If there is one thing just about every performing artist on the planet misses during this unusual pandemic year, it is performing in front of real live people. The COVID19 pandemic has forced us all to reexamine how we go about our day-to-day business and has thrown a sweeping curveball at both the non-profit and artistic sectors of our community. On Sunday, October 11th, Rock the Green presents Rock the Stream LIVE Extravaganza at the Harley-Davidson Museum from 1pm-6pm, tickets are $10 per concert.-
It will showcase three of Milwaukee’s top musical acts (and Rock the Green alums): De La Buena, Lex Allen, and Trapper Schoepp performing live sets in a safe manner, socially distanced on the world-famous Pedal Power Stage, pairing each artist with a nonprofit organization benefitting our community at this time.
Recently, Rock the Green had a chance to catch up with the artists and representatives of the nonprofit agencies they are partnering with for a Zoom call.
De La Buena/Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts: 1:00-2:00 p.m. Sunday, October 11
“Not getting to see people is not much fun,” shared Mark Lawson of the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts. “This pandemic has been pretty isolating for us as a community-based organization.” In the simplest of terms, the Riverwest bassed Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts is based on the concept that creativity strengthens the community. Founded in 1979, the organization has run on volunteer power, hosting art exhibits, and local, regional, and national jazz and experimental music performers. “We’re a happening place that isn’t happening that much at the moment,” Lawson chuckled. “However, we’re doing our best to create an online presence, streaming shows, and whatnot. Still, it’s hard when you don’t see people on the other end.”
David Wake, of De La Buena, can relate. “A huge part of De La Buena is building community and bringing people together. It is hard not to spend time with our people. Both culture and community are as important as the music.”
Since the pandemic hit in March, many of De La Buena’s perennial dates around town at various music festivals have been canceled. The ensemble, which has been around since 2002, is fortunate that many of its members are also music educators and have been able to continue sharing their love of music with students through on-line lessons and workshops. “Cecilio Negron and Julio Papon are doing great work via Zoom and online,” Wake shared, speaking of two of his bandmates who are active teaching musicians. “This pandemic, however, has been crushing for everyone. We need to keep finding positives and try to adjust as best we can. The Latin music scene is bludgering in Milwaukee and Chicago right now and so many folks are affected.”
Lex Allen/Danceworks: 3:00-4:00 p.m., Sunday, October 11
Lex Allen’s funky r&b pop stylings may differ from De La Buena in terms of sonic timbers, but like David Wake and company, Lex shared about how the pandemic has affected him. The always upbeat and positive Allen stated, “Every day I’m waking up asking myself, ‘how can I be creative while not going insane. Mental health-wise this is so hard on musicians and creative types… not just that our livelihood was stripped from under our feet but a lot of the joy as well. There were days where I didn’t want to get out of bed, especially early on when we found out that tours were canceled. I was depressed as hell.”
Allen, however, is someone who finds a way to make lemonade out of lemons and has pivoted as a person and a performer to continue to create amazing music and find joy in the process. “I went back to my roots and started doing more with photography, branding, and design,” Allen shared on a recent Zoom call. “I’ve been working with VUCA and playing shows as much as I can safely in hopes that they bring joy to others. I’ve been writing a lot too.”
Joining Lex Allen on stage, safely distanced, will be company dancers from Danceworks, a long-standing community organization committed to bringing movement and dance to young people through a wide variety of programming opportunities. Danceworks company member, Maggie Seer stated on a recent Zoom call, “There has been a real emptiness with the lack of in-person performances. We had to cancel just about everything in mid-March. We are finally trying to turn things back on slowly and safely.”
Danceworks’ mission has three key pillars… performance, studio, and outreach. The popular organization had to let fifty-five artists go initially because there was a lack of work, even with shifting their programming to online platforms including Facebook live. Many community programs for elementary and middle school students were also put on hold as well as the popular programming Danceworks did with senior citizens in assisted living facilities in the area. However, Seer remains eternally upbeat and optimistic about being able to share the joy of dance with others, even during this most unusual time.
“We had between fifty-five and sixty dance concerts scheduled that all had to go on hold. However, we remain hopeful that we’ll be able to get back to performing more regularly in front of people and sharing our love of movement and dance with others. Collaborations, like the one we are doing with Lex, are what we truly love as a company group, and we can’t wait to perform in front of real people… it will be our first in-person performance since March!”
Seer and her company dancers will be joining Lex Allen on stage for several numbers during Allen’s set, with the dancers creating original choreography to pair with Allen’s music.
Trapper Schoepp/Schlitz Audobon Nature Center: 5:00 p.m, Sunday, October 11
“So, I have to follow the great De La Buena and Lex Allen with dancers, oh boy!” Trapper Schoepp quipped. “I’ve only got a four-piece band!”
Schoepp, like many of his contemporaries, has had a very different summer as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. Schoepp, a Rock the Green veteran who has played the RTG 2016 Sustainability Festival, the 2017 RTG Annual Earth Day Celebration, and even the inaugural Rock the Stream event on April 30th of this year. Schoepp sums it up best, “I really miss playing music and hope I’ll never take touring for granted when we get to do it again. As musicians, we have a need for connection. Ultimately, a big piece of our job is to connect with people and share our songs.”
Schoepp, who has spent much of the past decade on the road did share some of the positives he’s discovered as a result of having to change up how he’s able to foster connections amidst the COVID19 pandemic. “This summer I have been focused on other things since touring was not an option,” Schoepp shared, “I stared a garden and am working on being more well-rounded playing frisbee golf and tennis and enjoying the outdoors as much as I can. Once you strip music and touring out of your life, you end up asking yourself, ‘what else is there?’ Making plans is so 2019!”
Schoepp was slated to perform forty shows in Europe over the summer. However, that came to a screeching halt in March. The optimistic and always clever Schoepp, however, remains undaunted, “Everyone is just getting by right now, and I’ll tell you, that’s a full-time job in and of itself. Like many musicians, I’ve been writing a lot and recording as I’ve been missing live music a ton. I’m hoping to get a new record out in 2021. One thing that has really helped me keep things in perspective is being to get outside and enjoy nature. I have taken up hiking and recently did a forty-mile hike on the Ice Age Trail. Nature helps nurture the soul.”
Nancy Quinn of the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center couldn’t agree more. “We have to look for positives and ways to help strengthen our community as we move forward,” Quinn shared recently with Rock the Green. The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center has 185 acres of land and has been able to use the space in creative and interesting ways, including offering their trails for socially distanced and reserved hikes, as well as being able to offer summer camps and children’s programming outdoors in a safe way. “People are really happy,” Qui