The HUM: Viral cancellation – musicians unemployed; businesses struggle as world shuts down

Excuse me if the Hum is a bit different this week, we’re living through different, difficult times. Normally I spend the first part of the week gathering information about things coming up in the week ahead so that you make plans. Last week, instead, I was fielding notices of canceled events, one after another. 

Pretty much everything I wrote about last week was canceled, from the Folklife St. Patrick’s Day Barn Dance, scheduled for an unlucky Friday the 13th, to Six Rivers Brewery’s Sweet 16 Anniversary Party scheduled for the real St. Paddy’s Day. An entire week’s events called off on account of COVID-19, aka the corona virus.

At this point, uncertainty rules the day. I honestly don’t know what’s going on next week. Most local venues have canceled or postponed all shows for the time being. 

Laurel Weston, who books shows for Humboldt Brews said, “We have closed our venue doors and canceled all our events through the end of March, some additional touring acts scheduled for April have canceled their tours as well. This has been a massive handful having to talk to a gazillion agents, artists, artists management, media, ticketing company, our staff etc. I am so exhausted. We are just trying to do our best to do the right thing.”

CenterArts sent a similar announcement, all campus events are off. Those who make their living in the entertainment are instantly unemployed, and as most are gig employees, few have unemployment insurance to soften the blow as the social net fails. 

Keyboard wizard Brian Swizlo was trying to look at the bright side. “Small and short term sacrifices now are way worth [it as] the festival season is coming soon and the year ahead of amazing music. As much as we don’t want to give up our [event with Object Heavy] and as much money we’ve already spent promoting it, we know that if we want to be doing Summer Arts and Music Festival, Northern Nights, and other amazing local events, then maybe right now is a good time to let things settle in or blow over.”

Meredith Maier, co-owner of Six Rivers Brewery said, “I cried real tears today, I’m not a crier, but I’m truly scared for my business and staff. St Pat’s funds our first quarter. We already lost revenue over Halloween during the power outages, we are suffering from legalization, and our local economy is weak. Operators are confused and concerned. This is extreme for everyone and everyone is trying to do their best.” 

In a separate post, she laid out plans for the restaurant. “We want to let you know that we are taking the situation with COVID-19 seriously,” she said. “The safety and health of our staff and our guests is always a top priority, only highlighted by this type of situation. Our business is about community and connections, which is why we are exercising an abundance of caution and taking extra steps to ensure we have the safest environment possible. 

“Local businesses need your support and here are some steps we are taking: First, we are choosing to postpone our anniversary party celebration for the time being with the California Department of Public Health’s recommendation of postponing all events with over 250 people. Our main priority is keeping all our customers healthy and safe. We will be open for business as usual,” but without any “hugs or handshakes.” Furthermore, “We encourage all guests to wash their hands upon entering and leaving our establishment.” She said they would sanitize everything constantly, because that’s how you stay safe. 

Her recommendation for customers, “If you are even slightly ill or worried about being in contact with someone who was, then please exercise the same caution and avoid coming to the brewery. As there are no cases currently in Humboldt, we are doing our best to protect the health and safety of our community.”

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It’s true, at least as of this writing, there are no cases of COVID-19 locally. What else can you do but carry on with life.

“We believe during these challenging times that relaxing with friends and a beer is an important social and mental activity,” said Meredith, “and we believe it’s incumbent upon us to continue to provide this to our friends in the safest way possible. Our staff is going above and beyond all recommendations to ensure the health and safety of everyone we engage with on a daily basis.”

The same could be said of most businesses in Humboldt. Everyone wants to do the right thing. Of course some things that would normally be listed here will go on. Sorting out which events will go on from the cancellations is a job that I’m not ready to do at this time. 

I spoke with my son Spencer yesterday, he and his band Visible Cloaks have a prestigious gig scheduled for the Barbican, a concert venue in London. When we spoke, we’d heard that European travel was off, but flying to the UK was permitted. The travel ban was further complicated by the fact that the show included two Japanese musicians, and they may not be allowed into England. Then as I was finishing up this column, Vice President Pence announced that UK will be added to the no fly ban, so another gig is off. 

Everything is in flux. Every minute another message comes in telling me another event is canceled. The latest: the 2020 Rebel Craft Rumble at the Arcata Playhouse.

SCRAP organizer Malia Matsumoto said, “We are postponing the Rebel Craft Rumble because of Governor Gavin Newsom’s policy on gatherings to protect public health and slow the spread of COVID-19. We are upset that it will not be happening this March, but this event is a celebration of SCRAP Humboldt in our community and it will take place once we know we can keep our community healthy. 

“Thank you for all of your help in the initial support of this event. If you have purchased tickets, you will receive a full refund. We will be spreading the word that the event is postponed via social media and other channels. Feel free to contact SCRAP with any questions. Thank you for your understanding.” 

I’m going to add my own suggestion: if you can afford to, instead of demanding a refund for a canceled event, make it a donation to the organization. We’re all in this together. 

Anyway, the Hum may or may not be back next week, we’ll see what there is to report. In the meantime, I have some binge watching to catch up with, and there’s always the recommendation made so astutely on a bumper sticker available at Northtown Books, “Read A Fucking Book.” 

And… don’t forget to wash your hands. 


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