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The long and complicated path to opening music venues after COVID-19

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The process of reopening America’s empty music venues will require patience and massive fan support. - LESTUDIO / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • LeStudio / Shutterstock.com
  • The process of reopening America’s empty music venues will require patience and massive fan support.

With restaurants beginning to phase in limited dining-in options and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment stating that “other kinds of establishments that do not serve food will be evaluated in June,” this naturally has many of us wondering about the future possibilities of live music in our favorite bars and venues. Per an interview with Denverite, Oriental Theater co-owner Scott Happel is optimistic about holding small, “socially-distanced” shows this summer, while Herman’s Hideaway general manager Kale Nelson is exploring the possibilities of organizing livestreamed shows — much like we’ve seen The Black Sheep do, broadcasting live performances from Night of the Living Shred, False Report and Tigerwine over the past few weeks via Twitch. Likewise, Sunshine Studios has been livestreaming performances through their Facebook page, which is a nice way to slightly scratch that live music itch.

I’d advise everyone stuck in “wait and see” mode to take one thing at a time, because the process of reopening, with regards to live music, paints a daunting and complex picture. As businesses have begun to gradually phase in their services, bear in mind that, on top of the uncertainty everyone is experiencing on a local level, each state’s reopening process is likely to be a bit different and running on a differing schedule. It’s obvious to see how this makes any band or artist’s performing and touring prospects a tricky proposition, and touring is an integral part of what makes not only musicians flourish, but mid-size, independent venues as well.

So, in the coming months, expect a lot of questions. Is a touring route feasible due to the restrictions in place in any given region? If venues are only able to function at a limited capacity, will that result in scaled-down production for touring musicians? (If that’s the case, and I suspect it might be, that’s very unfortunate news for production crews, who, like musicians, are completely dedicated to their craft and have usually honed their skills over the span of decades. Unlike musicians, though, they can’t very easily monetize their labor in the livestream sphere.) Will musicians and crews be able to be compensated at a level that can facilitate booking gigs in the first place?

And, of course, beyond the production and capital side, there’s also the much starker question to cutting a swath through the country in your van ... do you really want to play the Charles Campion role on your goodwill tour of midsize venues across America, as the country is in various states of functionality?

Now, I don’t say any of this to alarm or dishearten anyone, just remember that there are a lot of moving parts in play, and it’s difficult to simply push them all back into their previous motions simultaneously. Be prepared to approach things differently, and be willing to support and galvanize your favorite artists and venues from the ground back up. Live music can’t ever be replaced, but none of us ever anticipated it simply ceasing for several months, and it’s up to all of us to make sure the things we care about don’t get lost in a sort of entertainment shock doctrine.

Luckily, not everything in life is so complex right now. For instance, there’s nothing complicated about how you should immediately go listen to “Higher Power,” the new single from MILOGIC and Reflecshaun. At just 2:28, it’s a breezy track that will surely leave listeners wanting more; both emcees are in fine form, while the jazzy, exotica-tinged beats make for a hypnotizing pillow of sound that’s comfortable to rest upon. Likewise, the new EP Brine from Jeffe the GMC, which features guest spots from Reflecshaun, Frank G. and Mastermind, is a highly rewarding listen; five tracks anchored by crisp rhymes and impressively varied production. The EP is set to be the first of three short releases from Jeffe, and if tracks like “Let Me Dream,” “Brine” and “Chico Hillside Strangler” are any indication, we’re due for more excellent music very soon.



Finally, it’s been far too long since we’ve heard from Joseph Lamar. The talented singer/songwriter released a new single, “Paradise 1,” and an accompanying video at the beginning of May. In typical Lamar fashion, it’s eclectic, heady and hooky, and the video, directed by Lamar and Dylan Lee Lowry, matches the track’s kaleidoscopic menace with repurposed religious imagery that would make Ken Russell proud.

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