Rachael Shaner and her band Lulu the Giant are creatures of the stage. The captivating energy of Shaner’s virtuoso bass playing and skin-shivering vibrato really work over a live audience, so what are she and her bandmates to do when the gigs dry up during the COVID-19 shutdown?
Almost every musician in the world is making the adjustment from stage to computer/phone screens, but the transition doesn’t come natural for everyone. Fortunately, there are high quality outlets for artists to shine like Savannah’s streaming series, Quarantine Concerts, professionally filmed at Tybee Post Theater. Lulu the Giant’s first Quarantine Concert was such a hit that they were asked to return for an encore performance last Friday, both of which are available to view at quarantineconcerts.org.
"That was awesome," said Shaner of the first concert. "Obviously it’s really hard to navigate the current pandemic protocols. Going in you don’t know what to expect. It was nice that they were respectful of space and taking care to sanitize things."
Of course, singing to an empty theater is not an ideal situation for inspiring your best, but you wouldn’t sense Shaner’s misgivings from her engaging performance.
"That was a funny commentary afterwards," said Shaner. Someone had told Shaner that it looked like she was looking directly at people in a live audience. "Well, it’s totally habit to look out and try to connect with people. What [he] probably saw was me looking to find someone and then the thought of ‘Oh my God. Nobody came to my show!’."
Shaner and her bandmates guitarist Alex Bazemore, and drummer Daniel Malone, may have played to empty seats, but Quarantine Concerts founder Michael Gaster informed them afterwards that it was their largest engagement yet with over 3000 viewers. "Oh. I’ve never played for 3000 people at once," said Shaner. "That’s cool."
Besides two exceptional Quarantine Concerts and a much deserved shoutout from NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts for a home performance they shot on an iPhone, Shaner isn’t quite sure what is next for the band during the pandemic in terms of streaming concerts that match the Lulu the Giant live experience.
"It’s not a space anymore, it’s in a virtual realm people will appreciate," Shaner explained. "You want people to want to tune in, to be comfortable on their couch...but get at least a different, but equivalent quality from a show. And I don’t know what that looks like or what that sounds like."
One of the interesting side effects of self-isolation is that artists who stream tiny, intimate concerts from home — without the aid of expensive lights, smoke, and massive, screaming audiences — are on an equal footing unparalleled in modern history.
"Bringing it all to an equal platform has been interesting on so many levels," said Shaner. "Granted, we don’t have the virtual reach that these famous musicians have, but the product is equal and everyone is on level ground. Hopefully, you’re not comparing apples to oranges anymore, you’re comparing oranges to oranges and saying, ‘This Florida orange is definitely sweeter.’."
It may still be awhile before bands can hit the stage and tour again, but in the meantime Lulu the Giant are figuring out how to stay engaged with their fans and reach out to new audiences.
"It’s funny, I have to be more open and online and that’s not my natural inclination," said Shaner. "I prefer to play shows where you make two new fans out the 300 people that were there (laughs). Now you’re trying to reach people on these online platforms, so you’re having to put out content that you wouldn’t normally. I like the live show, I like the rawness of that, the intimacy and experience of that, and what people take from that as a live experience. Now I’m trying to figure out how to bring that live experience to them and still be genuine and intimate. This totally flipped touring on it’s head. Is this the new reality or the temporary normal? I think it’s just going to be somewhere in-between when this ends."
Editor’s Note: Rachael Shaner is a contributing writer for DoSavannah.com
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