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Playin’ in the Rain

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Playin’ in the Rain

Between Covid and the weather, can a musician get a gig anymore? September 18, 2020
Arts and Culture

I’m a musician who deals with rainouts, almost like a baseball player. When it’s raining, I’m out of a gig. Because of Covid, my last indoor gig was five months ago. I’ve still got a few outdoor gigs lined up for this month. Then what?

My band, Funk a Deli, plays a mix of klezmer and funk. We were big on the summer circuit in suburban Cleveland. Every year since 1989, we’ve played an outdoor show for the city of University Heights. We were perfect. University Heights is diverse, and so is Funk a Deli: black, white, Jewish, male, and female. We check all the boxes except “weather.”

Last year, the mayor of University Heights sang “Kiss” by Prince with us. (Yes, the mayor is cooler than the band.) This summer, we would have had a blast—more Prince, with social distancing and masks. No close contact: there are no mosh pits or head bangers at klezmer shows. But the city canceled all its summer concerts.

I’ve checked out the competition. I played in a Jewish “praise” band at a drive-in post-Sabbath service at a temple. (By the way, the best car for a drive-in gig is a convertible. You sit on the car’s rear deck and don’t have to schlep lounge chairs.) That was a balmy night—that Saturday night.

I stopped by a church service a few Sundays ago. I heard the music from my bedroom, and the band sounded good, so I went over to the church parking lot. The band, plus a gospel choir, were all scrunched under two pop-up tents. The pastor said, “Every Sunday this month it was sunny, and now it’s raining.” Then it stopped.

We’re scheduled to play an assisted-living facility this week. We’ll set up under a sizeable portico. We’re good, unless it gets “stormy,” the coordinator emailed me. I’m not expecting much of a crowd. These days concerts at senior-housing sites have small audiences, seated in widely spaced chairs. Our last audience was six people—by design. The listeners sat in the nursing-home dining room, and we were in the courtyard, playing through windows and a propped-open door. We added “Moscow Nights” to the setlist because there was an enthusiastic Russian fan. The other five “listeners” ate lunch while watching the muted, captioned TV weather report. I watched the TV, too. It’s doable, playing clarinet while checking out the “winds on the lake”—Lake Erie.

It is eerie. Non-musicians don’t realize how bad it is out there: basically, no work. What about October? I won’t play below 40 degrees. The fingers don’t work.

Photo: Spitzt-Foto/iStock

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