SEATTLE — The timing was particularly bad for Guy Keltner. The Acid Tongue frontman and Freakout Records co-founder was on the verge of releasing his band’s sophomore album when the cancellations started. That’s typically the leanest financial period for a young indie band, having invested time and money into an album and hoping to make it up on the road and selling records.
Boom, the outbreak struck. Suddenly, the Seattle/Los Angeles duo’s European tour was off, a festival-slot paycheck was gone and the physical release of their “Bullies” LP was delayed in Europe over distribution issues.
“Now that we’re here, we’re broke,” Keltner said. “We had everything banked on the next two months to recoup things and ... we’re kinda screwed. Just this month, I’m probably out $10,000 I needed.”
The icing on the cake: The garage rockers’ hometown release show at the Tractor Tavern, scheduled for March 13, was nixed at the last minute because of King County’s restrictions on gatherings to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. By chance, the band wound up filling in for a cancellation at the much smaller Belltown Yacht Club, playing to a reduced-capacity crowd and livestreaming the minishow online.
“No one has really set a precedent for how to handle the situation,” Keltner said of the livestreaming move, which cost him $75 in gear rental and a few favors from friends. “We know Seattle’s ground zero for the whole crisis, in the States at least. So I think we can set the tone for other bands and make the best of an awful situation.”
While Keltner’s band was one of the first, he’s hardly alone in his thinking. In the face of ever-tightening restrictions on gatherings, the past week has seen a wave of Seattle musicians and artists take their shows online.
Everyone from Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard — who on Tuesday launched an acoustic series that airs daily at 4 p.m. — to progressive jazz saxophonist Skerik is getting in on the livestreaming surge, with artists broadcasting from their homes or intimate locations, directly to your living room.
“I think it’s worth mentioning that I’m technically in my pajamas,” said a sockless Gibbard, hoisting a leg to flash his sweats during his first broadcast.
The thousands of fans who tuned in (and one trolling Death Cab member) flooded a live chat and comment section with requests and questions for the local indie rock star.
The content deluge is good news for bored quarantiners who already binged their favorite Netflix series (though we have some fresh recs for you). But for some local artists, the leap to livestreaming is a life preserver.
THE QUARANTINE SESSIONS
Since the global health crisis erupted _ with greater Seattle becoming the virus’ American epicenter _ Marina Albero has lost $5,500 (and counting) in gigs. Like many working artists, the jazz pianist doesn’t have a financial cushion to fall back on. In the age of diminished album sales, musicians are especially dependent on those live shows to cover the grocery bill. (Those fractional pennies from Spotify streams? Good for the occasional cup of coffee.) With the shutdown of local bars and music venues and heightened travel concerns, there are few places left for artists to punch the proverbial clock.
“It’s real that we need to start remotely working from home like the Microsoft people and other people who can do that,” Albero said.