After the pandemic shut down Wilmington bars and eating places final March, longtime native musician Jared Cline discovered himself in a decent spot.
Cline, an adept guitarist and a robust rock/soul singer and songwriter, makes his residing enjoying gigs, lots of them solo or duo performances, at spots downtown, the seashores and elsewhere. However after logging his ultimate pre-pandemic gig in Wilmington on March 6 of final 12 months, his subsequent in-person efficiency wasn’t within the Port Metropolis, however relatively at Murrells Inlet in South Carolina on Might 22. (He would not play one other gig in Wilmington till mid-June of 2020.)
Since then, he mentioned, he is been enjoying in South Carolina three to 6 nights per week, all over the place from Myrtle Seaside to Pawleys Island.
“I work with an agent. He sends me and I am going,” Cline mentioned. “He is attempting to earn a living, and I am attempting to earn a living.”
Cline mentioned he knew there was a threat of catching or spreading COVID-19, however “I simply went.” Early on, he mentioned, it was straightforward to get gigs as a result of “lots of people did not need to play” there, or anyplace.
After all, Cline is not the one Wilmington-area musician heading to South Carolina for gigs. With alternatives in Wilmington and North Carolina basically way more restricted than earlier than the pandemic, many say that they had no different alternative.
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“South Carolina is huge open,” mentioned Scott Blackmon of Ocean Isle Seaside, who performs drums with “The Renegade” Jason Ray Welsh. “We’re booked like by no means earlier than,” enjoying Little River Cherry Grove, Myrtle Seaside and North Myrtle Seaside.
“They fully shut down our trade in North Carolina,” mentioned Josh Boyd, a guitarist with Wilmington rock and jam band Medicated Sunfish.
He admits that “it doesn’t really feel safer in South Carolina or Florida. However you gotta do what you gotta do,” Boyd mentioned.
“I’ve already gotten COVID,” he added, with signs, and quarantined for 3 weeks. He mentioned he assumes he caught it whereas enjoying a gig.
Earlier than he went in for a minor medical process, Cline mentioned he additionally examined optimistic for COVID-19.
“They mentioned I had it, however I felt high quality,” he mentioned. “I principally sat in my house for per week and twiddled my thumbs.”
The folks he’d been involved with all examined destructive, he mentioned.
After enjoying 200-plus exhibits yearly up and and down the Southeastern coast for the previous few years, Boyd mentioned, Medicated Sunfish is down to 2 or three gigs per week with North Carolina exhibits out of the image.
He mentioned he’ll “crash some acoustic exhibits” in Wilmington when buddies are enjoying smaller gigs on the town, and has additionally carried out a couple of ticketed exhibits right here, though he does not need to say the place. The majority of his band’s work, nevertheless, has been in Myrtle Seaside and Pawleys Island, with Florida and Georgia exhibits sprinkled in.
Florida is “a free for all,” Boyd mentioned, and it is not frequent to see patrons sporting masks in South Carolina, both.
“We wish them to, but it surely’s less than us,” he mentioned, including that mask-wearing is “loosely, however not likely” enforced by bar and venue employees in South Carolina, and that his band is sort of at all times 10 to 20 ft away from the viewers.
Justin Heter, a drummer with longtime Wilmington jam band Dubtown Cosmonauts — he additionally performs with reggae act Selah Dubb and Greenboro’s Electrical Soul Pandemic — concurs that in South Carolina it is “lots of people not sporting masks. It’s extremely get together and open.”
His band performs often on the Pawleys Island Tavern, or The PIT. He admits it is “kinda dangerous, but it surely’s one of many solely locations that’ll pay us decently.”
He is aware of most everybody on North Carolina’s jam scene, and “everybody says North Carolina is probably the most locked-down state,” Heter mentioned. “Folks in South Carolina have been enjoying since day one.”
For many bands, he mentioned, streaming exhibits on-line shouldn’t be well worth the effort. To make it look and sound good you want to pay additional folks, which Heter mentioned does not make a lot sense while you’re getting $50 in on-line suggestions versus the $400 or $500 they used to get for a gig.
In different methods, he mentioned, it is not even in regards to the cash, however psychological well being.
“Should you’re doing it for the cash, it is nearly not value it,” Heter mentioned. “However sitting at house for months, you gotta do one thing.”
Wilmington musician Malcolm “Huge Mac” Howard, a singer and drummer, has been enjoying solo, duo and band gigs in South Carolina since 2012. Lately, he has weekly gigs in Little River, Cherry Grove, Myrtle Seaside and Pawleys Island.
Earlier than COVID he’d additionally play downtown Wilmington spots like Duck and Dive and Bourbon Avenue, however now he is nearly solely in South Carolina, the place he says that, “Should you obtained on a masks, folks take a look at you humorous.”
His group, We Like to Funk, performed a full-band gig in South Carolina for New Yr’s Eve, and his bandmates “have been shocked” extra folks weren’t sporting masks, Howard mentioned.
“It is a alternative” to play, he admits. “But when I do not play, my hire remains to be due … From a musician’s standpoint, I am preventing to reside. I am preventing to outlive.”
His alternative hasn’t at all times come with out judgment, Howard mentioned.
“When South Carolina first opened again up, I positively obtained the aspect eye from a couple of family and friends. And actually, I couldn’t blame them. However none of them have been loaning me cash. So yeah, I’d seize my face protect and to ‘Soiled Myrtle’ I’d go.”
Different musicians say they’ve confronted backlash from their option to play in South Carolina, or in any respect.
“It is an enormous backlash. I am scared to even speak about enjoying gigs,” Heter mentioned. When he does, he usually will not promote them, “I am going to simply present up.”
Over the summer time, he mentioned, Electrical Soul Pandemic was planning to play an outside pageant within the North Carolina woods for some 100 folks. Heter mentioned venue homeowners started posting that anybody who performed the pageant could be blacklisted as soon as the pandemic ended. People, he mentioned, began calling out bands on-line.
He mentioned he performed a masked, socially distanced present in Asheville on New Yr’s Eve, “However I could not speak about it as a result of folks could be (indignant),” Heter mentioned. “I believe I am shedding followers after I’m simply attempting to make a residing. It is a complete factor.”
Boyd, with Medicated Sunfish, mentioned he and his band have gotten backlash “for positive.” He attributes it to “a bizarre jealousy factor … Everybody bashes others who’re enjoying as a result of they cannot ebook themselves.”
For Wilmington musicians enjoying in South Carolina, security is unquestionably a priority. Cline mentioned he tends to play nearly all restaurant gigs, the place individuals are naturally extra distanced than at bars. He mentioned he wears a masks when he isn’t on stage, and “does not actually socialize” with patrons.
Howard mentioned he normally sits in his automobile when he isn’t on stage in order that he isn’t round folks, and that the majority locations he performs are “both open air or (have) a patio really feel.”
“Similar guidelines utilized after I went to Florida,” he added. “However I didn’t inform anyone about that gig. Folks woulda positively thought I used to be nuts.”
Cline mentioned that “there’s extra stuff opening up” within the Wilmington space. Domestically, he is been enjoying these days on the SeaWitch in Carolina Seaside, Mac’s Pace Store on Oleander, and Edward Educate Brewing on North Fourth. Moe’s, Katy’s, Bourbon Avenue, Would possibly As Effectively and different spots have been internet hosting solo and duo performances as properly.
Jenni Pietsch, who books reside music on the SeaWitch, mentioned she thinks not less than a part of the explanation extra space musicians are enjoying in South Carolina has to do with “the downsizing of leisure booked at bars and eating places that all of us needed to do final 12 months.”
Pre-COVID, the venue had full bands with 4 to 6 members enjoying Thursday by way of Sunday. Once they may solely ebook solo performers, or on the most trios, attributable to “restrictions and a diminished price range,” these different musicians discovered work the place they may, “and loads obtained gigs in South Carolina.”
For Cline, “The subsequent few months are up within the air” when it comes to gigs. “In a traditional 12 months, my calendar could be full. Loads of my Wilmington dates are tentative,” he mentioned, and even the occasions are tentative due to the present 9 p.m. curfew.
He thinks that, even after the pandemic, “Wilmington would possibly have to step its recreation up,” noting that some locations regionally solely pay about $100 for a three-hour gig, whereas in South Carolina it may be greater than double that for a similar period of time.
Heter notes that discovering gigs in Wilmington, particularly for full bands, was a problem even earlier than the pandemic. With venues just like the Soapbox, Ziggy’s, The Whiskey and The Calico all closing in recent times, “It was an enormous hit,” he mentioned. “It is not simply due to COVID. There’s simply nowhere to play, even when issues have been open.”
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A venue’s not going to open in the course of the pandemic, he added, and locations like Reggie’s and the Palm Room aren’t in a position to have bands proper now.
Even so, all of those musicians say they’re wanting ahead to the day after they can play the Port Metropolis extra often.
“I really like to have the ability to play Wilmington,” Howard mentioned. “The miles I’ve racked up? I’d love to have the ability to keep right here.”
Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or [email protected]