In 1971, Pete Townshend was working on a sequel to his landmark rock opera Tommy called Lifehouse. The story was complex. So much so that even he couldn’t fully explain it to all around him including his band and production team. It eventually got whittled down into a single album that many of us know and love as a hard rock landmark called Who’s Next.
Without going into too much detail, a description from the Wiki gives you some idea of where Pete was headed with this work:
“In the world the album is set in, pollution is so bad that the populace are forced to wear Lifesuits, suits that could simulate all experiences in a way that no one would have to leave home. The suits are plugged into a huge mainframe called the Grid which also contains tubes for sleeping gas, food, and entertainment…”
There is much more to it and the story ends with a sort of futuristic Woodstock with everyone experiencing concert Nirvana linked together via their Lifesuits. This was an idea in 1971 folks — Pete Townshend was, in many ways, predicting the Internet as we might know it at some point in the future!
Nearly 50 years later, we still haven’t gotten our Lifesuits yet. Virtual reality concerts are probably still ways off as a mass market commercial entity. And while live streaming has been around for a bit, it hasn’t quite caught on as much more than a supplement to concert touring and merchandise sales for 21st century artists.
Until, perhaps, now…
The current Coronavirus / Covid-19 global pandemic has spurred some fascinating online concert streaming momentum rather quickly for musicians around the world. With musicians unable to play concerts and tour — their primary means for making a living these days — there have been numerous announcements about virtual concerts online, some of which are free and others which are accepting funds (via services like Paypal) to help their favorite artists.
Here is a rundown of some shows ‘n streams we have recently learned about which you may want to check out (click on the subhead lines below as well as any underlined text for links). Some are even streaming in audiophile quality sound:
As part of MQA’s Master Sessions — streamed in real time using MQA sound — Production Park’s The Mill Studio in London just yesterday live-streamed a showcase in support of the UK bands / artists who were set to perform at the recently cancelled South by Southwest (aka SXSW) music conference. MQA captured the performances in 24-bit/96kHz fidelity and HD videos of the performances will be archived for playback at https://www.mqa.co.uk/mqa-live. The stream was hosted on WhatHifi‘s YouTube channel (click here).
Thomas Walsh is a performer I’ve watched live stream numerous times on Facebook, well before the current isolation scenario. He delivers quite wonderful impromptu live acoustic concerts, often from his home in Ireland (or wherever he might be traveling). He has a show coming up on Friday, March 20th via his Facebook page.
Can’t say enough about this man’s buttery sound which drips in the deep English music muffin nooks ‘n crannies between XTC, ELO, Badfinger and The Kinks. His rich vocal flavor falls somewhere between ELO’s Jeff Lynne, Badfinger’s Pete Ham and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. Most importantly, the guy can write a tasty tune. I’ve reviewed a number of the fine vinyl reissues made with his band Pugwash including (click on the titles to jump to the reviews): The Olympus Sound, Silverlake, Almanac, Almond Tea and Play This Intimately.
As I was writing up this story, I learned of a fabulous brand new Facebook group that just got going this week designed exactly with this concept in mind. Formed on March 17th, it already has 522 followers as of this writing! From its description: “So you’re a musician and all your gigs have been canceled? You love going out for live music but all the bars and venues are closed? Here’s a place to live stream and watch live streams! Have fun, and don’t let this pandemic stop you from enjoying playing and listening to music!” There are already a number of videos posted and I suspect you’ll see more soon (heck, I plan to post one or two there myself!)
Alt-country/roots online ‘zine/blog Americana Highways has launched a live streaming music series featuring four acts per night, six days per week from 7 to 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. As of this writing they are already booked solid for four weeks! They are live streaming this shows from their Facebook page — each artist is made temporary admin for the night. To help the artists they pass the virtual tip jar (Paypal/Venmo link) in the comments section during the show. The shows are archived on the Americana Highways page so they can be re-shared after the performances. You can read more about this series on their website (click here)
She is a Grammy nominee and seven-time Blues Music Award winner including B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year, Song of the Year as well as 28 additional nominations! Ms. Janiva Magness is live streaming a concert tonight (!) Thursday March 19th (9:30 p.m. EST, 6:30 p.m. PST) via the Americana Highways Facebook page. Check out her website and music at http://www.janivamagness.com/about/
He’s been described as an”Acoustic singer-songwriter, with Jazz, R&B, Celtic influences, as if Joni Mitchell and Al Jarreau had a baby with Richard Thompson as midwife.” Clearly defying stereotypes, Vance tells us that “upcoming themes will be all request night, all jazz standard night, mostly Country or Bossa Nova, and Motown/Philly Sound for Solo Guitar and Voice, and Old Vance Songs Re-Worked Night.” Vance has a new album out called Good Good Man, available via CD Baby and Amazon. Vance’s live streaming party happens Monday nights at 7:30 P.M. on Facebook. Check out his website and music at https://vancegilbert.com
If you know of other cool live streams happening, please post information about them in the comments section below. Let’s help spread the word so more artists can get seen and heard while we are all helping to contain this awful virus.