There are a lot of guitars being strummed on Facebook lately.
This is a good thing. With concerts canceled and venues closed for the foreseeable future, musicians on all levels have been firing up the cameras on their cellphones and performing live. Since they're unable to go to audiences, they're bringing the music to their fans and making us feel less alone in the age of social distancing.
Jim Bachmann remembers seeing his performance schedule clear right before his eyes. And like most of us when the news of the quarantine hit last month, the husband and father of four found himself sitting around that first weekend with nothing to do.
“This time of the year, there’s a lot of gigs," he says. "Right now, the day job is doing it all.”
But for some musicians, performing live is the only way they make a living, and they're obviously struggling to make ends meet, so another reason they are taking to social media is to request donations from viewers. But there are some performers who, for one reason or another, don't want to ask fans for money on the internet.
So Bachmann took to the internet to perform on March 28, but when the leader of the local country (or as Bachmann describes it, "stonerbilly") band The Day Drinkers turned on the camera, he didn't ask for money for himself or even perform one of his songs.
Instead, he covered "My Guardian Angel," a single by The Pistoleros written by the late Doug Hopkins (formerly of the Gin Blossoms) and Mark Zubia. Before he began, he asked his fellow local musicians to "play it forward."
It works like this: A musician posts a performance covering another artist on social media and tags them with the hashtag #playitforward and with links to their merch page or Venmo or PayPal account — anything to help them out financially. The hope is that the musician tagged will do the same for someone else, and so forth.
“It seemed like a nice way to help people that need it who don’t want to ask for it," says Bachmann. "It's kinda cool getting into your friends’ heads with their songs and figuring out what they do.”
Bachmann says one of the reasons he selected Zubia is because he's been a "big brother" to those in the Valley music community. And one of the fun things about watching these performances online is scrolling the comments of the reactions of the musician who was covered, as was the case when local blues legend Hans Olson saying he was "floored" by Mikel Lander's cover of "Where's the Grey?"
“It gives people an emotional boost," says Bachmann. "It’s what we need right now.”
Bachmann has been collecting the videos in a #playitforward Facebook group. It's been a slow build to get the ball rolling, but the idea has started to gain some traction in the last couple of weeks, with musicians outside of the Valley taking notice. Milwaukee folk singer Joseph Huber recently posted a video that Bachmann says had over 3,000 views when he spoke to us last week.
But the singer wants to make clear that this idea isn't about him but supporting other musicians during this difficult time.
He says, “The rising tide raises all ships. We all try to pull each other up.”