Passim kicks off Keep Your Distance Festival, raising funds for performers kept off the stage
As businesses across the country close temporarily in response to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of people are suddenly left out of work, including musicians. To help these performers through this unprecedented time of social distancing, Club Passim is raising money for them through the Keep Your Distance Festival.
The event features musicians sharing one song about hope, perseverance and coping on YouTube from their homes – or wherever they’re self-isolated.
In addition to the festival, Club Passim started the Passim Emergency Artist Relief fund, which the performers will discuss in their videos. While many of Passim’s past fundraisers have been to support the venue’s own sustainability, donations to the PEAR fund go right back to the musicians.
As of Thursday, the fund has raised more than $15,000, said Matt Smith, Club Passim’s managing director.
The virtual festival was announced Wednesday. Club Passim has reached out to hundreds of artists from all over the world to take part. More than 50 videos have been posted to its YouTube playlist, and more are being added daily. Smith said they are accepting an unlimited amount of submissions, , with no deadline for submissions or closing date, since one of perks of the Internet is they can upload as many songs as they want.
“We all need music, and we all need to feel like we’re doing some good while we are all staying at home,” Smith said. “Viewers can watch the videos, be entertained and moved by the song, and they can help out those artists who are now out of work by giving a little bit of money back.”
Erin Mckeown, an artist participating in the festival, called it “a real put-your-money-where-your-mouth is moment.”
Similar to other performance spaces across the nation, Club Passim has closed and canceled shows prevent spreading the virus – in Passim’s case, until April 6. The festival lineup is made up of performers who have connections to the Cambridge venue and are out of work because of the pandemic. Musicians applying to be included in the event must have played a gig at Club Passim within the past 10 years, agree to participate in the festival and share the event with their fan base.
While the experience of watching a concert from home is much different from a live show, streaming performances helps artists and listeners stay connected, especially during a period of limited in-person interaction. Mckeown, who has been livestreaming her own performances since 2009, said it’s an exercise in faith to play music in your home and hope people on the other side of the screen are going to tune in to listen.
“Sitting in front of your computer and playing songs to no one in the room and to 150,000 people online is really strange to do at first. But it gets you through it,” Mckeown said. “You can sing your song, do your thing, do the best you can and people out there are going to hear it.”