The summer of 2020 was a bleak time for musicians everywhere, especially those performing live shows. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged throughout the world, people were forced to spend much of their summers hunkered down, biding their time until life began to return to normal.
However, to say no good music came out of this time would be a lie. Many artists capitalized on their newfound abundance of free time to write and record. Nonetheless, there was a sense of tension regarding what would become of the music industry.
However, the summer of 2021 was a completely different picture. With a brief window of semi-normalcy made possible by the COVID-19 vaccines before the Delta Variant began fighting back, music surged back into the world. Suddenly, concerts and other live music events became commonplace once more. Although there were still certain rules in place to mitigate the re-emergence of the Coronavirus, live music was definitely back in season.
Rhode Island was no exception to this resurgence. As people began to feel more comfortable stepping out of the safety of their homes, Providence venues such as Dusk and Askew offered them fun places to go. The former began to host spacious outdoor shows and the latter hosted socially-distanced open mic nights. Eventually, as COVID-19 cases lowered even more, both of these places began to host weekly concerts that were booked in the blink of an eye. Local bands jumped at the chance to get back to doing what they love, and many played to record crowds as Rhode Islanders, starved of the live music experience, flocked to shows.
The need for live music was so great that some bands took matters into their own hands and hosted large house shows as the most popular local venues slowly reopened. For instance, Atomic Action and Youth Distribute, two record labels from Middletown, Rhode Island, threw barn shows. The first one of these performances was hosted on June 14 at Simmons Farm and featured a bill including local legends Bullet Proof Backpack as well as Massachusetts screamers Peace Test, New Hampshire-based hardcore band Tossed Aside, and the righteous fury of New Jersey band Gel. Despite the threat of downpours, people showed up en masse to throw down in the mosh pit. Merch was sold in spades, as was vegan food from the Born From Pain food truck. The show ended as lightning began crashing all around, providing a dramatic conclusion to an intense but welcome experience.
Another example of a house venue offering a unique live experience this past summer was the Lake House in North Smithfield. Hosted by Seb Toledo of the band Amanita, shows were held out among the trees near a serene lake. While bands played, attendees could go cool down from the summer heat or simply relax near the water. The atmosphere of this venue is unlike any other in the area, and it will be interesting to see what they do next.
Famed venue AS220, located in downtown Providence, mainly stuck to livestreams. However, referring to these productions as “livestreams” would be somewhat inaccurate, as their production quality was off the charts. Recently, AS220 has begun allowing people back inside their doors, combining limited capacity concerts with their high-grade video productions. This setup gives bands the unique opportunity to have professional live footage and audio at their disposal, an asset that local music groups hardly ever have. These recordings could help give local bands a more legitimate sheen, and AS220 are doing the scene a great service.
Although the Delta Variant now seems to be lurking around every corner, local music does not appear to be going anywhere for now. Hopefully, the forward momentum established during the summer months can continue into the fall, giving local bands more of a chance to do what they do best: create and perform.