Music starting to return to bars, restaurants

Stop! Children, what’s that sound?

It’s local musicians starting to play for real live audiences instead of virtual ones.

Bars and indoor dining at restaurants resumed in Ohio last week, and venues are allowed to have live music, as long as they could adhere to the social distancing guidelines and other restrictions still in place for those types of businesses.

It certainly isn’t back to normal — no dance floors, no crowds gathering at the front of the stage, musicians have to keep at least six feet from the audience members and even their own bandmates — but performers and venues got a chance to figure out how to make the new rules work.

Downtown Warren’s Speakeasy Lounge reopened Friday with music from Pink Moon, and Pam Schofer, who co-owns the bar / restaurant with her husband, Tony, said they were happy to be back in business.

“The first weekend went really well,” she said. “We did a dry run on Thursday, just for friends and family, and did see some things we needed to tweak. But everyone complied and did a wonderful job.”

Only parties that arrive together can sit together, and tables are spaced away from the performers and apart from each other to maintain social distancing.

The acoustic duo Davis & Henner will play there on Friday. Before the pandemic, the Speakeasy traditionally featured live entertainment at least two nights a week.

“We’ll probably cut back to just one until will get our feet back under us and know what to expect,” she said.

Singer-guitar player Steve Vuich, who normally works about five nights a week between hosting open mic nights, playing solo gigs and performing with The River Saints, played his first public gig in 10 weeks on Sunday at Homestead Kitchen & Cocktails in Columbiana.

“It was just like riding a bike,” Vuich said.

He’s been livestreaming performances on Facebook most days during the stay-at-home order. Those shows tend to run an hour or less. On Sunday he turned what normally would have been a three-hour gig into a four-and-a-half-hour show.

“I’m used to doing three-, four-hour gigs straight through,” he said. “When I do the live things on Facebook, after an hour, not only do I get bored with myself, but I think the audience gets bored too.”

Vuich praised the social-distancing and cleanliness guidelines put in place by Homestead, and he even played the first part of the show with a mask on until it became obvious that the customers were going to stay far enough away that it wasn’t necessary.

Not only was Vuich happy to be playing for people in front of him, but the crowd seemed more attentive, and there was more applause between songs.

Vuich performs Friday at Peter Allen Inn in Kinsman, and he stopped by there last weekend to see what guidelines that venue would have in place for his gig. He’s helping to care for his ailing father and his mother still is living. Vuich is taking the precautions seriously and wants the places he plays to do the same.

“I’ve said before, I have been broke. You can come back from broke. You can’t come back from dead.”

Others have been finding other ways to get themselves heard while some venues stay closed and others ease back into action.

The River Rock at the Amp series is postponed until at least July, but groups of musicians have shown up several times in the last month to jam at the Warren Community Amphitheatre and play for whoever happens to walk by.

Bridget Reckless and Ann Rock of Youngstown’s The Super Babes played a “driveway” concert on Sunday afternoon that they publicized through their social media accounts.

In addition to bringing out their neighbors, they had fans make the trek from as far away as Cleveland to see the show.

“Obviously, we miss playing, as many bands do,” Reckless said. “We had shows we were supposed to play in Cleveland, Akron and Canton, and just had the idea to do it ourselves. That’s our thing — DIY. Let’s just do in in our own driveway.”

They put Xs in the yard so people knew how far apart to stand to maintain social-distancing guidelines. And because it was outdoors, they believed people were more comfortable attending.

“It really allowed us to provide an environment to enjoy music,” Rock said. “Everyone forgot what was going on at the moment, and it was just a concert.”

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@tribtoday.com.


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