by Mike Knaak
The live music hasn’t changed but the venue has. The long-running Open Mic night at the Local Blend moved online during the coronavirus stay-at-home order that’s aimed at stopping large gatherings.
Instead of stepping up to the St. Joseph coffee house stage, performers share their music via Zoom and Facebook Live streaming video.
“This virus isn’t going to stop us from getting together on Tuesday night,” Open Mic organizer and frequent performer Adam Hammer said.
Hammer, who played his guitar and sang from his home studio, told the audience during the April 7 stream “It’s weird not to be able to see you all and hearing the thump, thump, thump, and grind, grind, grind of the sounds of The Local Blend.”
The Open Mic stage, at the Local Blend in downtown St. Joseph, features performers of all skill levels.
With so many routine, daily events canceled or postponed, Hammer said it was important to figure out how to present live music to viewers during the lockdown.
“Music cures, music heals, music helps,” he said.
With performers not on the friendly confines of The Local Blend stage, producing the 90-minute show is a bigger technical challenge. On stage, the audio can be mixed to give the audience a finely tuned show. But online, the audio quality is only as good as the performer’s setup, which can range from an iPhone to a professional quality studio.
“As host I can only mute or unmute the sound,” Hammer said.
For example, St. Cloud area singer-songwriter Duncan Vinje performed outside while Baily Freedom Jones streamed from a pro mic that appeared connected to a smartphone.
And when the song ends, there’s no applause.
“As a performer, it’s a little bit unsettling,” Hammer said. “It’s unnerving not having an audience that you can interact with.” Appreciative fans have posted clapping emojis in the stream comments.
Technical challenges aside, Hammer said the show will go on each week as long as the stay-at-home order lasts.
“Musicians are looking for ways to engage,” he said.
To view the stream on Facebook, go to www.facebook.com/localblendopenmic.
And to simulate the full Open Mic experience, Hammer suggests fans stop by the Local Blend first and pick up a cup or two of coffee to sip while enjoying the music.