Walking into a venue and feeling the excitement as a band takes the stage is familiar to many Southern Miss students. When large gatherings were prohibited because of COVID-19, bands around Hattiesburg no longer had venues to perform at and fans could no longer attend live performances.
One service, called LIVE: From a Safe Distance, offers bands the chance to still perform for audiences through live streaming. The live streams give musicians a chance to perform for their fans again, and for fans to watch a live show from the safety of their homes.
LIVE uses a number of venues for bands to perform at and allows fans to donate to the band through Venmo.
Musician Stephen Scott is one of the founders of LIVE. Scott said he was going to do live streams for himself as a way to earn money, but teamed up with David Gustafson instead to start LIVE.
“David had Signature’s resources and some cool camera gear,” Scott said. “The mayor made an address on the first [live stream,] and it just seemed like something we should keep doing.”
Scott said he is a firm believer that sustaining the arts through the pandemic is, and should be, an essential effort.
“If we don’t maintain our sense of culture and community in regards to the arts, I’m not entirely sure we deserve to see the other side of it,” Scott said.
Lee Chambliss provides vocals and guitar to The Prom Knights, a band from Hattiesburg. Chambliss said the band was contacted by LIVE, and that it feels great knowing that the community is still supporting bands.
“We didn’t expect a lot of our fans to watch, much less tip us,” Chambliss said. “But not just us. All the acts have been receiving great support from the community.”
The venues hosting the live streams are empty except for the band performing. Musicians also perform and record the live streams from their homes.
“We have ported in clips, recorded in their home, of 40 or so different artists into the live stream,” Scott said.
Venues are used for the live streams to make bands feel like they are performing, as well as for the band’s safety. Scott said LIVE has relative to complete control over the environments being used.
“The places we are using are closed to the public and are donating their time and resources to these artists,” Scott said. “In the case of Brewsky’s, for example, we are the only people who have been in the space in nearly a month.”
Chambliss said it is weird to play at Brewsky’s during the live streams.
“We played at Brewsky’s, which is normally packed, but it was more strange to not have all of our friends there,” Chambliss said.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T-Bones, one of the venues that hosts LIVE three nights out of the week. Davis said the first broadcast from T-Bones was the Sunday Jazz Lunch with Shaquan Robinson and David Pellow on March 22.
“We feel that we are finding a new normal from this unfortunate circumstance,” Davis said. “While attending a show online is not the same experience, it presents a great opportunity for more intimate performances and better exposure to the new and unfamiliar.”
Davis said since LIVE started, more and more artists are firing up Facebook and Instagram with more serious shows. Davis said it is being reported that bands are being booked for other avenues because of their live streamed shows.
Davis also said that listening to bands through LIVE can help give a sense of restoration that helps cope with the ‘ghost town’ feeling of being stuck at home. The live streams are for all ages and tastes, with efforts being made to keep the shows safe and enjoyable for all who watch.
“The musicians love an audience, so please tune in and share with your friends,” Davis said. “They are all used to playing in front of live audiences and love to know just who is out there, no matter what distance.”
Scott said it is more important than ever to support local bands. He also said that the income many people rely on has completely dried up. Davis agreed.
“With entire tours canceled, fairs and markets being shuttered and even the ability to give one-on-one music lessons taken away, they have no revenue,” Davis said. “As for the artists themselves, these individuals and groups make Hattiesburg unique and more attractive to those who are watching these broadcasts from out of town.”
The live streams can be found by searching for LIVE: From a Safe Distance on Facebook.