Just because we’re all stuck inside doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some live entertainment, so this week associate editor Laura Adamczyk is asking:
What is the best live event you’ve watched in quarantine?
Months ago, I bought tickets to an Old 97’s show at Evanston’s SPACE venue, which, like everything else, was canceled earlier this spring. But Rhett Miller, bless his soft boy heart, has been performing a series of weekly shows from home via Stageit. Last week, I was able to livestream his full play of Too Far To Care, one of my absolute favorite albums. Miller made the show feel cozy yet rowdy, kicking things off with the closer “Timebomb,” and sharing great stories about life on the road. It wasn’t quite the same as watching the full band play the album at the Vic, which I did for my birthday in 2012, but at last I didn’t have to figure out how to get home after.
For me, the best live events right now are those that ask little to nothing of viewers. Even just listening to literary readings or discussions engage me more directly than I want to be engaged, which is why I’ve been grateful for friends’ DJ nights and listening parties. I sit on my couch, make myself a drink, and sometimes read while tuning in. The most I participate is typing a “hell yeah” into Twitch’s chat window whenever I really like a song or transition. A.V. Club contributor Marty Sartini Garner has spun a couple times since the shutdown was instated, and they’ve been incredibly chill, fun nights (he usually announces his sessions on his Twitter account). There’s always something great I’ve never heard before, like Jorge Ben Jor’s “Zumbi,” and all I have to do is write down the name and look into the band or musician later, or not.
Live performance moving online has had the unintended effect of allowing folks spread around the country—and the world—to find their tribe via different paths, which brings me to the Big Ass Telethon To End Metronormativity. Early on in the crisis, an Instagram account I follow called Queer Appalachia made a post in which they noted that disabled and/or rural people in their network were experiencing queer nightlife for the first time now that it had moved online, which got me thinking about the phenomenon in a new way. They followed through with the telethon, in which drag performers, musicians, comedians, and activists whose work normally doesn’t get seen by urban eyeballs like mine came right into my living room. Hannah Mayree played the banjo, Erin McKeown and Shamir played guitar, Davey Swinton lip-synched to “Dancing With Myself” encased in a giant plastic bubble, and JayBella Banks twerked behind bottles of hand sanitizer to the tune of “Fuck Corona.” It’s not an exaggeration to say it restored my faith in humanity, and they’re throwing another one on Twitch on May 29, should you like to feel creatively reinvigorated as well.
It’s official: Saturday nights are now Verzuz Nights in my household. These friendly “battles” between some of the biggest figures in Black music have morphed into virtual must-watch events with my friends as we relive our collective youth, hit after well-worn hit. They’ve become the centerpiece of any Saturday night plans we may attempt to have (perhaps foolishly, as menacing tech issues have cut more than one battle short). More than the music, I love watching pop culture icons take a moment to pay tribute to each other, even as they boast of their own successful careers. I never thought I’d spend this much time on Instagram voluntarily, but for once I’m happier for it.
One of my favorite podcasts, Blocked Party, was set to host its first live show just before the lockdowns went into effect, but it made a quick pivot into livestreams, which have become one of the only virtual events I’ve been spurred to attend. So far, the shows find Blocked Party and a guest relaying good stories about getting blocked on Twitter—the podcast’s raison d’etre—alongside videos of the weirdest clips they’ve found (or purchased) on Cameo. But the latest featured the funniest, most jaw-droppingly disturbing clips they’ve dug up on YouTube. Considering co-host Stefan Heck is one of our foremost curators of online cringe, the results weren’t your typical viral cache. You have to donate to their Patreon for access, but, considering Blocked Party has offered me more laughs than anyone since quarantine started, I’d say it’s more than worth it.