In The Midst Of Upheaval, Artists Are Curating Online Festivals To Keep The Music and Art Flowing

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One thing is clear, the news is changing everyday surrounding, COVID-19, the newest and deadliest manifestation of a set of viruses known as Coronavirus, Although many were, and are still slow to adapt to the strategy of social distancing, a strategy recommended by many simply to flatten the curve of transmission in the US and across the world, to save lives but more importantly to ease the massive burden put in place within a “healthcare system” which was already on the brink of collapse. In a world already in social and political upheaval with racism and capitalism driving profits over people, artists and other marginalized members of society such as service industry,  social and hospitality workers not to mention the inhumane and rapid growth of  house less populations across the country and especially here in the Bay Area, visibility, resources and support systems  for art, music and social practice were already practically non-existent, and for underground experimenatalists and activists alike, even less so. But in the true spirit of underground art and culture, artists and creators  are adapting quicker than any of us expected, out of a necessity of  survival. In a time when the day to day changes our  reality in a way perhaps never experienced by this mass scope of the population at once, uncertainty is the only certainty. We talked to a  few artists who are beginning to  adapt new models to  support artists almost immediately.

Chicago, IL musician and curator Ben Billington, who is one of the founders of the The Quarantine Concerts series based out of Chicago spoke with us briefly about the newfound series and how they are adapting to this unexpected shift in the arts and performance.

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Billington saysThe Quarantine Concerts are a collaborative multi-city endeavor meant to provide artists in our community a space to share their work and continue to earn a living during this time when most live performance opportunities have been cancelled due to COVID-19. By centralizing streaming efforts, we hope to drive larger audiences to the artists performing, with the aim of helping them earn more money in the process. The idea was formed by the collective minds of Experimental Sound Studio, Daniel Wyche, me, and Carrie Cooper — Daniel had planned an online concert himself since his tour was cancelled, and we all saw his post and sort of jumped at the opportunity to collaborate on something bigger.”

As a curator myself one of the inherent obstacles I can see with  suddenly switching the majority of live performances and events to streaming/online is an over-saturation / lack of organization/scheduling which can lead to the audience or viewer  simply being overwhelmed with content, without any actual direction. One friend is streaming here, another over here at the same time and we almost don’t know where to look. Through collaboration and selected curation, The Quarantine  Concerts seems to begin to address this issue through mutual aid and collaboration in  a way that individual artist streams or presentations fall short. Since Billington doesn’t solely rely on music/curating as a sole  source of income, he is able to dedicate more time and resources to promoting the work of others. The series solicits donations for each event and 100% of the proceeds are split between the artists at the end of each night. A truly generous and radical act.

Luckily I don’t rely on my art or event curation to make a living, so my time has mostly been spent trying to support others to get their art out there (and make some scratch) for as long as I can remember. That’s still very much my mentality while we’re on lock down”

Dr. Decaycast: What has been the biggest obstacle of the series and what are some valid critiques people have expressed thus far?

“So far, the biggest obstacle has been YouTube — our live stream was repeatedly being flagged for “inappropriate content”. So, the first hour of our first concert was us troubleshooting, and then making a last minute decision to switch over to Twitch. Luckily, it worked out and the whole concert happened, albeit 1.5 hours later than planned”

“I think the main critique is that not every art medium can translate well to the streaming format, and also, as soon as we announced the project, everyone wanted to be involved. Unfortunately there’s only so much time and bandwidth as a lot of us have day jobs on top of this fun project, so it’s day-by-day progress.”

Can you talk about what the series have coming up, performance wise, and how the curation works and how people can support?

“Tonight ESS is curating, Friday there’s a Chicago series called ACORN that had a bunch of shows cancelled, Saturday we have electronic music label Hausu Mountain curating a night. Next week we have Ithaca Underground curating a gig, Homeroom doing one, some others and many more to confirm. We’ve had curators approach us and we’re reaching out to some as well — curation of curation, for sure. Definitely not a free-for-all. Once a curator is confirmed, they pick an open date and we start the process of getting them the tech how-tos and other suggestions/guidelines”

Make sure to check out TQC  website and schedule  here and scope a performance.

Denver, CO based  artist Kevin Richards, who  performs under the moniker Equine is hosting PLAGUE FEST out of their underground Denver, CO based venue  Glitter City, but as many as the events over the last week, it will be without attendees. From the  Plague Fest event page:

“Since we (and many other venues) have shuttered their doors, I have decided to attempt some online actions such as this to help pass the time. In addition I am hoping this will be a way for me to offset the costs of keeping glitter city going. Any funds you want to donate to this end, please send via venmo to @glitter-city Please be sure to donate to the artists performing via the means they provide, and of course, buy merch!”

Plague Fest begins today and runs through March 27th. Artists interested in getting involved should follow the link above for  submission instructions.

Nima Dehghani,  an interdisciplinary artist based in San Francisco and Tehran has relaunched his Netformance series as a way of connecting artists across various disciplines and continents shortly after COVID-19 began to rapidly spread. We got the chance to talk with Nima briefly about the Reconnect Festival.  .

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“Well, I had a project called: Netformance which was dedicated to internet-based performances, I stopped this project 3 years ago, but after the strange coronavirus crisis, and seeing all my artists and non-artists friends stuck at their homes in quarantine, I thought that I can restart that idea, so contacted two of my friends in Iran (Fariborz and Sepehr) to see how we can come up with a creative idea to, first: entertain the people while they are bored at their homes!  Second: engage our artist friends whom their shows or artistic projects are canceled or postponed.

Also how we can unite artists from all around the world, who for the first time are facing the same problem and experiencing the same critical situation at the same time? The idea of online performances is not something super novel, but we thought at this point providing a solid platform for this kind of art, would be helpful to re-connect people and increase the empathy and human connection and to help people go through these tough days with the help of art, together.”

 

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Here’s a Google Doc to Submit to the festival, which begins April 5-12th (FIRST EDITION)  and will be held on instagram live An Austin, TX collective, seemingly inspired by the monumental cancellation of SXSW, started The Social Distancing Festival.

The festival like others above, has an open submission policy but is focusing on works that we’re specifically cancelled or drastically altered due to Covid-19. from the festivals website,  “Check out the LIVE-STREAMS page, or click through the calendar to find out about streamed events from all over the world! Have an event coming up? Let me know about it through the SUBMISSIONS page!” One thing that;s quite unique and  exciting about these festivals is their seemingly open submission policy, which is often a hurdle for underground or undiscovered artists. Here’s hoping these festivals will birth new collaborations and projects which may have not even been possible, or have an audience previously.

40203202_10156204124071693_7594413970820169728_oBay Area artist and curator Karl Evangelista (and one half of the duo Grex is producing the Lockdown Festival happening April 4th,  and features performances from heavy hitters Marshall Trammell, Oakland Art-Rock emsemble Grex, and the  dark whirring sonic spirals of Oakland’s own Voicehandler, Submissions are  currently open. Evangelista states The purpose of the festival was to consolidate some of the effort I saw going into both community advocacy and music making in the face of quarantine. I just thought it might be nice to see that collective action is possible (and in some ways easier) via all these technological innovations that we’ve been forced to interface with these past few weeks.”

Aside from open submission festivals,  many underground and small indie labels are doing online versions of their festivals and artist showcases. Erstwhile Records is planning an online version of their AMPLIFY Festival, you can join the Facebook group here. Also  Southern, CA  stalwarts Deathbomb Arc are  supposedly planning an online version of their showcase as well.  They recently had showcases booked in Oakland and in LA featuring Cooling Prongs, SARN, DIS Fantasy and They Hate Change, a queer rap duo from the swamps of FL taking the underground by storm.

While some are booking online festivals , others are sharing their own resources and encouraging to learn new tools and methods of sharing and promoting their work in times of extreme isolation. Bay Area collective Fault Radio, who already had a dizzying stream of online DJ performances ala Boiler Room has released an article on how to expand your practice in the time of quarantine.

Fault Radio’s Broadcast from Home . Details below:

Are you an artist or DJ who is self-isolating at home? Do you want to know how to stream your sets? Fault Radio is looking to host DJs who want to live stream from their house!

We will be providing the following:

  1. We have the capability to do remote streams without having our team present.

  2. We will teach you how to stream while providing technical support

  3. We can provide Stream-Kits (limited)

  4. We will feature your set on our archive (Youtube, SoundCloud & website).

  5. We will open an online event where people can donate. Revenues from the event will be divided between participating artists and Fault Radio/

Lastly, we figured we’d announce a new project related to all of this melee, a YouTube  Playlist Series of themed mixes titled #StayTheFuckHome Mix Series with themes ranging from bay Area Experimental Music to Underground Electro, to In Home Workout Mixes, Cooking Mixes, and more. Here;’s the first one, and please support all of the artists in this mix by going to their respective bandcamp pages and buying directly.

 

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