By Margaret Welsh
Pittsburgh Current Music Editor
When the idea for Live at 25 concert series first came up earlier this month, the world was — as we all know — already starting to look a lot different.
A joint effort of the relatively new community-based non-profit 25 Carrick Ave. and concert production company Hear Corp, the original idea was to put on 25 days of live-streamed, audience-less concerts from the Carrick-based venue used by both organizations. “We have this beautiful venue, we have all this gear,” says Maddie Lafferty, a concert photographer who works for Hear Corp doing a little bit of everything. “Originally we wanted to have a very small production team and bring these artists in.”
But as quarantine rules change by the day, Live at 25 has been quick and eager to adapt, remaining dedicated to providing live entertainment and support for artists while keeping everyone safe at home.
Last Friday, when restrictions were still a bit lighter, teams of under five people worked together on graphics and getting artists set up on Facebook live. From there they’ve experimented with other video-conferencing technology, and have since started producing concerts from their individual houses. “Hear Corp has been kind enough to let us use their gear and we’re able to take home whatever is necessary to keep this thing going,” says Lafferty.
The diverse lineup of Pittsburgh artists began on St. Patrick’s Day with a performance by the Bastard Bearded Irishmen. The next night’s stream featured members of the funk band Beauty Slap, which included a virtual Q&A with fans. Following that, the Pittsburgh Circus Arts Collaborative appeared along with Lawrenceville grassroots arts collective Redfishbowl.
“The extent that the performers are going to is pretty amazing,” says Lafferty. Juggling Zero and fire breather Jo Kerr broadcasted their performance from an abandoned warehouse. Contortionist Camille Zamboni appeared with her kids from her in-home studio. O’Ryan the O’Mazing taught some simple circus tricks to the viewers at home.
Artists, too, have been hugely supportive and flexible. When Live at 25 was no longer able to broadcast from the studio, Lafferty says, the crew sent out emails asking artists if they’d be ok with a different livestream setup. “And we got over 100 email responses, like, ‘We don’t have anything else going on, just give us a time, let us know what time to log on and we’ll be there.’ And everyone I’ve worked with, everyone I’ve talked to, it’s an overwhelming amount of support.”
The schedule and the streaming methods are, like everything else these days, in constant flux, so keep an eye on the Live at 25 Facebook page for daily updates.
What doesn’t change is the goal to provide financial support to artists who are currently struggling. So far nearly $5,400 has been donated to the project’s GoFundMe page, which has a goal of $25,000, or $1000 a show. Each individual participant will get a cut of the final amount raised.
The Live at 25 crew is also sharing links to artists’ merch and social media pages. After the Pittsburgh Circus Arts Collaborative show, Lafferty says, each artist made around $60 in Venmo and Paypal tips from people watching on their personal feeds. “We’re just doing everything we can to really make sure everyone is ok during this time.
“Everyone is just really focused on supporting our community,” she adds. “I’m just really focused on staying positive, running on a bit of adrenaline … It’s been pretty amazing, it really shows you how people come together when we can’t physically.”