By Matthew Piechalak | firstname.lastname@example.org
As human beings, we are all trying to find routine and normalcy in a completely abnormal situation. For Parker guitar teacher Mike “Gonzo” Gonzales, that means continuing to create and share music with others–albeit in a completely different space.
For the past three weeks, Mike has hosted a virtual concert on Facebook Live. The venue? Mike’s living room, complete with a performer’s stool, mic stand, PA speaker, and a roaring fireplace to round out the ambiance.
“This has been an artistic outlet for me,” Mike says. “There are no gigs right now, so I treat “Friday Happy Hour” like a gig. I set up all my gear just like I’m in the club or restaurant and when I’m done, I break it all back down.”
Similar to other musicians–both acquaintances and otherwise–Mike began sharing songs live on his personal Facebook page in mid-March, when a majority of Americans were suddenly confined to their homes following social distancing requirements implemented by local, state, and national authorities intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Many of my friends were already sharing a song or two on Facebook Live,” Mike explains. “I thought that I would do the same but play a little longer. So, a couple of weeks ago, I started doing ‘Friday Half Hour Happy Hour’. Now, more and more musicians are playing longer.”
His first set on Friday, March 20 had more than three thousand views and his set last week garnered similar numbers. He plans to continue the weekly tradition at 5 pm every Friday until the day it’s safe to resume playing live in physical venues.
“It’s great that our Facebook musician friends can see what time we’re going to play so we can schedule around each other’s performances,” Mike says. “I make my performances public so we don’t actually have to be Facebook friends for [people] to watch.”
The setlist for the first week included songs Mike believes are reflective of the times, while last week he took more requests. As he continues to navigate the best way to perform and interact with the “crowd” in real-time, he plans to take even more requests.
During his next performance, Mike plans to set up his laptop so he can view responses as they come in. His performance last week yielded more than a thousand comments. Two weeks and just two shows in, Mike’s performance has become prime-time viewing for family, friends, fellow musicians, and in general, music lovers. Within the comments, people have taken to posting “selfies” of themselves and loved ones gathered around a computer or television screen viewing Mike’s virtual show from the intimacy of their own homes.
“It’s been like a big party except we are not physically all together,” Mike says. “There are folks saying ‘hi’ to each other and having conversations about the performance. I love everyone telling me what is for dinner or what they are drinking–it gives us all a chance to socialize while [social] distancing from each other.”
“There is something really special about Gonzo’s vibe,” says Parker Associate Head of Upper School Carrie Dilmore. “He plays songs from multiple decades, but each one seems to inspire a feeling of ‘I love this song’’ from all of the people on the feed. His voice is magic and his skills are undeniable. With the craziness of our current situation, Gonzo has found a way to connect us.”
Mike believes that music is an important outlet during the uncertainty surrounding the time we are living through.
“Music and food bring people together,” says Mike, who is also an avid home cook. “I can’t cook for everyone but I can share songs. With all the stresses in our lives, many have said listening to these and other performances have brought some stability and relaxation back into their lives.
Mike’s next performance is at 5 pm TONIGHT. To view his show, click HERE.