Support your local artists

  • Home Body. Contributed photo/Anja Schutz

  • Seth Glier. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 3/19/2020 6:00:30 AM
Modified: 3/19/2020 6:00:19 AM

Editor’s note: As the coronavirus continues to prompt cancellations throughout the region, Sounds Local will be put on hold. This was not a decision that was made lightly, as Sheryl Hunter is a valuable contributor to this newspaper. Hopefully, soon, her byline will return to these pages.

It’s Saturday night and I’m watching the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow in concert. I’ve been looking forward to this show for weeks and while I’m enjoying it, it’s not exactly what I had expected. The band members are each playing separate sets from their respective homes, while I’m sitting at my desk watching them on my computer. We were all supposed to be at the Shea Theater, but that show was postponed due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. 

This is a very different way of experiencing music, but then, these are very different times.

As I write this, live music as we know and love is not happening. From major festivals like Coachella and SXSW to small coffeehouses at local churches, shows are being postponed or outright canceled due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. By last Saturday, about every local venue had gone dark with the Shea Theater, Signature Sounds Presents, Hawks and Reed and others closing their doors with plans to reevaluate the situation in a few weeks.

It’s clear there was no other option, as everyone’s health and safety comes first. However, the financial impact is a tough one for venue owners, musicians and all those that work behind the scenes in the music industry.

We have quite a few musicians in our local music community for whom music is a fulltime job. Singer-songwriter Seth Glier, a native of Shelburne Falls who now resides in Holyoke, is one of these and estimates that 90 percent of his and other musicians’ income is earned on the road.

Glier didn’t have many shows scheduled this month, as he was slated to travel to Mexico, where he and his bandmates would serve as cultural diplomats, teaching music and collaborating with Mexican musicians. He was at the state department on Wednesday when he found out the trip they had been planning for months was off. But even before this happened, he was aware of a sharp change in the musical landscape.

“Ticket sales stopped about three weeks ago. We would advance shows and the tickets wouldn’t move,” he said in a recent phone conversation. 

Around the same time, Greenfield residents Eric Hnatow and Haley Morgan, who make up the electric fever-pop duo Home Body, started noticing the same shift as they were in the midst of a major cross country tour. 

“This tour started out strong with packed venues in places like Harrisburg and Athens, but once we were almost one-third of the way through our nine-week coast to coast tour, things started to disintegrate,” wrote Morgan. “Suddenly, only a handful of people were coming to big shows we had booked in places like Nashville and St Louis, where we have strong followings and the promoters had originally expected to sell out. People just stopped coming out.”

The couple initially thought they could forge on and thought their music might even help people during these difficult times, but they ultimately realized that for their own and everyone else’s health they, like so many others, had to cancel all their mid-west and west coast dates in March.

Again, they are doing the right thing, but this means no income for an entire industry for the foreseeable future.

“This whole situation has been a major financial setback for us. Touring is how we make our money — ticket and merchandise sales. Streaming services don’t really pay,” said Morgan, adding that, even as their income drops, they still have to pay for gas, rent and groceries. “Ahead of the tour, we invested our meager savings in making new merchandise, T-shirts and tapes and records. Now, they’re all just sitting in the back of the van.” 

Home Body has not canceled dates into April and is waiting it out, sleeping in their van, “Rosie” and camping in the Rockies to see if shows resume. Other acts like Shelburne Falls-based folk singer Jeffrey Foucault, were also in the middle of cross country tours but chose to head home after canceling dates. 

Glier, is scheduled to hit the road in April with dates starting in Florida.  

“My team hasn’t canceled any dates, but I’m not really optimistic. I fear this is going to take a couple of months,” he said about returning to touring. “And, even once the pandemic is over, people might be skittish about spending.” 

There is also the concern that people will be afraid to go out in crowds once shows start up again.

In the meantime, Glier is scheduling special online concerts that he is calling “pandemic parties” for his Patreon subscribers. Patreon is a monthly subscription service that is a way for artists to receive some financial support and to engage with their fans and provide subscribers with such things as unreleased recordings, concerts, and signed lyrics. The first concert was held on Saturday and two more are scheduled for this weekend and one on Friday, March 27.

To learn more, visit Glier’s website at sethglier.com.

“I’ve realized as a creative that adaptation is in my nature, so I really wanted to make sure that we were bringing music to all of these homes that are going to feel incredibly isolated,” said Glier, who is currently working on new material and released a new single last Friday. 

We will see more online shows in the weeks ahead as bands use streaming as a way to continue to play music while engaging with their audiences. Joe Gallo, who is the publicist for the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, said the band will definitely do more shows like the one they did last weekend and are working on more ways to stay connected with their fans during these trying times.

The LAVA Center,the new community arts center in Greenfield, just announced it will hold a virtual open mic on Wednesday, March 25 at 2 p.m. If you are interested in signing up, visit the LAVA Center’s Facebook page.

“I’m looking forward to these online shows as being an opportunity to connect and communicate with fans and to all kind of remember that we are not in isolation from one another emotionally and spiritually,” said Glier.”And, secondly, the transition to artists interfacing with their audience (remotely) was already happening and these tools provide an even greater opportunity right now.”

If you are a music fan who wants to help out at this time, you can head to your favorite artist’s website and buy some merchandise or order a CD or some vinyl. And, if a show you planned on going to was canceled, consider not taking the refund. If, like Glier, a musician has a Patreon account, do consider joining. And, don’t forget about your local venues — places like Hawks and Reed (hawksandreed.com) and Signatures Sounds (signaturesounds.com) also sell merchandise on websites as well as gift cards, which you can buy now and use for future shows (merchandise for Hawks and Reed is available at redbubble.com).

The most important thing right now is for everybody to stay in and stay healthy. Hopefully, we’ll all be out of the house and into the concert halls and clubs soon.

As we optimistically look ahead, we want to let you know that Home Body has a show scheduled for Saturday, May 2 at the Shea Theater with Topsy (Hannah Mohan) opening. 

In the meantime, let’s do what we can to help each other. These are challenging times for everyone and we need music now more than ever. 

“As an artist I’m hopeful that folks will recognize how important artists’ work is during this period of social isolation,” said Morgan. “All those Netflix shows y’all are watching, Spotify dance parties in your kitchen, Instagram posts that inspire you, books you’re reading while cooped up in social isolation, artists made them,” said Morgan. “And, we need to find ways to support our cultural workers in times of both social activity and social dormancy.”

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.




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