Shannon Welles was prescient when her peers were foolishly optimistic weeks after the pandemic crushed the live music industry in March.
“I believe we will have things figured out in about a week,” singer-songwriter Cherie Currie told The Spokesman-Review in April. “There will be a plan by then. I think things will be getting back to normal in about two weeks. I think that we will have concerts again in June. (President Donald) Trump knows what he’s doing.”
However, Welles, the assistant general manager of Seattle’s 1,000-capacity Showbox, couldn’t have disagreed more. “After two weeks, I knew the coronavirus was not going away any time soon and that we needed to do something in order to protect our venues,” Welles said from her Showbox office.
A number of Zoom conference calls were set up for members of the Washington Nightlife Music Association. An advocacy group, Keep Music Alive, was set up to obtain relief so 1,000-capacity venues or smaller can stay afloat during this pandemic.
The philanthropic campaign, which is seeking federal and state aid as well as contributions from corporations and fans, extends across the state to Spokane. Lucky You Lounge owner Karli Ingersoll was asked to be part of the coalition in August.
“I think it’s great during a crisis that people are getting together and working toward a goal,” Ingersoll said from the Lucky You Lounge. Keep Music Alive is shooting for $10 million in aid. Welles can’t say exactly how much money has been collected but that the group needs quite a bit more support to stay open.
“It’s a really tough time for all of our venues since we can’t have shows to generate income, but we have to pay insurance and utilities,” Ingersoll said. “We’re hoping to be able to get enough support since the pandemic is going to keep us closed for quite a while.”
Ingersoll believes it will be at least a year until live music is played again at her venue in Browne’s Addition. It’s not surprising that Ingersoll is concerned since she knows what the reality could be for venues next October. “Venues can’t open until we’re in Phase 4, and we’re a long ways away from that,” Ingersoll said. “We need to raise funds.”
An array of posters will be placed around the city and in the Lucky You Lounge windows. Some are similar to lost animal posters: “Missing – Live Music: Last seen in Washington 3/15/20. Live music is a beloved part of our community. Beautiful, loud, unruly, kind to strangers and brings people together. Washington’s vital music culture depends on you. Dearly missed, please help.”
“It’s been over 200 days since live music happened in Washington,” Ingersoll said. “The posters are a reminder, and we hope the community gets behind us.” As much as Ingersoll wants to open the Lucky You Lounge doors, she realizes that’s not responsible.
“As a business owner, I don’t want to put people at risk,” Ingersoll said. “I know we’ll be closed until a vaccine is developed and is widely distributed. I don’t want to be around crowds now. We’re all about following the safety protocol. I don’t want fans and our staff to get sick. The reality is that moving slow is the way to go.”
While playing the long game, Ingersoll, who opened the Lucky You Lounge in 2019, is crossing her fingers that an infusion of cash will keep her club and other venues across the state alive until it is safe for live music again.
“We have to commit to this and hope it all works out,” Ingersoll said. “We have to put money in the bank for these venues. If that doesn’t happen, they will shut down, and they will be bulldozed, and condos will be put in their place. We can’t let that happen. It all starts in the smaller venues for recording artists.”
Seattle rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot, who is a co-chair of Keep Music Live, concurs. “I don’t think a lot about the gold records on the wall,” the hip-hop icon said. “I think about the memories in small rooms. And, together, we can help keep these venues open so more memories can be made. Together, we can keep music live.”
That goes for Seattle and Spokane, who are working together for a brighter future. “We need each other,” Welles said. “Spokane is an important part of our live music industry ecosystem. If a recording artist comes to Seattle, then they can go to Spokane. If we don’t have venues in Seattle, maybe a recording artist doesn’t come anywhere in the Pacific Northwest but Portland. We lose across the board without each other. We have to be united.
“The upside of this is that I made a friend in Karli, and I can’t wait for there to be shows in Spokane since I want to go back. I saw a show at the Bing Crosby Theater a few years ago. I can’t wait to go back there. Hopefully all of our venues will still be standing when live music returns. But there’s only one way that will happen, and that’s if we get support.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.