/The world’s got the blues right now’ Art and music in Mississippi take a hit during COVID-19 shutdown

The world’s got the blues right now’ Art and music in Mississippi take a hit during COVID-19 shutdown

“I used to perform in Jackson a few times per week. New York is a lot more frequent. It’s amazing how much work it takes. Brent spoke to Mississippi Today by phone. “I feel like I’m getting better at comedy.” Everything stopped abruptly on a March night. Brent saw the confirmed cases COVID-19 spread across the country, particularly in her New York home. Soon, all of her scheduled appearances were cancelled. After hearing from her family, Brent and Freda Clark packed up and returned to the South. Brent and other artists have been separated from their audiences by the fear of the novel coronavirus. No one knows when live performances will resume. One bluesman said that the Mississippi result was the loss of revenue-generating events and performers left “twiddling their thumbs” about their next paycheck. “There is no music, there is life. It’s not possible right now,” stated Sean “Bad Apple” of Clarksdale. Apple, a one-man band that has 30 years of experience playing, will open Bad Apple Blues Club. “I can’t open my club. I can’t perform. I can’t do any thing.” We’re stuck at a standstill.” Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival has survived 16 years of rainstorms and power outages. 2020 marks the first time the festival organizers have cancelled it. Roger Stolle, co-organizer of the event, called it “heartbreaking.” Stolle stated that it was “very crippling for anyone who owns a business.” It’s almost like musicians are out of luck. You just can’t get a gig.” Recently, Stolle announced a virtual live stream of the Juke Joint Festival on April 18 via www.LiveFromClarksdale.org from 12 noon to 9 p.m. followed by a film premiere, Juke Joint Festival Revisited. This annual event, which is a “half blues festival and half small-town fair, and all about Delta”, serves as an economic staple for the community. It brings together people from more than 46 states and 28 different countries. Stolle stated that the three-day festival requires extensive planning. He added that they must coordinate more than 100 street vendors and music venues, workshops, panel discussions, student writing contests, student writing competitions and contests such as the monkey-riding dogs. He said, “People who drive into town and pump gas before they leave to people shopping in Walmart for bottled water to buy in our downtown stores to eat at our restaurants.” “When you look at how tourists spend their money, even though they aren’t wealthy, even if thrifty, they still have to eat,” Terry Bean, a world-famous blues musician from Pontotoc, said that he had to stop his January international tour. He said, “The world has the blues right at this moment.” Bean, who was raised with six sisters and 18 brothers, is from a blues family that has played with B.B. King and other Mississippi icons. He said that he will mow the lawn and collect cans to earn some extra cash, even though there are no livestreams and no computers available. Will Griffith, the Oxford-based frontman of The Great Dying, said that while everyone will be fine for a week or two, after that, we’ll need to earn money and work. Griffith, like many artists, doubles as a restaurant staff member, which is another source of income that has dried up. It’s scary. Vicksburg-based mixed media artist H.C. Porter stated that spring and summer shows such as the Ridgeland Fine Arts Festival, which has been cancelled, are essential for selling paintings, sculptures, and other visual art. She said that events and outdoor festivals have been the way she has built her work over the years. Porter estimates that these shows account for around 80 percent of her income. According to a Rolling Stone article, music streaming fell by 8 percent between March 13 and March 19. This is around when self-quarantining started in the United States. MGM Mike Mike, a Bay St. Louis rapper said that many people listen to music while they commute to work. Mike was close to dropping his album “Stupid Genius” this month but he had to cancel his promotional trips in Houston and New York. He said, “Since coronavirus,” many people are now at home. “It’s just proving difficult for the streaming portion.” Hadley Hill, a singer-songwriter from Pass Christian, is a mother of a 24-year old who was about to marry this summer. Hill relies on her weekly concert checks and said that it was scary not being in a position to plan for the long-term. Hill started live-streaming herself on Facebook while she was attending college online and homeschooling her seven-year-old daughter. She used Venmo to keep track of her tips. She said that people need art right now. “People are turning towards Netflix and movies for entertainment, but we have the ability to provide it as well. Brent, like Hill, has come up with creative ways to make ends meet. She used her social media to release “Quarantine Shuffle”, announce bookings for virtual comedy shows and start “The Rita and Freda Show”, a talk show that accepts donations about love, relationships and wellness. Brent stated, “It’s really challenging my creatively.” “What can you do at home?” What’s something that I haven’t done yet? We have the opportunity to make those things happen now. You don’t need to panic if your profession is one of the following: artist, singer, poet. You are the gift. You are the gift. All you need to do is give your gift and hope it brings you joy. You don’t have to be specific about what you are releasing, but you should make sure it’s available on all platforms. Bean stated, “It’s going be alright.” “If there wasn’t music and entertainment, the world wouldn’t be in such a bad place.” We musicians will be ready to go when they call.” Griffith said. People will want to hear live music. There may be some light at the end. Local and national organizations have established relief funds for artists. Other groups have begun live-streaming shows and digitizing art. Here is a list of cancelled and postponed music and art festivals. You can support this work by making a regular donation today to celebrate our Spring Member Drive. This will allow us to continue important work such as this one. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of all Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think.