Every gig got cancelled.
Then, a short pause.
Then, online live shows began bubbling up and over the lid of the internet.
Now a veritable phenomenon, examples of coordinated and impromptu performance are everywhere on social media: story book hours, dance-a-days, video projects of apartment-bound academics on sabbatical in Spain.
Musicians are finding new ways to jam, to create, and to perform. NPR is curating a list of live music shows for artists around the country.
Here in Connecticut, songwriter and New-Haven based performer Sarah B. Golley organized an ongoing local event, “The Quarantined Series: A Series of Online Shows to Enjoy While We Are All Practicing Social Distancing.” Sarah put the word out on a Facebook group page: “Let me know a date, time, and band name and I’ll add you.” In two weeks of shows, there have sometimes been up to six live streams a day, streaming rights from artists’ homes.
One of the early shows was on Thursday March 19th. An Historic, otherwise known as Adam Matlock, performed an hour of original songs.
Matlock is a New Haven musician, composer, performer, and music educator. He’s a performer with serious musical chops and a disarming levity. Matlock sprang into life-feed action on his YouTube Channel at precisely 6:55PM for his 7:00 show. Completely in his element in the music corner of his home, he sat on a swivel chair behind a microphone with his accordion. A two-level keyboard hovered enticingly within reach, but Matlock stuck to his conveniently portable keyboard, along with several backup tracks keyed to his smartphone.
Matlock performed layered, densely woven song compositions. His work is fantastical, introspective, and sometimes sci-fi visionary and action-hero-driven. His self-accompaniment on accordion was expert and whimsical. He began songs with flairs and ended with cliff-hanger conclusions. His voice moved through a wide solid range, hitting blue notes and progressive rock notes and contemporary Broadway notes.
There’s a lot going on in Matlock’s music: Stephen Sondheim meets Antony & the Johnsons meets Edith Piaf meets Erasure meets Ma Rainey. And there’s the “Balkan and Klezmer music, Soul, and various strains of rock” that Matlock himself mentions.
Matlock is prolific. He covers many genres. He can be found on his Youtube channel playing excellent covers of Taylor Swift and Dead Can Dance songs, along with Russian folk and play station theme tunes. There is a playful, egalitarian spirit about Matlock. He sources from everything.
This is one of the hallmarks of artists who are in it for the long haul: they disdain nothing and use everything. Although – not always all at the same time. Late in Matlock’s set came the song “Make Plans,” from a 2018 EP, about the overwhelming pace of day-to-day life. This song had a surprising moment in the middle: the tempo slowed to a ritardando and then paused. There was a moment of silence, a real breather.
Matlock slowly began again, with a different pace, and a different feel.
In An Historic’s hour of songs, this was the only time such a moment of spaciousness happened. It was refreshing. It made this listener think: how might it be useful to use less material, per song? And, how might it be just the right thing for a song to do nothing, more often?
Clare Byrne is a dancer-and-choreographer-turned-songwriter who has performed and taught in New York City and environs, Burlington, VT, and around the world. In addition to songwriting via guitar, harmonica and piano, her multi-art projects have included Weekly Rites, an improvisational dance blog, and The Poor Sister Clares Traveling Dancing Monk Show, an experiment in gospel dance and gardening in Vermont.