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Eicher plans concert for church

Drive-in event to benefit food pantry

This week JD Eicher normally would be coming down from the high of his annual JD’s Summer Songfest in downtown Youngstown, one of the many music festivals and concerts canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(Last week) normally would have been a big hustle, getting everything together and gathering up stage supplies,” he said. “I was getting notifications like, ‘Make sure by Thursday you’ve got the green room together,’ updates that were no longer relevant. It’s a bummer. It’s such a special thing for the band and a lot of us to get together and enjoy live music in downtown Youngstown.”

Instead, Eicher is preparing for a drive-in concert at Canfield Presbyterian Church on Sept. 11 to generate donations for its Operation Blessing food pantry.

“I’ve done a couple wineries and places that have been able to open with social distancing, but this is really the first promotable event that feels safe (since the March shutdown),” he said.

Eicher said his friends Mark Williamson and Paula Stefanski were talking about the church’s plans to do outdoor services for which members of the congregation would be able to stay in their cars and hear and interact with the service broadcast over a radio frequencies to their car radios.

“They have a really nice set-up for this sort of thing, a large parking lot and it’s flat,” Eicher said.

The covered entry way to the church will serve as a covered stage area, and Eicher will set up a projection screen and a sound system for those who want to listen to the concert outside of their vehicle as well as a radio transmission for those who want to listen inside their vehicles.

“If I’ve learned anything from this time, you just roll with the punches and try to do the best job you can entertaining through new mediums and difficult situations,” Eicher said.

The hourlong solo performance will include “a mix of covers and originals with stories in between,” he said. “I won’t try to pull any crazy shenanigans. I just want to make sure it comes through clear for the audience. Hopefully, it will be a fun family outing and maybe a distraction for those who’ve been looking to get out.”

With a European tour and nearly all of his U.S. gigs canceled by the coronavirus, the Canfield-based singer-songwriter said he’s been focusing on creating videos and performances on Patreon, a service in which fans pay a fee to their favorite performers in exchange for exclusive content, and writing new material.

“I want to make sure I’m creating enough so when we are allowed to get out there on the road, I’ll have some songs to share,” Eicher said. “You can practice singing a song in your home a million times, but until you’re in front of a group in a performance situation, it doesn’t come out the same way. I don’t know if it’s endorphins or nerves, but it’s something you can’t replicate without an audience.”

The concert will start at 8:15 p.m. Sept. 11 and the gates will open at 7:30 p.m. The cost of admission is a non-perishable food donation to the church’s monthly pantry.

“It becomes extra important this time of year, when the holidays come up and the weather gets colder,” he said.

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