Where We Live: Portland’s musicians play through pandemic


Zoom, Facebook Live, and other online platforms have become their stages

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — From blues to jazz, from county to rock and roll, Portland is known as a great city of live music. But with venues closed because of the coronavirus, how are Portland musicians surviving?

Patrick Lamb speaks with KOIN 6 News via video conference call. April 2020 (KOIN)

For saxophonist Patrick Lamb, and blues singer LaRhonda Steele, life in the music business during the pandemic means a new life performing online.

“The difficulty is, if there is a difficulty, is just kind of getting up and doing it, and knowing my voice needs to be heard,” said Steele.

“I’m an optimist, but I’m a realist,” said Lamb. “So, it’s kind of time to embrace that the world will never be the same.”

With so many talented musicians in Portland, and nowhere to play. Zoom, Facebook Live, and other online platforms have become their stages. Tips are virtual now, too.

“Financially, it’s scary,” said Lamb. “I’m gonna be honest—it’s scary.”

But they said they are taking this time to hone their craft. Musicians have found online performances more intimate, yet the potential audience is worldwide.

During the coronavirus pandemic, musicians are forced to find alternative ways to play for audiences. April 2020 (KOIN)

“This has been one of the best things that’s every happen to me artistically. Does that sound crazy?” said Lamb. “I hope that doesn’t offend anybody.”

“No, it doesn’t sound crazy,” said Steele. “This time of social isolation kind of gets you back to yourself. And with all the gigs being gone, it kind of makes you think: what do I really want to do? What kind of music is in me to do? And I will take that with me once the social distancing is over.”

There’s no guarantee the gigs lost will ever come back. Portland’s major music event, the Waterfront Blues Festival, has already been canceled for 2020. For local musicians, there will be a new normal.

“We’re going to overcome this,” said Lamb. “But it’s going to be different.”

If you’re looking for a way to support local musicians, seek them out and put money in the online tip jar, if you can. It may be a while before we see them again in person.

Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival (KOIN File)

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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