“I heard “This Land is Your Land,” and thought, ‘that’s me!’” said Benny, a neighbor who’d appeared on the sidewalk after my husband and I sang the Woody Guthrie classic recently. Since March, we’ve been playing safe-socially distanced porch concerts most every week.
“I brought you some smoked salmon,” he said, placing a parcel of carefully wrapped fish on our stoop.
Benny, we soon learned, was a local-resident who’d lived down the street and worked as a fisherman. He’s one of countless neighbors we’ve met through playing music from our home, a primary source of some of what has turned into some of our sweetest Lockdown Lemonade (as well as some excellent smoked salmon).
I was more than halfway through a two-week songwriting residency in Sonoma County when the shelter-in-place order went into effect in mid-March. After canceling the first of many scheduled shows on the calendar, I came home several days later, not quite realizing I was starting another place-based residency of sorts.
Inspired by footage of people singing in Italy during that country’s pandemic-related lockdown, a local resident had put out a call on Facebook for musicians to play or sing on their porches at the same time that Friday. I vetted the idea with our immediate neighbors and signed us on to play. Within minutes of our starting to play, a group of locals cycled and walked over to listen. During the next two hours, we had children bopping from their strollers, people wiggling on their bike seats and dancing in the median.
There is nothing that compares to live music even if everyone is sitting or standing more than six feet apart. The porch concerts were so well received, a community volunteer revised an online performance map every Friday for 28 consecutive weeks. Many residents rode their bikes around Alameda, taking in several acts in an evening. Others brought chairs and beverages and parked themselves on the sidewalk for the duration. Many, like Benny, happened to hear the music and ventured by organically.
As I met new-to-me neighbors, I began to wonder who else was here, now and historically? In answer, I created a hyper-local, quarterly ’zine, The Bay Station Eagle, penned by and for local residents, and now sold at the local bookstore.
Like most people, connecting online and producing more video in general has become a norm. Along with playing regular porch concerts, we put together two, virtual, multi-day versions of our annual Love the Bay Music & Sailing mini-festivals, turning them into fundraisers in the wake of the George Floyd protests and the California wildfires. As we head into winter, we’re working on new recordings, sending files around to other bandmates to complete parts remotely.
In general, I’ve found playing music from the porch and collaborating with my neighbors in new ways sustaining in ways I couldn’t have foreseen. In years past, I’ve spent a lot of energy figuring out how to get out there, working on booking shows and tours and events, and hitting the road whenever a good reason presented itself. Now, instead of focusing so much on how to get out there, the focus is evermore how to be here, and appreciate who and what else is here, too.
Deborah Crooks’ lyric-driven music draws on folk, rock and Americana and her lifelong studies of natural history, writing and yoga. Her latest record, The Department of the West, was described as “imaginative, cinematic and informative.” Along with her solo work, the California native cofounded the band Bay Station and its “Love the Bay” Music & Sailing video series.
In an attempt to keep us connected as we continue to find our way through these often stressful times, some in our extended community have been sharing their experiences, lessons learned and hope as they’ve dealt with Covid, lockdown, boredom, lack of inspiration, etc. We are all looking for ways to make lemonade out of the many lemons! This column will continue on a weekly basis and postings will be released at 10 AM Pacific every Monday, so watch for them! For guidelines and submission details, please contact Julie Zipperer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marlynn Block at email@example.com. Submissions will be posted based on approval from the Lockdown Lemonade Committee.