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Thanks to surging COVID-19 cases in California, SLO County's slow opening has come to a stop

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Here we go again. Just when it seemed like things were getting better, they're now worse. SLO County has more than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and by the time you read this, the number will be higher. We're lucky to have only six deaths out of California's 7,087. Last I checked, California had 336,508 confirmed cases. How did we get here?

CLOSED FOR YOUR PROTECTION The temporarily closed Fremont Theater recently sent out a survey about patron safety concerns while SLO County has once again shuttered all live music concerts, even outdoors. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FREMONT THEATER
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Fremont Theater
  • CLOSED FOR YOUR PROTECTION The temporarily closed Fremont Theater recently sent out a survey about patron safety concerns while SLO County has once again shuttered all live music concerts, even outdoors.

The hard truth is some of us are idiots, or "covidiots" in the parlance of social media. People are still arguing over masks, social distancing, calling the pandemic a hoax, arguing it's a Democratic ploy to keep Trump from re-election, saying Dr. Anthony Fauci is part of a conspiracy, asserting that the death numbers are inflated, that the novel coronavirus is no worse than the seasonal flu, and finally making the case that our economy is more important than public safety or that we need to let the disease run its course so we can built herd immunity. Why does everything have to become politicized? Why does tribalism trump common sense and critical thinking?

One of my Facebook friends posted a popular meme that reads, "If the masks work, why the 6 feet? If the 6 feet works, why the masks? If both work, why the lockdown?"

"If seatbelts work, why airbags? If airbags work, why crumple zones? Because each adds another layer of protection! Duh!" I replied.

"Air bags will break your face if you're not careful. So will falling for the scare tactics of a scamdemic!" my Facebook friend replied.

Sigh. This is what we're dealing with, and it's part of the reason why the outdoor concerts that were slowly springing up are now forbidden again. That's right! If you're going to an outdoor concert this weekend, be aware that the venue is operating illegally. According to the SLO County Health Department, the venue will be given a cease and desist order, and if they don't comply, the owner can be sentenced to six months in jail. Even if you're social distancing and wearing masks outdoors, the county's put the kibosh on all live music events.

Meanwhile, the willingness to present livestreaming shows has waned. Maybe that will change if the lockdown continues, but I know of no livestreaming shows happening this weekend. It's tough to be a live-music lover these days!

A musician friend says the vitriol and infighting happening in the local music community between those who understand the pandemic's danger and those who think it's a "scamdemic" are causing people to lose friendships over this. My friend preemptively canceled all his upcoming outdoor shows to show his support for the cause.

"It is a crazy time to be a musician or entertainer for sure," he told me. "I think all musicians and venues should be aware that this is the law though no one has come out and put it in print yet."

It's time to face the hard truth: If you want the economy to reopen, if you want live music back, if you want schools, theaters, and churches to open, it's time to suck it up, wear a mask (yeah, it should cover your nose), social distance when in public, and try to stay home as much as possible until health officials really get a handle on this new virus. We tried opening the economy in a way we thought was safe. It wasn't. Cases are surging again. This could drag on and on if we're not willing to make some sacrifices now for long-term gain later.

Fremont Theater recently sent a survey to their email list asking patrons what safety measures might lure them back into the theater when the state deems it safe and legal again. Most venues are taking this very seriously because it is serious. Everybody's hurting, some more than others, but can't we set aside our petty politics? Be safe. Be kind. Be patient.

YouTube to the rescue

It's not quite the same as seeing a live show or even a livestreamed show, but both the Jazz Vespers Concert Series at SLO's First Presbyterian Church and the SLO Jazz Federation have been consistently adding past recorded performances to their respective YouTube channels, which offer a much-appreciated chance to catch what at least feels like live music. You can find both channels by searching the two organizations' names in the YouTube search bar.

ALMOST CHURCH The Jazz Vespers Concert Series has made many of its First Presbyterian Church of SLO's concerts available on their YouTube channel. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JAZZ VESPERS CONCERT SERIES
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Jazz Vespers Concert Series
  • ALMOST CHURCH The Jazz Vespers Concert Series has made many of its First Presbyterian Church of SLO's concerts available on their YouTube channel.

"Until we can resume the Jazz Vespers Concert Series in person, we invite [the public] to enjoy our YouTube playlist of videos from past presentations," Craig Updegrove wrote via email. "The videos include performances by Dave Becker, Bruce Forman, Ron McCarley, Inga Swearingen, Marshall Otwell, Cuesta Voce, the Arthur White Sextet, The Rag Bone Saints, and many more."

Updegrove, who's also on the Jazz Fed board, wrote to say what's new on their YouTube channel: "New to our playlist this week, the Jazz Fed presents the Freddie Ravel Trio, recorded at the Jazz Fed's annual Piano Showcase in 1997. Growing up in San Luis Obispo, Ravel went on to become a member of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. He has worked with artists such as Sergio Mendes, Flora Purim, Bobby McFerrin, Carlos Santana, Madonna, Al Jarreau, and Prince.

RAVEL! The SLO Jazz Fed recently added pianist Freddie Ravel's 1997 performance at the Annual Piano Showcase to its YouTube channel. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FREDDIE RAVEL AND THE SLO JAZZ FEDERATION
  • Photo Courtesy Of Freddie Ravel And The Slo Jazz Federation
  • RAVEL! The SLO Jazz Fed recently added pianist Freddie Ravel's 1997 performance at the Annual Piano Showcase to its YouTube channel.

"Videos of SLO County Jazz Federation events and other jazz concerts from the 1980s to 2020 will be updated each week," Updegrove added. "Listeners can subscribe to this playlist. Look in coming weeks for videos featuring Deedie Ball and the Escorts, Bob Harway, Jon Faddis Quintet, Billy Taylor Trio, the Bruce Forman Quartet, and many others."

File this in the 'could be worse department'

Sheltering in place sucks, but at least you're not imprisoned. Chris Thatcher of 5W Public Relations recently sent me a list of the five "most popular songs for the incarcerated."

"Access to technology is essential for incarcerated people to stay connected with the outside world, earn an education, and overall get some entertainment to pass the time," Thatcher wrote. "With the recent pandemic, isolation has been really challenging for many, so what is helping pass the time while being cut off from the outside world? Music!"

Essentially, jpay.com lets people find their inmates and put some money in their accounts, allowing them to use it to download music. Thatcher calls jpay "a technology platform committed to making the experience easier for the incarcerated, [and] offers multiple services including entertainment, education, and communication with loved ones. Over the past few months, they've tracked the most downloaded songs from across the country, and the results are in."

YFN Lucci's "Wet" is first, followed by Future featuring Drake's "Life is Good (Remix)," Lil Baby's "Social Distancing," Kendrick Lamar's "Humble," and Moneybagg Yo's "Me vs. Me."

Count your blessings! At lease you're locked up at home!

Attention SLO musicians!

If you have any livestream events, newly released recordings, or music news you want publicized, send details and a high-res photo to gstarkey@newtimesslo.com. Let's keep the local music scene going despite this pandemic! Also, remember that the New Times Music Awards are coming up, one way or another! Entries will be accepted beginning Thursday, July 23. Δ

Keep up with New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey via Twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at facebook.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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