March 12 marks the two-year anniversary of Maine’s first case of COVID-19, and so this week I spoke to local musicians about how the pandemic has changed Maine’s music scene and them as artists.
From panic attacks to longing for the stage and the ability to rest and recharge, Maine musicians have been through it all during this pandemic and have shown their resilience and creativity.
But now, two years after touring came to a screeching halt and local performances vaporized virtually overnight, shows are in full swing, albums are coming out, tour vans are filling up and tickets are selling out. I’m crossing my fingers that this forward momentum continues.
Still, there’s no doubt that Maine’s music scene and the musicians themselves have been permanently altered — even if, they said, not for the worse.
A local loss that cannot be ignored, however, is the closure of the 500-capacity Port City Music Hall in Portland during the summer of 2020. As noted by rapper Ryan Peters, aka Spose, based in Sanford, it was an essential stepping stone for new local artists to play before moving on to bigger spaces like Aura and the State Theater.
“Now I don’t know how an up-and-coming artist could do that,” said Peters, who released double album “Get Rich Or Die Ryan” last year and is planning a summer tour to support it.
But maybe it’s not as necessary as before, because of something else that happened.
“The other big change is the even greater focus on streaming and the de-emphasis on any local aspect of local artists,” Peters said.
Musicians in their teens and early 20s are now turning to Spotify and TikTok as gateways to a music career, rather than playing local clubs, and they’re going, as Peters put it, “from the bedroom straight to giant venues, basically. ”
For musicians who were busy working on musical projects during the lockdown, the change of pace was an opportunity.
“The musicians all had two years to grow up behind closed doors,” said Viva, the Portland-based singer.
Anna Lombard, vocalist of roots band Love By Numb3rs and also a solo artist at Westbrook, agreed, “We had to take a break and recalibrate.”
Portland singer-songwriter Jenny Van West said despite the many struggles and uncertainties, she enjoyed the break and came out on top.
“I like to think that the past two years have made us slightly better people, and I intend to contribute my share of that for myself and for others through music in the studio, with my colleagues here and elsewhere, and on microphones in international locations. .”
The challenge of finding ways to keep performing is also something they believe will have a positive long-term effect.
“I feel like the musicians worked harder because we were hit with such a disastrous blow of losing live music, we had to get more creative, more experimental,” Lombard said.
One such creative trend that Viva hopes to keep is live-streaming shows.
But their appreciation for performing in front of audiences also grew, and for Lombard, the anticipation of eventually returning to the stage motivated her to keep creating.
“I have to find the beauty in the loss,” said Lombard, who just released single “Push,” which she recorded with OHX, the music collective of producers and musicians led by Andy Mead. “The comfort and sense of community and togetherness that live music will always bring, that will never change.”
Viva, who will be performing several shows in the coming months with Palaver Strings, hopes fans will understand this and show up for the shows.
“What we need is for the public to dedicate the same level of support that they have shown us time and time again over the past couple of years,” she said.