Big-name performers including Foo Fighters, Miley Cyrus, Dave Matthews and Jason Mraz are lining up to help independent music venues by performing during a three-day virtual music festival this weekend.
The Save Our Stages Fest — or SOS Fest for short — runs Friday through Sunday, featuring fresh performances from more than 30 musical acts. The event, organized by the National Independent Venue Association, will be streamed on YouTube, originating from some of the 3,000 clubs affiliated with NIVA across the US. Shows are free to view, but donations are being requested from viewers and merchandise is available for purchase.
Friday’s shows start at 8 p.m. ET; Saturday’s at 4 p.m. ET; and Sunday’s at 5 p.m. ET.
The coronavirus pandemic has crippled operators of venues nationwide, leaving them shuttered more than six months now. And there’s no firm answer on when they could reopen. With little or no money coming in and bills piling up, many have laid off staff or been forced to close permanently.
A recent NIVA survey found that 90% of independent venues say they will have to close for good in the coming weeks or months if shutdowns persist.
Jason Mraz tells USA TODAY independent venues are important not only because they help local economies but because they give up-and-coming performers a place to make a name for themselves.
“My career started out as a starving artist,” he says. “There’s so much that happens nightly in venues across the country.”
While many artists have been offering virtual shows — some new, many rehashes of past concerts — Mraz, who dropped new studio album “Look for the Good” in June, has resisted. Until now.
He’ll take the stage at the Belly Up Tavern in San Diego for the Save Our Stages Fest. The performance, which airs at 4 p.m. ET Saturday, is “a gift,” even if “it’s not the same” as a live show.
Singer-songwriter Cautious Clay, another SOS Fest performer, says the past few months have been “really, really tough” for all those in the music industry. His show from World Cafe Live in Philadelphia airs at 6:15 p.m. ET on Saturday.
“We need these venues. We have to nurture these venues,” he said. “If they’re not there it’s going to be difficult. Where are people going to play?”
Since touring is off the table likely well into next year, Cautious Clay (real name Joshua Karpeh) says he’s stayed busy writing and producing new music.
“Live music is an important part of music consumption,” he said. “A lot of people are trying to plan for shows next summer, hopefully. Everyone has just been trying to figure things out.”
Electronic musician Dillon Francis, whose show from the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles is at 11:55 p.m. ET Friday, joked that he’s been busy testing out a jerk chicken recipe from DJ Diplo during lockdown, trying to look at the few positives in life right now. But, seriously, he’s ready for a return to normalcy.
“Overall, everyone misses being on the road, touring with our crews and being in front of our fans,” he said. “We miss everyone.”
Tim Tuten of The Hideout, a small club in Chicago that seats about 100 people, has been struggling since his stage went dark March 13. He and wife Katie are still hopeful government assistance will come. Bills that could provide that aid have been stalled out in Congress for months now.
“Our hope is that people will see that small, independent, owner-operated, unique, quirky, weird dives are absolutely essential to our lives,” he says. They are “filled with dreams and conversations and relationships that create a real quality of life.”
Friday (all times Eastern)
8 p.m.: Alec Benjamin at Hotel Cafe (Los Angeles)
8:30 p.m.: Finneas at Teragram Ballroom (Los Angeles)
9 p.m.: Sebastián Yatra at Broward Center (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
9:40 p.m.: Dizzy Fae at First Avenue (Minneapolis)
10:10 p.m.: Macklemore at Neumos (Seattle)
10:50 p.m.: YG at Troubadour (West Hollywood, California)
11:15 p.m.: G-Eazy at The Independent (San Francisco)
11:45 p.m.: Marshmello and Demi Lovato at Troubadour (West Hollywood, California)
11:55 p.m.: Dillon Francis at Teragram Ballroom (Los Angeles)
Saturday (all times Eastern)
4 p.m.: Jason Mraz at Belly Up Tavern (San Diego)
4:40 p.m.: Adam Melchor at Hotel Cafe (Los Angeles)
5:10 p.m.: Kelsea Ballerini at EXIT/IN (Nashville)
5:40 p.m.: JP Saxe at Troubadour (West Hollywood, California)
6:15 p.m.: Cautious Clay at World Cafe Live (Philadelphia)
6:55 p.m.: Bea Miller at Teragram Ballroom (Los Angeles)
7:35 p.m.: Gus Dapperton at Le Poisson Rouge (New York)
8:15 p.m.: Phoebe Bridgers at Troubadour (West Hollywood, California)
9 p.m.: Rise Against at Metro (Chicago)
9:25 p.m.: Brittany Howard at Ryman Auditorium (Nashville)
9:55 p.m.: Leon Bridges at Troubadour (West Hollywood, California)
10:15 p.m.: Miley Cyrus at Whisky a Go-Go (West Hollywood, California)
10:35 p.m.: Foo Fighters at Troubadour (West Hollywood, California)
11:10 p.m.: The Roots at Apollo Theater (New York)
12:20 a.m.: Portugal. The Man at Crystal Ballroom (Portland, Oregon)
1:10 a.m.: Major Lazer at Gramps (Miami)
Sunday (all times Eastern)
5 p.m.: Little Big Town at EXIT/IN (Nashville)
5:35 p.m.: Brothers Osborne at Mercy Lounge (Nashville)
6:05 p.m.: Dave Matthews at Jefferson Theater (Charlottesville, Virginia)
6:40 p.m.: Monica at Center Stage (Atlanta)
6:55 p.m.: Black Pumas at The Parish (Austin, Texas)
7:10 p.m.: Nathaniel Rateliff at Boulder Theater (Boulder, Colorado)
7:50 p.m.: Reba McEntire at Ryman Auditorium (Nashville)
8:30 p.m.: The Revivalists at Tipitina’s (New Orleans)
9:05 p.m.: The Lumineers at Boulder Theater (Boulder, Colorado)
Follow Gary Dinges on Twitter @gdinges