Local venues, bands work together to bring live music to area
This summer in the Mohawk Valley, the hills were once again alive with the sound of music (yeah, I made that up), as local venues took advantage of pleasant weather to present live music outdoors, staying within the confines of the state COVID regulations.
Now, however, with the colder weather moving in, outside shows are pretty much over, and clubs are looking for another way to adapt.
One of those adaptive club owners is David Laskowski of Nothin’ Fancy Country Rock Saloon in Vernon.
Since the implementation of an admission charge has been (for reasons unexplained) prohibited, Laskowski needed to come up with another way to cover the entertainers’ fees.
“All of the bands and entertainers are working for tip jars,” says Laskowski, who has always charged a cover or sold tickets for shows since he started running entertainment in May 2019. “We had to go that route because of the mandates; we are not allowed to charge a cover, sell tickets, or advertise. We just can't afford to do it any other way.”
One of the main drawbacks to running live music while complying with the regulations is that, with a limit of 50% capacity, most places simply can’t get enough people in to pay for bands, particularly since they can’t charge admission. With approximately 6000 sq. ft. of space, that’s less of a concern at Nothin’ Fancy.
“We are fortunate to have the room to allow the 12-foot distance from the stage and space our tables six feet apart,” says Laskowski.
So was it hard to get bands to forego their usual fees and come in with no guarantee and rely on the generosity of patrons?
“As far as convincing, I haven't had to,” notes Laskowski. “I just reached out to the bands that had played before and made the offer to them.
“Most have been fine with it.”
Among those are acts like Country Justice, Party Zone, Simple Props, Baddogg, The Dead Bolts, Northern Out Laws, Whiskey Creek, and the BOMB (a band known for their outrageous Halloween shows; coincidentally, Nothin’ Fancy is planning a Halloween party this year. Hmmm.)
“We did it for two reasons, to play and to help out the owner,” notes Billy Carmen, who’s played there with both Baddogg and Simple Props. “He has been very diligent at maintaining the regulations, so we gave it a go.”
The bottom line for local music fans and musicians: no, it’s not optimal, but at this point, it’s what we’ve got.
“Our show there went real good with the crowd following regulations and the club was great, so this may work for a while,” says Mike SantaLucia of the BOMB. “This is the local music world we live in at this point and we all have to try to make it work and have a good time.”
Mark Sisti is an experienced performer who writes about local music for the Observer-Dispatch. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.