Written by Ashley Paskill
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, musicians are not able to have their usual in-person concerts and performances, but they are coming up with creative ways to keep performing for their fans. Some are doing drive-in concerts, while others are broadcasting previously-recorded concert performances.
For bands like the indie-rock band, Whitehall, the new way of doing things means doing concert live streams online, like the one they held on April 5. This stream was a concert to promote their latest album, Swordfish Catcher, which was released on April 2.
Whitehall is Paddy McKiernan on vocals and guitar, Avery Greeson on guitar, Davis Rowe on drums, and Brennan Clark on bass.
The band is from Charleston, South Carolina. They formed in a college dorm in 2014 and have been performing ever since. Their music style is collaborative, taking a little something from each member’s background and throwing it into the mix. They have continued to experiment over the years, which has helped make their music have something for everyone.
Even though the show was virtual, there were people waiting on the YouTube page for the show at least a half-hour in advance. Fortunately, the concert started on time without any tech issues and the sound levels were great.
The concert was free, but the band was accepting donations through their Venmo. Depending on how amount people donated, there were “perks,” including getting the band to take shots or even get tattoos of the person who donated. The most popular perks of the concert were the pushups, shots, and jokes.
It can be hard for bands to interact with audience members during a show, even with the chat sections open, but the “perks” throughout the show allowed the band to thank those who tipped and have the performance influenced with different things the band could do.
Unlike in-person concerts, attendees were able to talk to each other in the YouTube chatbox throughout the concert. The band was clad in orange, and a few of the attendees said in the chat that they were also wearing orange to commemorate the album release and the concert.
Many musicians say that they feed off the audience’s energy, and even though the concert was virtual, Whitehall seemed to know that people were watching, as they had high energy during the entire concert. They were jumping and dancing through the stage, making it feel like the concert was happening in person. They were having so much fun that a few of the members lost their earpieces.
With virtual concerts, the concertgoers don’t get to have the venue experience, but the camera operator made sure to get various angles of the band so that the viewers felt like they were there in person. The operators even caught a glimpse of the disco skull that was hanging from the ceiling.
The band played the new album straight through, and they made an amendment to the perks where if anyone tipped, they could request a song that was on a previous record or a song that the band has done in previous shows. “Wagon Wheel” and “Vacation Home” topped off the concert as the grand finale.
As far as virtual concerts go, while it was nice that the band had the chat open on YouTube and Facebook Live for fans to talk to each other, it was also nice that they did not spend the entire time reading each message. This helped add to the feel of it being an in-person show. The only difference is that normally, at in-person shows, you do not get to chat with others during the songs since everyone is so focused on the music. A lot of the chat did happen between songs, but the option was there.
In terms of the sound levels, the instruments and the vocals were in perfect balance so audience members could hear the music and the lyrics flawlessly, which is something that is a bit tricky when it comes to performances. It almost sounded like we were listening to the album instead of Whitehall performing the songs live. This is a compliment, as this is not an easy feat to pull off when playing live shows.
Even though the show was virtual due to the pandemic, the band made the best of it and put on a fun, high-energy show. They interacted with the audience, even pointing out that the people watching were likely applauding the push-ups that were done as a perk. I felt the band’s energy, even though it was through the computer screen. It was evident that the band felt the audience’s energy as they jumped and danced around.
These times are tough, but it’s so encouraging to see musicians experiment with new platforms, so they can keep performing and keep sharing their music. In light of in-person album release parties and shows, having a virtual option with special “perks” made the night that much more fun and memorable for those who tuned in.
The video of the performance is on the band’s YouTube channel.
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