Watching Online Concerts While Quarantined Is a Lot Like CMJ

5 performances I enjoyed while wandering through the socials this first weekend of lockdown

Bill Janovitz on Facebook Live

One of my absolute favorite things about the CMJ Music Marathon — which I attended every year from 1998 to its final run — was the sheer randomness of going from venue to venue and catching wild juxtapositions in acts over a span of four or five hours.

I’ll never forget the one year, 1998 I believe, when me and my homeboy Brad Filicky saw something like eight different performances in one day, including PJ Harvey playing the Bowery Ballroom in the late afternoon, the Donnas at Webster Hall and then winding up at the Westbeth Theatre on Bank St. just in time for Rollins Band to take the stage at like 3 AM. It was such a blast just wandering into these different gigs, running into people we knew or co-workers, then dipping out and heading into another spot to catch something entirely different.

Having spent the last couple of evenings at home checking out all these different performances broadcast over social media and streaming services of our favorite artists playing for whoever tunes in is indeed a sweet reminder of those halcyon days of my time in such woebegone clubs as Baby Jupiter, the Lakeside Lounge, Tonic, CBGB, Brownie’s, Luna Lounge, Tramps, Wetlands, SOB’s and so on. It was quite a trip getting DMs from friends telling me to head over to this one’s Instagram and that one’s account on Twitch TV and something else happening over on Facebook Live, and then just sort of floating into and out of these shows from the comfort of your own home.

It’s certainly not as ideal as actually driving over to the venue and seeing these amazing artists in the immediacy and atmosphere of a live setting. But the intimacy of these performances, be it in kitchens or bedrooms or bars and restaurants that are closed to the public, somehow transmits an energy of calm and assurance that we are all in this together. We all might be stuck in our houses for a while until the COVID 19 Crisis fades out, but at least its heartening to know that some of your favorite artists are in the same pickle we are, and donating their time to do what they do best–bring us joy and solace when we need it the most.

Here are five performances from the last three days that really blew my mind.

KATIE CRUTCHFIELD & KEVIN MORBY

Katie and Kevin on Instagram Live (Art: Ron Hart)

Of course this was the stream du jour for incarcerated hipsters across the country. But when they tuned in, they were charmingly disarmed by Morby and Katie Crutchfield, hanging out like every other couple who lives together in America. Only it’s just that they were hosting one hell of a homegrown hootenanny on Instagram Live, with such famous pals as Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes and Katie’s twin sister Alison Crutchfield popping into and out of the feed like they were stopping by for a quick visit. They performed songs from Katie’s old band P.S. Eliot as well as tunes from the new Waxahatchee album Saint Cloud, not to mention some cheeky covers of Everclear’s “Santa Monica” and blink-182’s “Dammit”. Sadly, if you missed out on tuning in for their 3/19 hang, you missed out as there isn’t a trace of the performance available online. But this coming Thursday (March 26), the couple will be doing it all over again on the eve of Saint Cloud’s release the next day over on the Waxahatchee Instagram page. Set your calendar now.

 

CHICK COREA 

For the last couple of days on his Facebook account, the jazz fusion legend has been posting half-hour performances for solo piano. Here are the first two sets, both of which are available on Chick’s Facebook page, is a pure intimate virtuosity by one of modern music’s grandest maestros. Watching him walking us through his creative process is a gift of calm in these crazy times.

 

 

THE GRIFTERS

On March 18, The Grifters performed a colossal near-two hour set from an undisclosed location in Georgia,  where the group with John Stivers sitting in for Dave Shouse ran through the greatest hits of group co-founder Scott Taylor with a spirited sense of ragged glory. 

The Grifters

It was quite a moment to wander onto Taylor’s Facebook page in the middle of this monster performance and get lost in the volume just like I did while spinning my favorite cuts off Ain’t My Lookout during my graveyard shift on WFNP 88.7 FM out of SUNY New Paltz. Catch the full show here.

 

BILL JANOVITZ

“This is it. The Big Show. Starting with a Martini for early Happy Hour,” announced the text at the bottom of this live stream of Buffalo Tom frontman and Rock & Roll Globe contributor Bill Janovitz ripping through a two-hour acoustic set spanning the entirety of his four decades in music. For longtime fans of this giant of the college radio multiverse, we can only hope this stays online forever.

Bill Janovitz live from his kitchen

When asked for comment about this unique concert experience, Janovitz told the Globe:

“I went down a rabbit hole of technology this week trying to make it sound and look as good as possible. Original idea was to do ‘live in studio’ via my Pro Tools rig. But there were too many variables. Seems like simplest is best. iPhone to FB sounded and looked good enough. I just captured my usual live solo acoustic rig. A great old Gibson guitar, wired with Fishman Rare Earth blender in stereo, split through my effects on one side and both that a the clean signal into a great Fishman Performer amp. My vocals were just going through a little solid state beginner’s practice amp. But for a while I had it sounding awesome all going into Pro Tools. I even experimented with multi-casting sites to go to two platforms from the same stream. Just couldn’t get the picture and audio and streaming all happening great at the same time. So I used phone for FB and MacBook Air for YouTube. The latter ended up sounding unacceptably bad, like super poor satellite radio. So I deleted that. The FB live remains on at the Buffalo Tom FB page and also embedded in my billjanovitz.com.”

 

THE CRO-MAGS

Harley Flanagan is not only a hardcore legend but a beautiful soul despite what his history might imply. And on March 15, the one and only Cro-Mags performed the set they intended play on a double bill with Ice-T and Body Count at Webster Hall two days earlier that was understandably cancelled on account of the virus.

“We all must take extra precautions these days, but we will learn how to deal with this like we have learned how to deal with deadly diseases in the past,” warned Flanagan. “Be safe, be strong and be smart. The show will be rescheduled, and life will go on. Eventually we will all be ‘killed by death’ just ask Lemmy. If it’s not one thing it will be another, but life will go on. And so will this show.”

 

VIDEO: The Cro-Mags The Quarantine Show

Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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