Musicians return with enthusiasm, challenges after COVID-19

A+drum+set%2C+similar+to+the+one+used+by+drummer+Lex+Razon+in+his+performances.

Neve Marin Rue Galmarini

A drum set, similar to the one used by drummer Lex Razon in his performances.

By Mia DeNunzio and Neve Marin Rue Galmarini

Due to COVID-19, music venues around the world began to shut down, leaving musicians unable to perform in front of their usual audiences. As a result of the decrease in COVID-19 case numbers and high vaccination rates, more opportunities for musicians have opened up.

Despite this, many musicians have faced challenges returning to live performances including people showing up unvaccinated, having smaller crowds due to limited capacity, and not always being able to play at indoor venues. Lilan Kane, award-winning singer and songwriter based in Oakland, has faced these difficulties head-on.

“I did a show two months ago, in a place that could hold four hundred people, but they limited it to about one hundred and fifty,” Kane said, “People had to have masks on inside, and they kind of spaced the tables out a little more.”

Kane, like many other musicians, has adjusted to performing with COVID-19 restrictions, but with some obstacles. In one performance her band, Hella Fitzgerald, played as part of a fundraiser for a Christian school in Lodi, a city in Joaquin County, California. Though it was supposed to be a small event, there were many more people crammed into the small room than expected, with many attendees refusing to wear masks. Towards the end of the performance, two band members ended up playing outside because of the risks to their safety, causing some attendees to jeer them.

“And they [event attendees] mocked them. They said, ‘Ooh, they’re outside with their masks on and they don’t want to come in,’” Kane said.

Despite this negative experience, Kane feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to perform again. For musicians, performances provide a way to get their music out to the world and engage new audiences.

“The private events, such as weddings and parties… Those have been way more fun than before, because I think a lot of people were tired of being cooped up,” Kane said.

Lex Razon, a drummer who started playing professionally in 1998, returned to playing gigs again at the beginning of this summer, after a pause due to COVID-19. He is part of the Fiber Brown Band, but gigs with many other musicians.

“My most recent gig was playing a festival called ‘Dock of Bay Festival’ in Mare Island, which is an outdoor festival. I played with one of my many projects called Fiber Brown Band,” Razon said.

For Razon, one of the most impactful changes about playing is the difference in setting. Now, there are fewer indoor gigs, which greatly changes the atmosphere of performances.

“What I miss most about playing indoors is packing in a lot of people, having that sort of nighttime energy. People are sweaty and dancing,” Razon said.

Though the return of live performances has brought challenges, musicians are grateful to once again experience the exhilaration of live performance.

This story was originally published on The Pitch on October 19, 2021.