by Jonathan Birdsong
Without question, the viral pandemic of 2020 has put humanity in check. World-wide governmental shutdowns on communal activities and orders to stay at home to limit potential viral interactions has come with a myriad of feelings, from self-preservation to anxiety.
We tend to be social butterflies by nature. Americans, especially, as we follow a traditional holiday gathering schedule that ranges from spring to winter. From Valentine’s Day to Christmas to New Year’s Day, festive revel is just sort of built into the American way of life.
Even in our person-to-person greetings, we seldom leave it to just saying “Hello” or even a simple handshake. We’re the country that invented the celebratory team high five (we can thank MLB baseball for that), and I’m fairly sure “the dap” originated from the Black Panther movement. Regardless of our varying backgrounds, Americans thrive on physical greeting and interaction.
So, unless you’re a person that already suffers from an extreme case of agoraphobia as Sigorney Weaver’s character did in the movie “Copycat,” or are accustomed to or comfortable with solitude — however necessary — the pandemic, and the subsequent isolation attached to it, comes with a significant weight of fear and stress.
Stay at home, stay safe are new norms that we don’t have official Cliffs Notes for. The very nature of quarantine keeps us distanced from our loved ones, as we don’t have total accessibility to our safety net of family and friends or the ability to “lean on one another” as the late Bill Withers once expressed in song.
How we get through this crisis together — while still practicing social distance — is still much of a mixed bag of answers. But the phenomenon that has been most encouraging in helping satisfy our need for connectivity is the music industry’s reaction to the pandemic.
Turning their affected “gig life” into an opportunity to not only entertain and promote their music, but to also help connect people worldwide, techno-savvy musicians have transformed their TikTok and Instagram live feeds into bi-weekly, mini living room concerts.
Who knew the random Tuesday in mid-March when celebrity DJ to the stars, D-Nice decided to turn his sporadically used IG account into an instant-party that his play would not only be a cure to break up some of the monotony that comes along quarantine life, but also be replicated in grassroots style by his industry peers.
Coming in the form of DJ battles, and other toned-down less pomp-and-circumstance performances, not only have the hip-hop likeminded such as Questlove and Erykah Badu contributed, but R&B legends Babyface and Teddy Riley have joined in the efforts to help rally spirits.
Of course, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, beat the heat or pass the quarantine blues. Though there is nothing quite like seeing a show in person, these “quarantine concerts” are playing a fascinating role in keeping the general public uplifted. Each live show provides a unique and often unfiltered side than fans aren’t privy to, offering a deeper look into the artist as whole. Through these at-home shows, they’ve found a niche opportunity to blend performance with community service. And like their viewers, artists are looking for ways to stay hopeful.