I probably don’t have to tell you that lately, life’s been tough for the live-performing musician. Because of Covid-19, performances big and small have been canceled or made virtual. Sadly, numerous venues have temporarily shut down or gone out of business. In a quest to keep live music alive, alternative events have popped up: in large fields and mall parking lots, church yards and marinas. Anywhere big and wide and open and outside, where there’s lots of room for responsible social distancing.
Practicing Safe Gigging
So I was excited to accept an offer to play in a trio on Halloween night. We’d either be playing on an outside deck with propane heaters or under an open-sided tent. Either way, we’d be assured of a nice fresh supply of clean air, mitigating any concerns we might have about airborne virus. And we’d be able to sing because we’d be outside and attendees would be at least 25 feet away.
Mother Nature is a B*tch
It wasn’t cool.
It was COLD.
As in 35o.
The deck and the tent?
The manager asked if we’d be willing to play inside. We’d perform in the upstairs bar area and sing with masks on. They’d create a perimeter keeping patrons far away. To their credit, they said they’d pay us even if we decided not to play. But we talked about it privately and decided to go for it.
We began the laborious effort of hauling all our gear inside. And for a trio with no drummer we travel with a surprisingly large amount of stuff: 2 powered PA speakers, 3 floor monitors, a mixing board, 2 guitar amps, a harp amp, a bass amp, PA stands, mics & mic stands, cables, and of course, our instruments.
Unfortunately, at this venue you can’t park your vehicle anywhere near the entrance. (Remember that deck we were going to play on? Yeah, it’s huge and stands between the parking lot and the restaurant.) But we come up with a system whereby the other two guys huff and puff the gear from the cars and onto the deck, dumping it all near a side entrance. I grab the stuff from the deck and haul it inside to an elevator (thankfully), catch my breath on the ride up to the second floor, drag it out into a back hallway, then schlepp it to the stage.
As I’m unloading the last ton of equipment from the elevator, the bar manager (nice guy) apologizes and says, “Sorry guys, you can play but you can’t sing,” and then said something about paying huge fines if they’re found violating health restrictions due to Covid.
OK. We get it.
We just wish they’d told us before we’d lugged our gear upstairs.
Towards The Ultimate Answer
What does all this have to do with the title of this blog post?
Good question. And there’s an answer:
It seems clear that, from a band’s or performer’s perspective, vocals are the biggest impediment to performing live. I mean, we ended up playing instrumentally with no issues at all.
He said something along the lines of, “You know how karaoke works, right? A recorded track plays the instrumental part of a song and then someone sings along with it.
“Well, we (meaning he and his buddy Pete Blossom of the band The Red Planet) wanna try it in reverse. I recorded a vocal track for one of the songs we play. I plan to play it over our sound system at a gig while Pete and I play along. It’s reverse karaoke, get it?”
Record vocal tracks.
Play them over the PA.
The instrumentalists play along with the vocal track.
Is this the model that’ll bring back live music?
Mind you, there’d be some technical obstacles you’d need to overcome to make it workable.
But hey, think of all the stuff you can leave at home.
Mics and cables . . .
Big, heavy PA speakers . . .
. . . Singers . . .
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.