The stay-at-home order and standstill caused by COVID-19 have exposed the fabric of our society- the importance we place on eating, speaking and working with other people.
It has also exacerbated the painful absence we have felt as music tours and shows have been canceled or postponed.
However methods of communication have never been more available. Platforms like Instagram Live give musicians and fans a method to communicate in real-time and enjoy melodies and raps together. DJ D-Nice’s Club Quarantine live sets have exploded in popularity as he has spun Hip-Hop, 80s R&B, and reggae tracks including people like Rihanna, Usher, and Bernie Sanders. The 49-year-old New York producer, DJ, and rapper’s Instagram live sets are a reminder of the unity to be found in our favorite music.
When Glass Orange’s set at the Miami-Dade County Fair got canceled on March 28 due to the virus, lead singer Melanie Cruz decided to live stream from her backyard. She had seen one of her favorite artists, Dodie, using Livestream as a platform to talk with and perform for her fans.
“I thought, I’m supposed to be playing anyway, so why not do a really cool Livestream set from my backyard and hang out with people and just chill? Like, make music the way I want to make music, regardless of this coronavirus,” she said.
Quarantined away from her band members– Danniel De La Cruz, Nasser Al-Rabeah, and Josh Soria– she played the hour-long set by herself. Despite the less than ideal circumstances, Cruz thoughtfully engaged with her viewers. A comment rolled in: “I wish I could virtually mosh,” and Cruz laughed in response. Her melodic love-ballads are hardly mosh-inducing, but she replied that if a mosh pit takes place at her next show, she’ll give out free merchandise.
She said she enjoyed the experience, but was faced with the awkwardness of singing to her phone rather than to a crowd. At the end of a song, she would wait in silence; a lack of applause, naturally, felt weird. But a second later, comments and hearts began to fill the screen. She broke into a smile. This was performing in quarantine.
Cruz had planned to make her performance at The Youth Fair her last gig until the album was finished. But quarantine has changed her mind. She misses playing for others.
Cruz, who works a 9-to-5 in customer service, says quarantining has been a positive experience for her. She’s had more time to focus on working on her music and reflect. “Isolation has made me a little more introspective in terms of how I am, how I relate to other people, how other people relate to me, and how those relationships affect me emotionally, mentally…It’s only really fueled writing music,” she states. Her goal is to record and produce her album after social distancing guidelines are lifted.
To conclude, Cruz shares the following advice: “Stay safe, stay indoors, but let your creative spirit go free now, while there’s freedom in terms of time. There’s no traffic to sit in…there’s house and pen and paper. You do what you want, you know?”
Danniel De La Cruz and Josh Soria also play with the punk group The Hattts. Following Cruz’s lead, they set up an all-day Instagram live show. Soria (guitar), Will Tramm (guitar), and De La Cruz came up with a plan to meet at Will’s house for the show. But the night before, Miami-Dade issued a stay-at-home order.
Scrambling, they met over Instagram live on March 25. De La Cruz and Tramm met using an Instagram option to go live with a friend.
A group of about 20 gathered to watch and the band answered questions that would come in through the comments, mostly playful banter from friends who had tuned in to listen.
For a comedic break, the band played around with Instagram filters. Most interestingly, they conducted a tutorial for viewers on how to play their song, Sea Bed. Tramm patiently showed De La Cruz the notes. Despite internet connection issues, by the end of their five-minute tutorial, the two played in unison. It was a rare backstage glance at one musician teaching another. When De La Cruz learned the song, his face lit up in satisfaction. A comment on the Livestream asked, “Are you playing C-standard or standard?”
But of course, quarantine is becoming an increasing problem for extroverts, or creatives who thrive on interaction. “I really have been feeling stifled lately. I thrive on collaboration and bouncing ideas back and forth with my bandmates, which has been almost impossible,” guitarist Tramm shares. “But I keep telling myself that it’s not just me going through this, in a way it’s kind of brought us together by keeping us separate.”
Chris Prado, who goes by Punkowski, recently hosted his eleventh episode of the Quarantine Dialogues with Glass Orange as guests. Punkowski is an alternative musician from Miami who started this project as a way to interact with fellow musicians and fans.
“When it comes to Glass Orange songs, are you still the main writer?” Punkowski asked.
“Oh no,” Cruz exclaimed. “You’re frozen for me, I don’t know If I’m frozen for you?”
“Oh, were you frozen? Could you hear the question or no?”
“No. Okay, you’re back. I, like, lost you for a second.”
A little connection slip-up like this becomes part of everyone’s natural conversation — it’s simply part of internet communication. Without really missing a beat, they returned to the question. She began to describe the writing process for her band.
People joined the Livestream, asking questions as Cruz and Punkowski discussed their creative process. Punkowski interviewed Cruz, but didn’t consider his project a journalistic endeavor. Rather, it was an opportunity to really get to know artists from the Miami music scene. “Oftentimes, when you meet at shows or, like, loud bars [there’s] a lot of noise, chaos– it’s hard to have a real conversation with somebody more than just like: ‘Hey, cool show!’” Punkowski said.
Utilizing Instagram’s option to go live with someone else, Punkowski has been doing daily interviews with various Miami artists. Livestreams have a lot of issues though, he says. Connectivity and audio barriers, as well as relating to your listener, are big obstacles. Instead, he opted to include everyone in conversation about their shared interest in music. And he hasn’t just focused his interviews with musicians but has extended it to other creatives, like a visual artist and video game designer.
The popularity of musicians taking to Livestream to play for or talk to their fans is no mystery. Music provides us an escape from the realities of the world; there is comfort, solace, and familiarity in our favorite songs. The internet simultaneously provides us a stream of information that can quickly prove detrimental, while also providing us the escape we need in a time of social distancing. Livestreaming platforms give us the opportunity to continue to interact with our favorite musicians– a beautiful part of the internet age.
Editor’s Note: COVID-19 has greatly affected musicians and the local venues that offer them space to play. If you have the financial means to do so, please support your favorite artists by purchasing their music and finding other ways to contribute. Music keeps us all a little closer. We need it now more than ever!