I’ve been off the road since March of 2020. I’ve played maybe a dozen gigs outside the house (and all outdoors) since that time. I just came back from a festival called Dead Ends Live in Edmonton, Alberta – my first time on an airplane since December 2019, and my first indoor gig since 3/6/20.
When my April 2020 tour vanished into the quarantine, I decided to play a live show online every day. I started keeping track of my sets on April 4, updating a spreadsheet every day and creating a menu of possibilities (but not a programmed set list!) for each day’s performance. I’d list them in reverse chronological order and delete the songs from the four most recent shows so I wouldn’t repeat things too often.
As of March 15, the last show before I took off for Edmonton, I had played 430 different songs and 70 unique improvisations. I have performed around 35 original songs (I started writing at the age of 15, several years before the Grateful Dead opened the doors to so many musical worlds for me), several dozen Dead songs (many of them reinvented to suit my style and vocal range), and favorites from my 52 years of performing. I still have all those James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, etc. songs in my memory from the early ‘70s, and I’ve used the Internet to help me work up some songs I have enjoyed but haven’t played before.
To my surprise and delight, a group of regulars formed and named itself “The Green Room Gang,” with a big fan who calls herself Jill Swellville serving as the head evangelist. There are several dozen people who have attended all or nearly all of my performances. On my birthday last fall, they conspired with my wife to deliver a cake to me during my set! This group has developed into a sweet community, meeting in real life as well as communicating online daily. They send requests almost every day, and that also helps to keep my thing fresh.
I also connected with Streamstock, a wonderful online performance venue that allows audience members to attend in groups and to interact with the performers before and after the show. Rose Inati and her team have been perfecting this system for more than a year, and I am happy to share my daily show in their venue.
Needless to say, this has been great for my musicianship! My singing and playing have never been stronger, and I was raring to go and very well-received at Dead Ends Edmonton last week. I played two full sets with the amazing Joe Craven, did several numbers with the McDades, and sat in with Harry Manx for a JJ Cale song called “Tijuana.” It felt good to play with other people, and to play standing up after two years in a folding chair in my studio.
Things are starting to pick up again, assuming the COVID situation continues in a more favorable direction. I’m making plans for some out-of-town gigs, but I don’t think I’ll be touring as extensively as I did before the quarantine because I am continuing to enjoy my daily live shows and because my wife and I have had a great time together. She has taken up the ukulele in recent years, and between that and her painting, knitting, and awesome cooking, Rita has a creative life that’s as satisfying as mine.
I’ll take a few days off for Skull & Roses, and then I’ll come back home and resume my daily livestreams. I will take a day off from streaming now and then to play an in-person show, but I have benefited tremendously from the discipline of daily performance, and the Green Room Gang shows no sign of losing interest.
The livestream happens at 4pm Pacific time every day (except for scheduled absences), and usually goes for 60-70 minutes. I stream live on four platforms:
Tip jar, CDs, signed books, and mugs: https://perfectible.net