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Quarantine Concerts: music’s new normal 

Organizer Michael Gaster talks about new venture for local musicians

Ah, yes—the live stream concert. What was once something that musicians did on a rare occasion has now become the absolute norm for artists at almost every level.

With entire cities on lockdown and events cancelled worldwide as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there really is no live music happening anywhere.

Artists are having to connect with their fans via Facebook, Stageit, Instagram, or other platforms rather than setting up on a stage and performing in front of an audience.

Many artists still want a full on-stage experience, with lights and professional sound, during this time of uncertainty. That’s where Michael Gaster comes in.

click to enlarge Rev. Bro Diddley and the Hips will perform their quarantine concert this Sat., Mar. 28.
  • Rev. Bro Diddley and the Hips will perform their quarantine concert this Sat., Mar. 28.

The veteran FOH engineer and mixer saw the need for Savannah artists and event professionals to make up for lost wages and opportunities, and decided he needed to step in.

Without hesitation, Gaster launched Quarantine Concerts and immediately began to put the pieces together to offer artists a chance to do live concerts with full sound, lighting, and video capabilities.

The first show happened last week courtesy of Jason Bible, and Gaster has two more slated—Lyn Avenue on Fri., March 27 and Rev Bro Diddley and the Hips on Sat., March 28.

“My point from the very get go was, we’re getting people out of the living room and into a place,” Gaster tells Connect. “The original idea was to bounce around venues, but as the whole COVID-19 response was changing we decided to lock down to one venue.”

The idea for the series came about after Gaster ran sound for a live stream with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and afterwards he saw a Facebook post from Connect’s own Jim Morekis about alternatives to event-related content amid the current crisis.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I got this. This train is leaving the station,’” he says.

Gaster recognized that it’s not only artists that need their creative outlet, but he knew that people need music right now more than ever.

“I already had this in the back of my mind. When Jason Bible and I first spoke, he said, ‘This will be great, because I’ll be able to play my own stuff and not worry about chattering while I’m playing.’ I was like, ‘Wow, he’s right.’ Everyone who’s watching is there to watch you perform,” he says.

“Musicians don’t have to worry about playing the hits here. Get creative.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Quarantine Concerts is the fact that Gaster assembled his team and put the concept into motion in almost no time at all. Especially considering that with ventures like this you need a formal business structure, it often takes weeks or longer to really get the pieces into place.

“One thing I learned from 2007/2008 is that the faster you react and adjust to a potentially catastrophic event, that’s the key to survival,” he says. “With this, it’s survival but also long term success. For this to work, it’s got to happen right from the get go.”

The future of live music is quite uncertain at the moment, meaning that Gaster hopes to be in this for the long haul in terms of continuing production. A big motivator for that goal is the impact that he’s seen live streaming have on people in the past.

“People would watch, and there was one person who would comment every time I’d live stream a concert and thank me for doing it,” he says of past instances where he’d live stream shows from his phone on Facebook.

“For a while I thought, ‘How can I do something where we can deliver live event streams for at-home audiences?’ I wanted there to be an accessibility component that was specific to handicapped people. But there wasn’t quite enough of that to really push it, so here we’re developing for that specific cause. So in the long term, I think it has sustainability beyond a pandemic.”

Lyn Avenue Unplugged - Fri., March 27, 7:30 P.M.

Quarantine Concerts / Streamed from the Tybee Arts Association Black Box Theatre

Rev Bro Diddley & the Hips - Sat., March 28, 7:30 P.M.

For tix and info, visit quarantineconcerts.org

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Sean Kelly

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