in my humble opinion

That’s (virtual) entertainment!

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 4/21/20

For someone who has not left the house for a month, I’ve been very, very busy. In between manic bouts of spring cleaning and organizing my shirts by color, I’ve been hanging out in the …

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in my humble opinion

That’s (virtual) entertainment!

Posted

For someone who has not left the house for a month, I’ve been very, very busy. In between manic bouts of spring cleaning and organizing my shirts by color, I’ve been hanging out in the “virtual” world of the internet, learning about a myriad of ways with which to pass the time.

Through the miracle of modern technology, I’ve discovered hundreds of tutorials online, covering subjects ranging from meditation to sculpting to ballroom dancing. Dharma the Wonder Dog is sick of looking at me, so she’s been practicing “social distancing” by hanging out in the bedroom, watching Animal Planet and shredding tissues that she has furtively hidden under the quilt.

Like many of you, I consider the internet and social media a blessing and a curse. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with both for years, but during this pandemic-induced state of isolation, being able to virtually reach out into the world has been (IMHO) a lifesaver, and entertaining to boot!

Not surprisingly, it’s the musicians, artists, teachers, singers and even ballroom dancers who have led the way online, inspired by the challenge that staying at home presents. Rather than giving in to defeat and shredding tissues out of sheer boredom, the arts community has found inventive, creative solutions for connecting with their audience over the internet in real-time.

Once I realized that I could attend a show in my pajamas via my computer without leaving the house, I embraced the notion of virtual entertainment wholeheartedly, beginning with one of the region’s most popular entertainers, Albi Beluli.

In celebration of his “45th trip around the sun,” Albi was performing a house concert on his birthday last Tuesday, literally from his house. Beluli made it look easy, chatting affably with fans that he could see on his screen were remotely joining the party in droves. In between shout-outs to his friends and “first responders, doctors, nurses and all essential services workers on the front lines,” he sang tunes like “Lay down Sally,” “Save the last dance for Me,” “House of the Rising Sun” and “Ring of Fire.”

Beluli’s deep voice is sometimes gravely, sometimes gritty and always pleasing to the ear—one of the many reasons for his mass appeal. I’m hoping there are more house concerts coming up. He even figured out how to create a virtual “tip jar” online, so be sure to drop a dollar in the bucket before you “leave.”

Speaking of wildly popular musicians, BJ Hendrickson and Greg Fiske also performed over the internet last Friday, in a concert sponsored remotely by the Downtown Barn located in Liberty, NY. The guys complement each other musically—BJ on guitar and Fiske a master of the sax—and did what they do best. “We love to play the songs you know,” their Facebook page declares, and the guys did just that, doing justice to “Brandy (you’re a fine girl),” “Dream Lover” and The Band’s “The Weight.” (“Hmm.” I typed into the chat window online, hearing the lyrics “take a load off Annie.” “I always thought it was Fanny.”)

The virtual audience “applauded” the musicians as computer-generated images of clapping hands and hearts floated across the screens of our tablets, computers and phones. “I miss all this music and my Downtown Barn family,” read the message from Marie Smith in the chat window that the guys could see, creating the illusion that we were all in the same place at the same time.

 “That Annie/Fanny thing is gonna bug me now,” I typed back, as if anyone was paying attention to me. “Oh, look! Dharma’s watching us,” Fiske announced to the online audience. “Man,” I thought. “Even when I’m not actually in the room, it’s like I’m not in the room, thanks to my celebrity sidekick.” Following their pleasant rendition of Paul Simon’s classic hit “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” I exited BJ and Greg’s “man cave hang.” noting that they also had an electronic tip jar. Way to go, guys.

I’m usually apprehensive about reviewing performers that I work with, but in small-town USA, it can’t always be avoided. Having noticed on social media that The River Reporter’s Owen Walsh was live streaming all over the internet, I made a mental note to check out Honesdale, PA’s Here and Now Brewing Company on Facebook last Saturday, which had announced that Walsh would be performing as part of their ongoing “All Original Music Showcase.” Turns out, I had nothing to be nervous about since Owen brings a lot to the table. The acoustics (in what looked to be the basement of the restaurant) were less than ideal, but Walsh was in his element nonetheless, performing some well-crafted originals with a lot of style and truly great vocals, all while making it clear that he really knows his way around a guitar. “Thank goodness he’s so talented,” I muttered to the dog, who was playing with a paper towel that she had dragged out of the garbage.

Owen wasn’t quite as comfortable with this newfangled format as Albi, but acknowledged that “there’s a lot of pressure for anyone performing [without a live audience] in one of these things,” while informing the large group of fans who were watching from home that the Here and Now staff was “providing curbside service during this difficult time.”

 “Oh what a pairing,” fan Hank Rawlings chimed in via text. “H&N and O.W.—the region’s best restaurant and the region’s best musical talent.” Online audience member Karl Riichtter concurred. “Love this,” he wrote. “Major credit to whoever organized this. Exactly what the community needed.”

“Walsh is a little bit Cab Calloway and a little bit rock and roll. In the best of all possible ways,” I scribbled in my notebook before stopping to make dinner for my paper-shredding dog. “And I heartily agree with his fans. This kid has mad skills.”

 I’m grateful that so many talented musicians have found their voice amidst these troubled waters. While I’m anxious to see this nightmare come to an end, I look forward to seeing how creative folks will share their talents in the days to come. Besides, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

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