Going Live: The Hits

What does live music look like now? What will it look like moving forward? There is so much uncertainty and too many unknowns to predict what it will look like with any degree of specificity. Since around March 16 it’s looked like a flurry of live streamed performances across various social media platforms. There have been hits and misses. We started our very own GW Covid Concert Series back in that mid March timeframe with Jack Barksdale. We attempted to be innovative and involve Twitch, Instagram and YouTube as the platforms. It sounded and looked great. The interface was super cool. On our side.

The problem we encountered is that the audience is almost solely on Facebook. So, we adapted to Instagram and Facebook. Continually, our Instagram numbers were dwarfed by Facebook. The available data shows why. There are billions of Facebook users. And, despite what we all may think in our plugged in lives of Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, TikTok etc…they’re all standing in the shadows of Facebook. For better or worse.

Anyhow, by the middle of our run, we decided to strip things down, simplify and join the crowd. Our concerts would all be hosted solely on Facebook. We had some truly great moments. Over 40 artists ranging in all manner of stature, style and tech savvy joined our showcase. We are grateful for all that shared their time and talent with us. Everything that happened between that first Jack Barksdale show and Saturday night’s Jacob Furr/Ryan Tharp show has been great. But, we are pressing pause on the live streams for a bit. There can be too much of a good thing and what was once fresh and cool two months ago now feels tired and old. At least for now.

With that in mind, I thought I’d round up some of our favorite live streaming moments and set-ups of the past two months. Some from our series, some not. It has been cool to watch the evolution of people just singing into their phones to more elaborate set-ups with camera angles, pro microphones and sound mixers.

Without further adieu, here are the best moments/streams March-May 2020. Embedded when possible, otherwise linked.

Wade Bowen’s “Wade’s World”. Wade foresaw where things were going before anyone else. He invested in the proper equipment, taught himself on the fly how to operate it and set about booking friends and colleagues he found interesting. He was able to make his streams more like a laid back talk show hang than a song swap.

Garrett Bryan’s GW Covid Concert Series performance. Eschewing the traditional guitar model, Bryan hauled an old piano out by a swimming pool, started some fires, then proceeded to light the stream on fire. It was pure, raw energy harnessed into nearly two hours of unbridled performance.

Josh Grider’s “Grider Family Happy Hour”. Grider smartly chose to separate himself from the nightly fray of umpteen streaming options by blocking off Friday’s at 5pm for a happy hour set featuring his talented wife Kristi and ocassionally their two boys. It was different, free-flowing and fun.

Ryan Bingham’s “Cantina Sessions”. Each day since mid-March Ryan Bingham has sat down on a barstool at his home oasis and strummed songs of all kinds. His own. Tribute covers. Random things he learned. And just about all of them have been home runs.

K Phillips – “Live From Mevo/Live From the End of Time”. K Phillips’ engineered an intriguing setup of keys, guitars, cameras, mics and ambient vibe that is as perfectly K as it could be. K has long been a unique troubadour, with his Leon Russell-esque music and varied artistic interests. This was a true showcase.

Sequestered Songwriters. A weekly marathon of tribute covers from a familiar cast of characters. Created and organized by Courtney Patton and Jason Eady, the series, at times, has grown to marathon lengths that could possibly be best served by some sort of trimming of the roster each week. But, the pure joy and happiness of the best moments of this series make the overwhelming nature of it worth it.

BJ Barham’s daily video. Barham began the quarantine playing sets on StageIt. Full American Aquarium albums front to back in order. He was soon supplementing it by posting a daily video to his socials of him playing requests, originals and most heartily covers that inspired him. Everything from Sawyer Brown to Lucero. Hearing the gravel throated Barham take on some of the most classic hits of the 90’s country wave was a true delight.

Pat Green’s songs. Pat’s growth into stoic and happy elder statesman status hasn’t been without bumps along the way, but the end result of a content and at peace Pat Green has been one of the coolest things to watch over the past couple years. During the quarantine, Pat revisited the bright spots of his canon and enthusiastically belted them out with a smile on his face. Pat’s happiness at this stage of his career and life transcended the screen and brought peace to thousands.

-Drew Kennedy’s “Monday Night From the Backyard”. Drew was playing live stream shows long before anyone else. Years back he was doing them as a way to connect and interact with his fans. So, he was uniquely equipped to make this happen. He’s done albums in sequence, tribute songs, requests, told stories, given drink recipes, told more stories and been eternally Drew Kennedy through it all. In the midst of the quarantine, DK even found time to shoot a no contact music video (below).

-Josh Grider’s GW Covid Concert Series performance. It’s weird to add one artist to this list twice, but Grider earned it. When it came time for him to perform for our Galleywinter series, he chose to take a different approach than others had anywhere really. He talked through a raw, introspective career retrospective. Things he wished he could have done differently, things he’s glad happened as they did. Where he’s been, where he is and where he hopes to end up. It’s one of the most real things we saw all quarantine in any medium and definitely one of the most behind the curtain looks any artist has ever given their fans.

Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief

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