Matt Reardon opened Peavine Tap House in Northwest Reno just three months before the Nevada direction to shutter all restaurants was made official. The restaurant, pub and music venue launched on Dec. 12, 2019, across from Somerset Park. It was March 17 when Gov. Steve Sisolak released a directive that all bars and restaurants in Nevada should close for a minimum of 30 days in order to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, also known as the novel coronavirus.
As of March 25, there were 50 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Washoe County according its health department web site.
“Nine months in we could probably make it,” says Reardon. “But three months in, it’s rather devastating.”
He’s been networking with other small business owners in Reno-Tahoe to figure out how they’re planning to weather the proverbial storm. By the end of the week, he’d already opened up a service window for take-out. Luckily, the building they moved into used to host a drive-through coffee shop.
“When shit hit the fan, I went down to the city hall that day,” says Reardon. “Everyone down here is really trying to come together and help each other out in the same situation.”
And while food sales are certainly helping to pay the bills (not to mention feeding the local neighborhood), it’s simply not enough to sustain the restaurant in the long term. Reardon had to cancel March concerts by national touring artists Lantz Laswell, Mark Mackay and Eric McFadden and he’s laid of 70 percent of his workforce in the past two weeks.
“You need those packed weekend nights with the bar open to really make it,” he says. “This is new territory that’s never been on our radar before. We’ve never in the history of time cancelled Saint Patty’s Day and we’ve never cancelled the Olympics [barring a World War]. It seems to be more serious than any of us had first imagined.”
Cozy Couch Concert Series
Jenni Charles & Jesse Dunn
The Great Bingo Revival
Living Room Lounge
Quarantunes Virtual Music Festival
WinterWonderGrass TV concerts
Tahoe Truckee School of Music
Hard times for public houses
The story today is the same for restaurants, bars, casinos and music venues around the world. As a tourist destination with an economy that is vitally dependent on a steady influx of travelers, the Covid-19 pandemic is hitting the Reno-Tahoe economy particularly hard.
Alibi Aleworks laid off close to 60 workers last week as its normally bustling pubs in Truckee and Incline Village, Nev., are now empty. They have postponed all public events and shifted to curbside pickup of food and beer for the time being.
At first, Alibi took measures to protect their employees and patrons, such as extra cleaning and tighter service standards. But several days later, when it became clear they wouldn’t be able to stay open, owner Kevin Drake and general manager Rylan Cordova called an all-staff meeting to break the news. Like some other area businesses, they’ve started a relief fund for workers hit especially hard by the sudden changes.
Crystal Bay Casino sound engineer Charles Twillig and his fiancé Mindy Larkin have organized a web site called Support Crew to provide a place to connect people to fundraisers for different sound crews throughout the nation. While he’s out of work for at least the next couple months, they’re hunkering down in Colorado where they have a second home.
“We’re trying to get the word out and have it all be in one place,” says Larkin. “Most of the time it’s just about the band and the musicians, but they’re not thinking about the guys who drive across the country and load everything in.”
Meanwhile, remaining employees try to stay busy with maintenance projects and administrative work.
“The point of selling to-go food and beer is to try to make payroll for the dozen or so people we still have,” says Cordova. “The other reason is people want to drink Alibi Beer and support us and we can provide the community with some familiarity and normalcy. But honestly, who knows what the long term is? The virus may recede in the summer, but it isn’t going away.”
In effort to continue its tradition of providing a safe, fun place for people to socialize, Alibi is trying to plan a livestream trivia hosted by Lindsay “with an A” Romack and Joe Lew.
“The community doesn’t have a place to come and hang out,” says Cordova. “You miss it. A lot of people miss seeing their friends. Our mission statement is opposite of what we are allowed to do right now.”
Musicians migrate to livestream
Like every one of their colleagues, nationally touring Tahoma Americana musicians Jenni Charles and Jesse Dunn of Dead Winter Carpenters are stuck at home. They been forced to cancel their early April tours to New England including a gig at Vermont’s version of WinterWonderGrass, just as they gear up to release a new EP entitled “Sinners ‘n’ Freaks.”
“We’re still kind of holding onto a thread of hope that our Tahoe EP release parties will happen the last week in April,” says Dunn. “But the realist in me knows that it is going to be postponed. The health of everybody and the general public at large is the priority. It’s a big thing we’re doing as a group. The music is still going to come out, but it’s a matter of time as far as when we’re going to be able to celebrate with our friends and fans all together.”
The eponymous first single of the album was released on March 13. The second song “Cornerstone,” a tribute to Dunn’s late mother, comes out on a premiere by American Songwriter magazine on April 2. Proceeds from sales of the single will help to fund Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance.
“The brakes have been fully pumped at this point,” says Dunn, who also works as a booking agent for Blue Sun Entertainment. “It’s tough to conceive, but everything has stopped in its tracks. We’ll follow the path through and see what happens. But it’s real and it’s heavy.”
In order to supplement the lost income of March, April, May and probably beyond, Charles and Dunn have turned from touring to the increasingly popular medium of live streaming. One of their most recent installments features the couple jamming in the kitchen with aprons on because their 3-year-old daughter Mabel is sleeping above the living room of their tiny Tahoma cabin.
Charles has also begun to teach music lessons online to clients both local and around the country, as well as host group classes for families via Music Together.
“We’ve been extremely grateful for our community support through this time” she says. “Everybody is helping each other out. On a personal note, watching our friends play live has been a godsend. It’s a good way to pass the time and a good break from the chaos. You get to forget your worries and dance around your living room. Everybody does that, right?”
Down the street in Tahoma fellow artist Joaquin Fioresi is offering live community kirtan mantra music via Facebook every Friday at 6 p.m. As a massage therapist and musician by trade, Fioresi’s main sources of income have been shut down indefinitely. He’s picked up some administrative work at the Center for Spiritual Living Truckee Tahoe, which offers virtual Sunday services at 10 a.m. every Sunday.
“In these times people need a spiritual message more than ever,” says Fioresi. “They need things like music and yoga. We’re here to help people stay grounded and deal with anxiety.”
While he can still teach classes on Wednesday and Sunday around his recent novel about bodywork entitled “The Human Touch,” band rehearsals are off the books at least until live shows resume.
“I’m not comfortable going to another person’s home where I’m in a small room with people I care about, but I don’t know where they’ve been,” says Fioresi. “I want to make sure my family knows I’m being responsible with their health. We’re all being soldiers here. We’re all being troopers.”
It seems that in times of crisis human beings always look early on to music for truth, connection, vision and hope. Gary Lynn Floyd is an artist from the Center for Spiritual Living in Reno. Along with Denise Rosier and Karen Drucker, he will be a part of a three-day livestreaming event called the Cozy Couch Concert Series from March 27 to 29 at 6 p.m. You can access the concerts via the artists’ individual Facebook pages.
“We’re a collective of singer/songwriters who play positive, life-affirming music with the intention of creating a world that works for everyone,” he says. “The value of a live stream is the opportunity to get a chance to have your own intimate, one-one-one concert with your favorite artists. And we all get to stay connected through music which is the thing that gets us through.”
Growing a virtual music community
In Carnelian Bay, local couple Julie Stanley and Brian Compton have kept themselves busy during quarantine by starting a new Facebook group called Live from the Living Room Lounge. It is attracting more than 2,000 new members each day as one for the best places to find upcoming listings for Facebook Live concerts. In addition to posting virtual concert links, they are helping artists learn to navigate the often-unfamiliar world of virtual performance.
“A lot of musicians have never done it before, so they are very intimidated,” says Stanley. “But after they do it, they get this crazy motivation. They get so energized and feel so much love from people who are also feeling the love from them. We’re monitoring all the postings and getting a ton of messages on the back end. People are saying, ‘Thank you’, ‘This is saving me’, ‘I’m home alone, ‘I’m lonely.’ Right now, we want to be 100 percent safe about Covid-19 and give people an outlet to stay sane and healthy in their body and their mind.”
The beautiful thing about the live stream connection is the energy flows both ways between the artist and audience with a running commentary of observations, encouragement and, of course, heart emojis in the chat room building a bond between all those tuning in.
“While it isn’t a perfect solution, and the technology has some ways to go in terms of audio and video, it is pretty incredible that we have this virtual wormhole into people’s home to be able to communicate with everyone and be there for our fans and friends,” says musician Sam Chase. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from fans that my livestreams are really helping them through this hard time, but I hope that they understand how much their viewership is getting me through mine. All I’ve ever wanted to do was entertain and make people happy. Being there for someone when they need it is what gets me out of bed in the morning, and the livestream is my little daily dose of musical medicine for the masses.”
Musicians and music lovers are social beings who always find ways to congregate and collaborate no matter the historical circumstances. Starting on March 26, Live from Lakeview concert series based in South Lake Tahoe will be presenting weekly additions of Quarantunes Virtual Music Festival whose tagline is “where social distancing meets live entertainment.” Each Thursday at 5 p.m., three former artists from the annual summer concert series will perform in succession from their homes.
Festival organizer Leslie Schultz came from Nashville to Tahoe to snowboard for a couple weeks when she ended up marooned here at her boyfriend’s house due to the pandemic. She came up with the virtual festival as a way to help artists and fans plan a time to meet as a way to increase viewership.
“I see how detrimental this is to artists,” she says. “So, I thought, ‘How can we help?’ The whole point of Live of Lakeview is to give artists a new audience and our listeners music to enjoy. We decided to do something to keep the momentum and hope alive and help artists recoup some of their lost income.”
The March 26 concert will feature The Young Fables, Boot Juice and Sam Chase. On April 2, Schultz has booked Nashville ensemble The Daily Fare, Nevada County songwriter Jimbo Scott and Placerville rockers MerryGold.
Promoters keep hope alive
While virtual events are certainly providing artists and music lovers something to look forward to in these unprecedented times, it is hardly a real-world remedy for the severe economic impact a sudden cessation of all public events will have on Tahoe’s regional entertainment industry. Brent Dana has been organizing concerts in the Tahoe Sierra for more than 30 years. As a self-employed person, his work has come to a total halt with the nearly 40 acts he had booked in spring and summer all postponed.
“This is definitely intimidating,” he says. “Losing your ability to work in such a short time period. At first, I thought that we were in the minority as the artists and promoters, but that quickly changed and I realized this is going to affect all of us. I’m trying to stay positive. I’m holding out hope that we can get back to the good times business pretty soon. We’re dreaming of a time in the not too distant future when we the people can be together, dance together, breathe together and live together.”
While laying low in Alpine Meadows, the man who organized Guitarfish Music Festival for the past nine years is visualizing future gatherings that will be much needed by the music community by the time they eventually happen.
“We’re definitely going to rejoice and celebrate our freedom when we do get back together,” he says. “I think it will be much more heightened if possible. I can’t wait. I’m so excited to make things happen again. I would hope that all of us try to find some balance and light in these troubling times, so we can get through this together and come out of the other side, maybe better for it, who knows? Music is good medicine and there will always be a place for that.”
Meanwhile, pandemic or no, The Great Bingo Revival is up to its typical, hilarious shenanigans. With their performances at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texax, cancelled, Mr. Bingo “Reverend” Rusty Reams and his wife Tiffany “Mrs. Bingo” Corbell will be broadcasting a live interactive edition of their uber-popular start-up on March 31 at 5 p.m. on Facebook. Part of the idea is to allow people to receive something physical through the mail to play with: in this case, the official Great Bingo Revival cards. So, the couple created a video of the shipping process to demonstrate the cleanliness of their packaging procedures. You can order cards directly through Facebook or Instagram messenger and all winners will receive sanitarily shipped prizes. If you don’t order in time, you can still play along at home and keep your eyes open for the next round.
“People need something to look forward to,” says Reams. “Like the way you would get excited for a concert at the end of the week. We are looking for ways to connect with our fans in the Bingo family. We’re taking this seriously and leading by example. But bingo doesn’t quit. We bring hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless and bingo to the bingoless. And that’s the real deal.”