Music

Downtown Sounds

Live in your living room

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

If it seems to you that I’m writing about the perils and pitfalls facing our music venues on a near-weekly basis these days, it’s probably because that’s what I’m doing. Yes, musicians are finding ways to harness online technologies to keep bringing music to their audiences. Sure, artists are heading into the studio to record. Those things are happening. They are inspiring. The way that music-makers have adapted to COVID-19 and the shutdown orders that have so profoundly affected everyone in the music sector makes me realize anew that people are creative and nimble with more than just their musical instruments.

But the story of this music scene—and the story of every music scene across the country—is the total and complete shutdown of music venues, along with the certainty that, without help, a fair number of them won’t ever open again. So far, I’ve focused on the big-picture, grand-scheme kind of help that needs to come from the federal government in the form of direct cash infusions and rent/mortgage relief because that’s an area in which awareness needs raising both among the general public and the politicians we elect to serve us.

I cannot overstate how vital calling and emailing our legislators to make clear that future forms of economic recovery must contain specific provisions to help our indie music venues are, and encourage you to continue to do so, and if you have not yet reached out, I implore you to devote five minutes of your time to that effort.

Calling and emailing politicians is certainly worthwhile—and if a critical mass of us applies that form of pressure, make no mistake, it will produce results—but it’s not exactly fun. It’s my belief that balance can and should be found in all things, even during COVID-19, and so you deserve to do some good while having a good time.

Someone who excels at the business of both of those things is Lindsey Payne Johnstone, Downtown Bellingham Partnership events director and the guiding light behind Downtown Sounds. As I’ve mentioned, when word came that Downtown Sounds would not and could not happen as it normally does—“normal” means cramming literal thousands of people into two blocks of Bellingham’s Central Business District, an obvious impossibility under the circumstances—Lindsey pivoted immediately to figuring out how she could bring us the wildly popular summer staple while still keeping everyone involved safe. And because the only thing greater than her ability to make things happen is the size of her heart, she wanted this year’s Downtown Sounds concert series—in whatever form it would take—to provide direct aid to our music venues.

So, Lindsey did what she always does when confronted by a daunting problem: She got to work.

The result of that work and brainstorming and creative planning is…Downtown Sounds, but not as we’re accustomed to seeing it. Instead she’s beaming a trio of concerts from local music venues into our homes, yards, garages—anywhere and everywhere—via Bellingham’s community television station BTV (Comcast channels 321 and 10) as well as at http://www.cob.org/btvlive.

Make no mistake, these are not your average livestreamed events.

Not content to merely book and broadcast bands, Lindsey instead wanted to make Downtown Sounds a fundraiser benefitting local music venues. Toward that end, she tapped a trio of our most beloved spots to see live music to enlist the talent with the idea that the Downtown Bellingham Partnership will provide a fundraising window we can use to donate to them. That fundraising portal is located at http://www.downtownbellingham.com/saveourstages.

“We understand livestream concerts are abundant right now,” Lindsey says. “Our goal is to help raise funds for these venues that we know and love. If you would normally be enjoying a beer or wine in the beverage garden on Bay Street, consider donating that $5 to our venue support fund.”

Best of all, the shows will be broadcast from the venues themselves, bringing us all closer to going to a show than we’ve been in literal months. So if you’ve been longing to see a show at the Wild Buffalo, tune in at 7pm Wed., Aug. 12 for Petty or Not. If it’s the Shakedown you require to scratch that itch, you’ll want to clear your schedule starting at 7pm Wed., Aug. 19 for Dryland and Mostafa with a live band. Lastly, Boundary Bay came incredibly close to offering bands in their beer garden before Gov. Inslee’s moratorium on all live music, indoor and out, but they’ll get a chance to entertain us thanks to Downtown Sounds and Hot Damn Scandal on Wed., Aug. 26.

What Lindsey especially wants to make clear is that resurrecting Downtown Sounds is secondary to resurrecting our music venues. Sure, the concerts are going to be pretty great, but their purpose is to raise money for the Wild Buffalo, Shakedown, and Boundary Bay. In light of that, she wants to make known that donations can be made anytime—you need not wait until the night of a particular show to open your wallet as wide as your heart.

“People can start donating now up until the series starts, during the series, etc.” she says. “We’re not just trying to make Downtown Sounds virtual; we’re trying to help save our venues.”

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