With no shows to play, local musicians turn to virtual concert series

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sunday night at 8 p.m. iHeartRadio will present the Living Room Concert for America on FOX4, featuring stars like Alicia Keys and Elton John.

But they aren’t the only ones performing from their living rooms. A new KC Live Online Music Series is spreading joy and helping local musicians, too.

Mikey Needleman and his band are used to playing in front of crowds, but when the coronavirus started to spread, it appeared, like all musicians, his music might not leave the house.

“It was pretty devastating as a musician. That’s what I do is play music for people to support my family,” Needleman said.

Artists started chatting about how they could still perform. Crystal Gatewood, a part-time musician who knew plenty of full-time musicians, came up with the idea for nightly Facebook Live shows.

“We are keeping it simple. We are bringing you live music to your couch,” she said, introducing the Facebook page.

A different musician performs each night throughout at the stay-at-home order beginning at 8 p.m. Some shows have had as many as 20,000 viewers.

“It’s been really cool for me because I get to see all the musicians perform that I don’t normally get to see because I’m working and they are working the same nights,” Needleman said.

Viewers can show their appreciation through virtual tip jars, 100% going directly to the artists’ Venmo or Cash App.

Needleman has taken the idea of virtual concerts one step further, with the approval of the governor’s office.

“I started thinking to myself: There’s all these restaurants I use to play at, and they are struggling just to get people to come in get to-go orders,” he said.

Two nights this week he performed curbside at Fireside BBQ for customers getting curbside pickup. He used a transmitter so customers could be “car-antined” and listen to the music on their radios.

For online performers, shows without fans are an adjustment.

“You start seeing thumbs up and hearts, and that’s very awesome. But at the same time, there’s no clapping at the end of the song,” Needleman said. “When we did the parking lot show, there was a lot of honking. But I can’t wait until we get out and play in front of people like we used to.”

Until then they’ll keep rocking out wherever they can.

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