As we go to press, reporting is indefinite as restrictions related to the Coronavirus pandemic all point to a summer season – and beyond –  that is hard to predict.

In light of all the converging information, we have asked local purveyors of music to look into a crystal ball and share their predictions for the coming months. What will 2021 look like and when and where might we go for our music fix next week?

With a phased easing of shelter in place requirements and conditions changing from phase to phase, uncertainty becomes problematic, blurring the view into the crystal ball. 

We asked around and here’s the view from a few local angles.

What’s going on now?

Marilyn Carver, the presenter of Marilyn’s Weekly Calendar, reports some recent small music affairs in select locations experimenting with solo and two-person acts. Siting a slow return of such subtle but lively acoustic performances in upper Solano County and the Suisun Valley Vineyard appellation, live music is swirling to life in this crystal ball. Marilyn also reports some more homegrown music, with artists presenting right there on her court in Vacaville. Recently, her neighbors enjoyed local talent Jeff Curtis and Mark Laybourne. Connections to payment sites like Venmo and PayPal saw the performers making a pretty penny for their efforts, thanks to the generosity of the appreciative neighborhood. See Marilyn’s Weekly Calendar, an online detail of live music happenings throughout Solano, Yolo, and Contra Costa Counties and the City of Sacramento, on Facebook for more detail. 

Here in Benicia, The Rellik Tavern has very recently resumed their live music events and begun hosting modest performances with solo and duo acts on a scale that allow considerations for reduced seating requirements AND an 8pm curfew. This was temporarily imposed when last month’s social unrest surrounded our town. Owner Debbie Rosen Rollans confesses that business under these terms makes for a very difficult proposal.

Jan Lucca at Lucca Bar and Grill, home to Lucca Beer Garden, stands by his belief that his live music program will resume when operations can go back to the pre-COVID-19 normal, without conditions or restrictions to the business or its patrons. Currently, Lucca’s Bar & Grill is keeping business hours for outdoor drinks and dining and take-away while the interior is closed. Music is on hold, with the crystal ball not showing many signs of resuming before summer runs its course.

The Vallejo Times-Herald’s intrepid Community and Entertainment Editor, Richard Freeman, recently reported on the phenomena by citing local empresario Jeff Trager. Trager books Vino Godfather, the Downtown Theatre in Fairfield and a few other Solano County venues. “I’m waiting for the OK from each city to give me guidelines on when and how they want ‘live’ music to start up again,” Trager said. “So, right now, I’m working with the different venues to structure what is and isn’t possible in the space they have.”

“Skynnyn Lynnard,” a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd, is still on the books July 25 at the 400-seat capacity Empress Theatre in Vallejo. 

 

In Contra Costa County, the “Martinez Music Mafia” on Facebook and YouTube present an hour and a half compilation of live music vignettes that are independently and freshly produced videos from their diverse music scene. “Happy and a Half” (Fridays at 4:30) represents scores of musicians in their home studios and other settings. The MMM, while having fun and getting the music out, also takes a hard line on safety awareness and the need for COVID-19 protocols.

Armando’s, in Martinez, has reinvented itself by hosting exclusive weekly events. Seating and access to shows are limited to parties of two at $50 per table, which are arranged for social distancing. Having left their longtime venue last winter, Armando’s “Patio” requires face coverings, yet maintains the intimacy and high quality of Armando’s. Call Roy Jeans to place your order for a table. 925.890.3725

Our crystal ball provides a wide view and varying approaches to reviving a dormant entertainment environment in the wake of COVID-19.

What remains at the heart of our uncertainty is the development of vaccines against the current virus. Can 2021 bring relief and assurance?

Musicians across the country are utilizing all manner of social media to present their craft in place of live performances. Rebroadcasting home recordings and live-streaming are becoming the norm. While this proliferates, what musicians really want to do is get back to work and be safe. 

With major venues closing and national and world tours being cancelled through 2021, it will be up to the Local Scene to deliver the salve of music. 

Being smart about the safety of the public, employees and musicians is first and foremost with those addressed herein. As this phasing of live music rolls out, the crystal ball will reveal innovations in the way music performances are enabled once again. 

Stay safe, support live music and musicians and keep your eye on the Crystal Ball.

 

-Marty Duvall

Music Curator

 

Categories: Arts + Culture, Live Music