Little Italy

COVID-19 Forces Local Musicians to Adapt

With bars and nightclubs shut down, COVID has local musicians performing in locations they had never thought of before

NBC Universal, Inc.

Playing in front of a crowd in a dark bar with sticky floors was a nightly ritual for many local musicians before COVID-19 struck, shuttering bars and nightclubs.

Left without a paycheck, many musicians had to find new sources of income. Guitarist Laura Chavez was forced to adapt just like everyone else.

"The music business is: You often have your whole year planned out ahead 12 months," Chavez said. "Now there's no knowing what's going to happen in 12 months."

This summer, Chavez and her band Chicken Bone Slim & the Biscuits started performing on their lead singer's front porch in Normal Heights.

"We figured, 'Well, we'll make our own gigs, we'll make our own shows and people can come as long as they behave themselves,' " Chavez said.

The monthly gigs on the front porch quickly turned into playing in the streets of Little Italy, despite the public health order's prohibition on live entertainment, the very restriction that prompted the closure of the nightclubs in the first place. Busking for the crowd has helped keep food on the table and the guitar playing helped relieve Chavez's stress.

"I mean, it's definitely like a huge emotional outlet, whether it's just turning off the rest of the world and getting, you know, completely immersed in the song or whatever's happening,"

As music venues face uncertainty, Chavez says her worries aren't about herself but are for her friends who own bars and her fellow musicians.

"Everybody's like, 'We can't wait till music comes back,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I hope that there's a venue for us to play in when it comes back,' " Chavez said.

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