Gigless in the Valley: Musicians stay active by being interactive
Second of six parts
For Dave Fry, one of the worst days of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic lockdown was when he locked down his bag of children’s instruments.
Fry, a Southside Bethlehem mainstay and co-founder of the Godfrey Daniels concert venue who plays folk music and children’s music, uses the toy instruments to involve children when he performs.
“My music is interactive. When I play, kids can pick up instruments and shakers. I can engage with them and have the music sneak in behind it.”
Ironically, his ability to draw crowds cost him work.
“I have lost a bunch of farmers’ market bookings. People would stop and listen, so they shut down the music. But that’s the reason you need music. Physical trust. That is the essence of folk music,” says Fry in a phone interview.
Fry’s most recent CD is “Troubadour,” a collection of folk music.
The personal connection of live performance that makes the kind of singer-songwriter tunes that Fry performs so engaging has to be sacrificed in the time of the coronavirus social-distancing mandates.
Like many other musicians, Fry is active online. “I have tools in my gig bag that I can adopt. I’m not cornered into playing bars.
“I’m maintaining a presence on facebook. I’m releasing a song at 5 a.m. every morning. People can get one song when they are having their morning coffee.”
Fry is concentrating on positive-reinforcement songs, lighthearted tunes and songs by John Prine, who died April 7 of coronavirus.
“I don’t want to rush into online concerts,” says Fry. “There is a glut of them now. And I wonder about people watching one performer in front of a computer screen for 45 minutes at a time.
“The challenge of doing things online is interesting to me. I have to practice and publish every day, exercise production skills, and keep continuity from day to day,” Fry says.
Fry records music on his phone and uses Movavi Video to enhance the visuals.
Steve Brosky is one of the most popular and active musicians in the Lehigh Valley, and one who is also feeling the isolation of the coronavirus shutdown.
“My audience has been reduced to my wife, Renata, and our elderly cat. We are staying six feet apart,” says Brosky in a phone interview.
“I’m hurt like everyone else, wondering how I will pay my bills.” But he reflectively adds, “This will give us an opportunity to pause and to reevaluate our lifestyles.”
Brosky has kept his facebook page active. “Madonna and George Harrison are living in a material world. I’m living in a digital world.” But he is not totally on board, adding, “I’m still living in the 1980s.”
Brosky, best-known for his recording of “Do the Dutch (Hey Now),” the 1983 answer song to Billy Joel’s “Allentown,” has been taking time to review his career, which includes numerous CDs, YouTube videos and even a muscai that debuted in 2015, “Steve Brosky: The Musical - Living Here in Allentown.”
“I’ve been going through a suitcase of cassettes and found some real gems. One has our daughter when she was six-years-old singing a Christmas song. It’s adorable.”
Brosky is scheduled to perform his tribute to Tom Waits at Musikfest in ealy August, but he wonders how things will go even then.
“I don’t know how people will feel,” he says as he muses, half-jokingly, about wearing rubber gloves onstage.
Daniel Benedict is owner and founder of Gig Digger Events and Planning. He has bookings to the end of the year.
He keeps things open until three weeks before the event when he decides if it needs to be canceled.
Benedict says things have always been tough in music for the past few decades, even before the coronavirus-mandated music venues shutdown.
“Musicians have struggled for the past 20 years,” Benedict says in a phone interview.
“They are getting the same pay rates as they did in 1975 and 1980.
“They have to bring out and maintain equipment, practice and rehearse for what is not a lot of money.
“Most of them have to have another full-time job. Many of the full-time musicians, although not all of them, have really been set back. I feel really bad for them.”
Benedict notes that self-employed music workers are eligible for relief under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, Phase III of the coronavirus pandemic response Federal Stimulus Bill.
The website, www.musiccovidrelief.com, sponsored by music associations, provides information about loans, grants, unemployment and other resources.
Benedict is taking a different approach among the many streaming songs online.
His “Gig Diggers Three Songs From a Truck” has him visiting local musicians at their homes to record them. He streams the videos online. He maintains social-distancing guidelines throughout the recording process.
The first show, released May 1, was with Werner Sommer of Bangor. The second show was May 11, with John Wynn of Allentown. The videos are available on the Gig Digger website and facebook page.
“I’m positive things will get back to normal eventually, but it’s not going to come right back. It will take some time.
“But many places are going to need music to being the people out. Musicians bring their own crowds.”
Next week: Gigless in the Valley, Part Three: Classical musician Robin Kani