Let’s face it — this time last year, there wasn’t a lot to feel good about. Venues were shuttering (some indefinitely), the pandemic took full control of our lives, and there wasn’t a clear view of how we were going to escape this mess. But there were glimmers of hope, here and there, as we entered the early stages of quarantine, and while none of us could attend live shows, like we had all taken for granted just weeks prior, musical performances were delivered to the people via livestream. And one of the first livestream series that people truly rallied around was Will Dailey’s Isolation Tour, which began March 18 of last year as a one-man, one-off show to help raise money for the bar staff at Great Scott.
That show raised nearly $700. The next night, he played for the staff of Toad in Cambridge, raising money for those suddenly out of work. Then came a gig for The Burren in Somerville, followed by fundraiser ‘streams for Passim, The Plough & Stars, The Paradise, The Sinclair, Atwood’s Tavern, and others. By the end of his run, he raised nearly $20,000 for those in need.
And he also created a connection, one that live music often does, inspiring people not from the stage but from the screen. Tonight (April 28), Dailey puts a nice big bow on his livestream era by playing one last virtual gig, live from Q Division in Somerville, to reconnect once again before we all head outdoors for the summer. The show starts at 8 p.m. EDT, streaming live via YouTube and Facebook, with a soundcheck performance at 4 p.m.
“This last livestream signifies an evolution from a panic premiere just over a year ago with a makeshift setup in a shower to a less isolated and less glitchy coda at a studio I’ve called home,” Dailey tells Vanyaland. “Starting with a laptop camera and microphone to help out Great Scott at one bookend to the other with a luxurious multi-camera and recording set up that Q Division has perfected. The sonic wizardry team there has built a visual and sonic template that makes the whole process more relaxing for me and less lonely. Plus I’m going to cover Chris Cornell and a song from Annie.”
There was a lot of uncertainty back in March and April 2020, and so count Dailey in the group that wasn’t sure if livestream gigs would provide the same connection as the traditional, IRL concert experience. But he, and many others, didn’t really have a choice, and the desire to perform, and to help those in need, overruled any skepticism of going live online and singing into the void. It turned out, his message, and his music, was received loud and clear.
“I was not comfortable with livestreams pre-2020, and I probably wouldn’t miss them if they went away,” Dailey admits. “Yet they have provided us all a connection. A way to recognize what was ripped from all of us and keep it from completely evaporating. When I was doing a lot [of livestreams] in the beginning of the pandemic they were uplifting, but the part of my cells that were used to doing all of this in person could not be fooled enough to be completely satisfied. I closed my laptop many times feeling like I got half way to my destination. But then these lovely communications would arrive of gratitude or in-depth requests of songs that you usually don’t get at shows and suddenly new un-dusted corners were attended to. We’ve been in this deluge of emotion, stress, anxiety for 13 months. I don’t trust myself measuring anything really. In the end having the outlet when I needed it may have been the one thing keeping me sane.”
With tonight’s livestream marking the end of an inspired run, Dailey is eager to get back out to proper stages and perform in front of actual people, feel the applause and feel the electricity of a crowd, even one socially distanced and slightly cautious. This summer, he’s got a full slate of gigs — at a variety of outdoor spaces like backyards, driveways, greenways, and all of the pop-up spots that should rekindle our human connection to live music and fuel a new appreciation for the performing arts. And maybe he’ll pop his laptop back up at some point, but only when the time is right.
“I can imagine doing a livestream in the dead of winter now that it has a place and spots like Q Division can create an inspiring atmosphere to have one,” Dailey says. “I can also see some tours ending with a livestream. But in the end, a livestream is the opposite of why we do this in the first place. A single performance is forged by the relationship between the artist and the audience. In person. One does not transcend without the other. The convince and the curse of technology has a repetitive mantra telling us all that we don’t really need each other that much. It is the task of live music to prove it wrong. I’m going to play this one last livestream and then I will be playing as many outdoor venues, driveways, rooftops and backyards until the next frost.”
WILL DAILEY :: Wednesday, April 28 at Q Division in Somerville :: 4 p.m. EDT soundcheck performance and 8 p.m. EDT showtime :: All ages :: Free to stream via YouTube and Facebook