Facebook becomes Salem’s top live music venue during the quarantine

Erin Westfall and Sean McLeod performed March 21 as part of an inaugural Salem Musician Alliance Facebook Live concert. (Courtesy image)

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s ban on public gatherings could have killed the live music scene in Salem. But artists are grabbing their phones, booting up their computers and using Facebook to share their music and stay connected with fans. 

On March 21, the Salem Musician Alliance held an inaugural Facebook Live concert event. About 90 people tuned in live to watch the music. 

The duo Erin Westfall and Sean McLeod kicked off the show with a set that included acoustic guitars, electric guitars, violins, singing, and the occasional cat appearance. Rich McCloud Music took over the show with a set that involved guitar and McCloud’s brand of rap-influenced funk. And Elvicious Cash ended the night with a half-hour set involving guitar, vocals, and original music. 

This Saturday, March 28, the Alliance will hold another live event. The show starts at 7 p.m. on the Alliance Facebook page, but the stream will be available after the show ends, if the time isn’t convenient for you. Saturday’s lineup includes:

• Rebecca McDade. A childhood spent moving between Scotland, Ireland and Oregon infuses McDade’s work. She’s a singer and guitar player, and her music falls solidly in the folk realm. 

• Thia Nix. Nix calls Salem home, and she plays a range of instruments, including guitar, violin, and banjo. Her music is ambient, and while she does perform covers, she specializes in original work. 

• Clawfoot Slumber. This psychedelic rock trio is known for fierce songs that include piano, bass, drums and vocals. The team has material from nine recorded albums to draw from. 

The Space, a Salem concert venue and vegan eatery, is also planning a series of Facebook Live concerts. Today, March 27, the team welcomes New York musician Arthur Buezo to the stage at 6:30 p.m., and the show will stream live via Facebook. 

Buezo is truly a one-man band. He performs with guitar, kick drum, tambourine, and more. He plays all pieces simultaneously while he sings. Buezo is currently on tour, and after leaving Salem, he’ll head to Portland for a show at the Buffalo Gap Saloon. Head to the Facebook page for The Space to tune in for the live show. More events in this model are planned in the coming weeks at The Space.

Musicians are struggling as festivals and shows are canceled. Live streams remain one of the few ways these artists can connect with the community. Viewers are often encouraged to donate or purchase albums during live events, and that revenue stream is vital for performers. 

“This is a tough time financially for everyone right now, including musicians who rely on gigs for income,” said Jarred Venti of the Salem Musician Alliance. 

But the shows also give performers a chance to share their art, he says. And that’s critical. “Musicians need to play. Most of us have a driving need to perform,” he said. 

The shows also give the community a chance to come together. “This gives everyone stuck at home a chance to actually make a plan to do something. They can put the virtual concert on their calendar, and everyone watching in real time can interact with each other and the artists. The first show really had a feeling that everyone was together in the same room to experience the show,” Venti said.

“Whether it’s online or in person, broadcasting interdimensional human expressions help us all feel more connected. Connection is intrinsic in human life. In times as these feeling connected is of paramount importance,” said Doug Hoffman, co-owner of The Space.

For some artists, these concerts are a completely new experience. 

“I’ve never done a virtual concert before. I’m used to being filmed live, as they do that in places like The Space. But that feels different, because there is an audience in front of you during the performance. I hate to say it, but this is like performing in front of a wall. I miss the audience interaction,” said Westfall.

But she did have a live audience of sorts. During her concert, Westfall flung her living room curtains open wide. She was facing her computer, watching herself on Facebook, but she glanced up in the middle of a song and saw that her neighbors also had their curtains open wide. 

Westfall had wanted to play a show for her neighborhood, but she couldn’t figure out how to perform in front of a live group while enforcing social distancing. So she invited her neighbors to the virtual show instead.

Her neighbor accepted that invitation, and Westfall watched the family singing, dancing, and swaying along to her music while she played. They were connected by technology but separated by glass.

“These virtual shows are really fun, but I also hope to get back to performing in front of an audience very soon. I really miss it,” Westfall said. 

Mark Parrish, aka Elvicious Cash, recorded his concert with his phone, and he kept up with comments and interactions as he played. He kept his phone close, so he could read along. 

“It was great to see the comments come in. I felt like I was being heard and there was some interaction that way,” he said. “But it was definitely an adjustment.”

Both artists say they’d love to see more comments, more reactions, and more views in future shows. 

“Whether they’re donating, chiming in, or just letting their voice be heard while these things are going on, it means the world to us at this time,” Parrish says. 

Follow the Salem Musician Alliance on Facebook for notifications about upcoming shows. There’s no fee to watch a live show, but donations are gratefully accepted. Artists will highlight how they prefer payment before the music starts. Saturday’s show begins at 7 p.m., but the stream will remain on the page if that time isn’t convenient for you. 

Follow The Space on Facebook for information about upcoming live shows. Tonight’s show starts at 6:30 p.m., but the stream will stay on the page for later watching.