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My original intent was to review two new and brilliant albums from Billow Wood and Poor Man’s Gambit, but will be postponing this until next month to have a chat about the effect of the Covid 19 virus on musicians and area pubs and restaurants who host their concerts and us.

Several months or more ago, we were happily purchasing tickets for concerts featuring Lunasa, The Aoife Scott Band, Socks in the Frying Pan, We Banjo 3, Goitse, Gaelic Storm, The Drowsy Lads, The Byrne Brothers, and High Time, to name a few, at venues like Old Town School of Folk Music, the Irish American Heritage Center,  Gaelic Park, Irish Heritage and Cultural Center, and the Pabst Theater.  We were enjoying the incredible array of talented musicians at sessions at The Galway Arms, Chief O’Neill’s, Grafton Street, Mrs. Murphy’s Irish Bistro, Galway Bay, and The Curragh among many others. Almost overnight, our world and these musicians’ and business owners’ worlds came to a screeching halt with not enough time to plan to deal with the losses.  Not all our favorite bands lost here in the States.  Cuig, Connla, Back West with Seamie O’Dowd, David Munnelly and Shane Mc Gowan, Outside Track, and Full Set were stranded in France and Germany.

Expenses of $8000-$20,000 and more in airfares, visas, car rentals, lodging, preordered CDs and band merchandise was suddenly sitting there with no income to support the expenses.  Uncertainty regarding when this plague may be over has added to the stress of “How do we cover costs?”

I had the JigJam lads at the house looking so down; it was heartbreaking.  They had a month at DollyWood among other gigs cancelled and had it happen so fast.  I chatted to Fiachra Hayes who was waiting at the airport to go from Albuquerque to Chicago to London to Shannon just trying to find a flight home.  Socks, We Banjo 3, Goitse, Lunasa, and High Time were to be here at least another week.  Aoife Scott was just ready to get started as were Shane Hennessy and The Martin Hayes Quartet.  It becomes exponential when one looks at all the gigs lost.  Some of these bands have been around for a long time and may have a small emergency fund set aside, but most are still trying to become established and financially stable.

The question becomes, “What can we do to help these musicians to survive until we find normal again?”

Several bands held successful fundraisers, thanks to generous donors, and donations are tremendously appreciated and an easy way to help.  Gift cards, PayPal and other online APPs provide avenues to outright donate to your favorite artisans.  Purchasing their merchandise through their websites is a real help.  Get those birthday, anniversary, and ‘just because” gifts of Tshirts, hats, posters, pins, water bottles, koozies, whiskey flasks, etc. which are all there waiting for good homes.  Buy the actual album CD or vinyl instead of listening on Spotify.  How about hosting an online House Concert with family and friends you know are virus free?  Contact one of your favorite musicians and arrange for them to play online for you for an hour and pass the hat among your guests. Set a minimum, which is usually $20 and then ask any who are able to give more.  You can even interact with the artist(s).  If you are a competitive sort, host a 10,000 Step Challenge.  Have your friends and yourself get sponsors per 100 steps.  Contestants can take photos of their fitness trackers or smart watches at the beginning and the end.  Have an auction or a Guess the Number of Jelly beans in the Jar.  I don’t spend my change and toss it in one of several large mugs from my pockets at night and from my purse when it gets too heavy.  I am always amazed at how much it adds up to be when I decide to take it to the bank.  I know many of you out there are quite creative.  Let’s get those ideas working to help out the people who bring us such joy with their music!

We can’t forget the pubs, restaurants, and venues who host these concerts and sessions and have been shut down or had services severely altered by a mandate of the State to justifiably protect us.  From the owners to the waitresses, bussers, cooks, and bartenders, from Chief O’Neill’s, Galway Arms, Ashford House to Mrs. Murphy’s bistro, be it The Heritage Centers or Gaelic Park, all are suffering in order to make us safer from Covid 19.  Check to see if the restaurant is offering its menu as a take out experience.  Order from their catering menu.  Do not be timid in asking the owners how you might help them out.  

Look for any smaller events being held at the Centers and attend if you feel comfortable being out. Renew your memberships early, perhaps at a higher than usual level.  Most importantly, once all these places are allowed to reopen, frequent, frequent, frequent them.

We at Irish American News care deeply for all these talented musicians and the venues which support, host, feed, and water them.  We wish you and your families the best of health and pray we will be sitting together soon at a soldout concert!

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