Music venues across the country have been closed since late March, and they're likely to be among the last businesses to reopen as large gatherings remain restricted (if you haven't contacted your state representatives asking them to direct federal funding to independent music venues, now would be a good time to do it). With in-person concerts postponed indefinitely and giant summer music festivals like Lollapalooza canceled, artists and venues are increasingly turning to streaming platforms to provide fans with live music. But if you're tired of watching sets performed via screens, a venue just outside of Chicago is willing to bring a socially distanced concert to your doorstep—as long as you're willing to foot the bill.
Jake Samuels, the talent buyer for Evanston venue SPACE, says that the idea for To-Go Concerts came as other businesses began offering food, records and other goods for curbside pickup. "[SPACE] doesn't really have a product that works in that same way, so this was an opportunity to get out of the venue itself and find ways to bring music to people in their home," Samuels explained.
A variety of local artists have teamed up with SPACE to offer their services, including Split Single frontman and Bob Mould collaborator Jason Narducy, The Flat Five vocalist Nora O'Connor, blues singer-songwriter Mike Wheeler, jazz saxophonist Chris Greene, and experimental saxophone quartet ~Nois. With sets capped at around 30 minutes, most of the artists are open to working with the host to customize their performances, incorporating song requests or focusing the setlist around a specific genre or era of music.
After selecting an artist and getting a quote (pricing starts at $750, based on location, date and artist), SPACE will get the musician to your home, bringing along amps, microphones, décor, signage, pizza from Union and a beverage of the host's choice. Hosts need to provide a private outdoor space, stay at least 12 feet away from the performer, wear face coverings while watching the performance and ensure that the gathering doesn't exceed 10 people (neighbors can watch from porches and passersby can take in the show from a safe distance).
While the bulk of the 25 SPACE To-Go concerts that have taken place since mid-May took over outdoor spaces in Evanston, Samuels says that he's also booked artists to perform in suburban Winnetka as well as within Chicago's city limits in Avondale. "As long as your municipality is okay with small performances happening on private property, you're welcome to have us come do it," Samuels told us.
Beyond providing income for a venue that currently can't open its doors and artists with fewer options for paying work, SPACE Concerts To-Go are a chance for performers and audiences to experience something that has been absent from their lives. "Lawn shows allow me an outlet that was previously fulfilled through touring," said Narducy, who has played many of the outdoor performances. "There is a palpable joy during the shows because we have all missed live music so much."
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