As summer draws near, music festivals and artists typically blast social media and their websites with promotional videos and pre-sale ticket options. But social distancing guidelines issued to stop the spread of COVID-19 — a disease that has taken the lives of more than 323,000 globally — has taken center stage. Although many fans are sympathetic to the regulations, they are bummed at the slew of music festivals and concerts that are either being cancelled or postponed. Many are worried about the long-term impact of the pandemic on the music scene.
Few people are as passionate about Muncie’s local music scene than Miracle Townsel, a Ball State University senior, who previously spent nearly every weekend night in or near mosh pits at house band venues. As much as she misses the scene, she is encouraging her friends to maintain distance.
“For the sake of the concertgoers and the music lovers who just wanted to have a good time, having a good time can wait, your life matters more. Your life matters more than these four hours of music,” Townsel said.
The Muncie DIY, or do-it-yourself, scene hosts house shows that are scattered all across the city. Almost every single weekend, sometimes back-to-back every Friday and Saturday, there is a show. Once the COVID-19 outbreak struck and Ball State University started cancelling their in-class meetings, there were show cancellations that piled up until no artists were left performing.
Some artists that perform at these Muncie DIY shows are: Porch Kat, The Sick Boy Method, or T.S.B.M., Doppler Radar & the Local News, or D.R.L.N., Indian Old School, Aquatone, and Cowboy Killer. The style of music most of these artists perform is punk rock.
Matthew Keyser, guitarist for Porch Kat, said, “Personally it’s a little bit of a bummer because we had been working really hard to book through the summer, but this break is giving us time to regroup and write some new material so we can hopefully come out on the other end of this thing with a fresh set, ready to go.”
Many artists from across the Muncie DIY scene are feeling the same way as Keyser.
Guitarist for T.S.B.M., D.R.L.N., and Lucy Furr, Ethan Smith said, “While I’d give anything to play a show as quickly as possible, I feel like I owe it to those who support me not to put them or their loved ones at risk of infection. I feel like as artists we have to hold ourselves accountable for our audience, or at least their safety. It would break my heart if an event I was a part of cost someone a loved one.”
Live streaming shows
Since artists are unable to perform live, some have resorted to live streaming their shows on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. This is a way for artists to stay connected to their fans while also interacting with some of them.
“I am delighted by artists playing live stream concerts and others helping put together live stream concerts. That is a nice thing during such dreary times. The comradery around developing these live streams also shows the bond of the music community,” Parker Pickett, guitarist for Indian Old School, said.
Smith said that the quality differs from stream to stream and that makes a big difference in how much fans will enjoy a stream or not. As great as he thinks it is to see and support local and bigger artists, much of that experience is lost not getting to actually be there seeing the live performance. There’s so much more that goes into performance then just playing the songs. Getting to see artists in person is such an intimate experience that he thinks will be difficult to re-create digitally.
Indiana DIY vs. the World
The Muncie DIY scene has created a Spotify playlist called ‘Indiana DIY vs. the World.’ This playlist is a collaborative piece from a collection of Indiana DIY underground musicians from all across the state. They all have created music and just want to spread the word to keep the music scene going, instead of letting it die out.
Townsel said that these livestreams and the playlist are definitely helping to “alleviate the pain, just a little bit and alleviate the pressure just a little.”
Increase in concert attendance
When the time does come for people to begin attending music festivals and concerts again, the question lies if people will hesitate to go to them to protect themselves or will people be craving to go out and interact.
Townsel said people are realizing how much they took their time at certain places and specific moments for granted now they have been stripped of it. There were so many activities people wanted to do that all of a sudden, they can’t do now. She thinks there are going to be a lot more people than venues, bars, concerts, and festivals are expecting.
Drummer for Aquatone and Cowboy Killer and singer/rapper for OWL, Raegan Gordon,
has the same belief as Townsel, in thinking that there will be an increase in attendance for supporting the arts.
“I believe that people will definitely purchase tickets after this. Being in quarantine for as long and potentially even longer has personally made me and a lot of my friends miss each other and miss the human interaction so I believe any chance people get to have that, they will do,” Gordon said.
The next step
Gordon believes the smart thing to do when people start attending music festivals and concerts again would be to continue to proceed with safety cautions. Some precautions she suggested were venues keeping sanitizers, cleaning products on deck while hosting events, and wiping off mics/handing out masks. Gordon plans to continue to try to keep herself and those around her as safe as possible when everything is done and continuing to practice habits she has created during the quarantine.
“There are some tough times ahead, even after this pandemic dissolves into the history books becoming dust words and fabled memories. The community built around art and music here in Indiana is going to be a place of refuge, dissent, and hope while conflicted with the calamities of the next oncoming,” said Pickett. “We have a strong sense of community, and this event is only tightening those beliefs of unity between. We ain’t dead. Our momentum has not faltered. It is just a moment for perspective and possible readjustment. We as musicians will be prepared to handle the societal and cultural shift that is happening. We will evolve, just as all life has done and will always do.”
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