It’s been a crazy week or so here in Savannah with the COVID-19 pandemic changing our lives nearly on a daily basis. Reality twists and turns on a dime leaving many either out of work or filled with anxiety about what will happen next in terms of health, economics and more.
As a person of the arts myself, there is much stress emanating from these typing fingers; so, it’s with great gratitude and appreciation that there are folks in our community that know the importance of music and art and are around and able to help when we are in need.
Service Brewery, as most of our readers know, has hosted live music for a while now and has done a lot for the community here in Savannah. City Hotel, a local bluegrass band and regular staple at Service was about to celebrate their two year anniversary of "Bluegrass By The Pint" last Friday when they had to cancel. So many music events have been canceled recently due to the COVID-19 virus that many musicians are left twiddling their sweating thumbs. Luckily, there have been some people who are able to help provide a stage for performers by offering a live streaming performance so the rest of us can socially distance ourselves accordingly. Red Porch Records and Quarantine Concerts are just a couple that have risen to the occasion and now it looks like Service Brewery is able to do it as well which is fantastic.
I spoke briefly with Kevin Ryan of Service about hosting the streaming performance this Friday with City Hotel. He is a strong supporter of the music community and he wants to help raise money for musicians who may be out of work. They will be streaming a high quality broadcast and will be accepting donations for the band.
Bluegrass By The Pint will air via their Facebook page on Friday, March 27 from 6-8:30 p.m.
Below is a Q&A with Cory Chambers of City Hotel about playing the concert and about being a working musician during this time.
Do: You’ve played Service Brewing several times already, correct?
Chambers: We were going to celebrate our two year anniversary at Service this month with a big party. We've played there every Friday for two years. We held our release party there for our last album then started Bluegrass by the Pint in March 2018. It's been a great relationship. (Service owners) Kevin and Meredith are huge supporters of live music and regularly host bands from out of town. They now are one of the premier venues for the Stopover Festival.
Do: Where else in town do you play and how often do you play?
Chambers: We don't play locally very often outside of Service, since that gig is every Friday. You can find me playing solo several times a month. Usually at the River Street bars or Foxy Loxy's Acoustic Tuesday. I've done bluegrass brunch every Sunday for the past year at Prohibition with the great local bluegrass player, Evan Rose. Prohibition was forced to close and lay off all staff as a result of the virus. I also love playing at Perch. My band (Cory Chambers Band) just released our first recording. We will be out and about if things normalize and you can stream the album on all the platforms.
Do: Is playing music in City Hotel your main gig?
Chambers: The majority of my income comes from playing gigs. Everyone else in the band does something else full time. I am lucky that I've had a part time job for a while now that is willing to work with my music schedule. I feel awful for people who are not so lucky, and hope efforts to help service industry workers include local musicians. There's a whole hell of a lot of us out here. Kevin and Meredith are doing a lot to keep their staff working and I'm overwhelmed with gratitude that they've included us in those efforts. They plan to have us stream from the brewery every Friday so our beloved regulars can get their Friday bluegrass fix. We will play to an empty brewery while implementing the CDC's guidelines for staying healthy.
Do: How has COVID19 effected you all as a group?
Chambers: We had several high paying corporate gigs and weddings scheduled for April that are no more. Personally, I had planned on investing and expanding in music and now instead I'm in survival mode. I still feel I have it better than most as I'm able to generate a little non-music income. I'm really hoping the local music community gets some help along with the restaurant workers who so desperately need it. At least one band member is choosing to completely self isolate for a while which is totally respectable. We will have a rotating cast of the best bluegrass musicians in town for the streaming version of Bluegrass by the Pint.
Do: What do you think the effect will be for the overall local community? National community?
Chambers: I'm weighing options like giving up my apartment, which I never anticipated. I know a lot of people are going to have to make drastic changes as a result of this. Savannah folks are tough and local artists are resilient but we really don't know how bad this can get. Local musicians bust their ass. There is a lot of fun that comes with this job, but tons of hard work as well. I'm certain a lot of musicians are like me in that playing music for others regularly is a part of a positive mental health regimen. A lot of us feel like we can't do a lot else without succumbing to depression or other mental health woes. I'm hoping efforts to revive the economy will remember that local musician is a genuine profession that deserves to be given relief.
Do: What are your immediate plans as performers?
Chambers: Ideally, we will use this time to create. We all write songs and contribute to our original set list. I'm practicing a little more than normal and trying to keep my fingers loose. We hope to release a lot of new music when things normalize. If I know our guitar player, Aaron Zimmer, he's created a phenomenal song or two since this thing started.
Do: Have you done live streaming before?
Chambers: We've experimented with Facebook Live in the past but this will be our first focused streaming effort. Jay Rudd is our banjo wizard and audio man. He is working to make it a high quality visual and listening experience.
Do: What are you all doing to cope with this current situation and do you have any speculations on how this will unravel?
Chambers: This has made me curb my cable news and social media addiction, which is probably a very positive thing. Every I time I look at either one, I get unproductively freaked out. There's entirely too much information out there right now and I will spare people my personal speculations.
Do: Will you be doing more live streaming performances?
Chambers: The plan is to keep Bluegrass by the Pint going every Friday via live-stream. Stay tuned to the City Hotel Facebook and Instagram to participate. Service Brewing Co. is more than a name for the brewery. Kevin and Meredith are constantly contributing to our community and it means so much to us that they've included us when taking care of their bartenders and other staff.
I hope other bar and restaurant owners will follow suit if possible. Local music is more beneficial than people realize. I'm hopeful we won't be forgotten.
frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>