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At 7 o’clock on the dot, swilling a cocktail and acoustic guitar in hand, David Ramirez settled into his seat. He waved at the camera and got ready to play. With a little mood lighting to set the atmosphere, he checked his equipment.
“Thanks for tuning in.” And the livestream was underway.
Ramirez led into his set with an original, called “Twins,” the leading single from his 2017 release, We’re Not Going Anywhere, a haunting and extraordinarily powerful meditation on September 11th.
“Where were you when we lost the twins?
Where were you when the fear settled in?
There she goes
Goodbye America, America, America”
Fitting, chilling. The little number in the corner of the screen climbed steadily along with the song’s lift. The metric started off at 152. By his second song, it had ticked up – some 300 people had tuned in.
Ramirez’s heavy and storied song book was the perfect fit for the start of the new livestream concert series, “All Dressed Up & Nowhere to Show” which Evanston SPACE debuted on March 30th . David Ramirez, a singer song writer from Austin, Texas, has been putting out records for close to a decade and has four full-length studio releases. SPACE has been a regular stop for him on tours over the years.
In the midst of the pandemic shut down, the much-beloved Evanston venue has sought an alternative for past performers to have an outlet to connect with their audiences via livestream. “Its’ a response to something we’re all nostalgic for these days — community,” says Kristen Mitchell, manager of musical operations at SPACE.
“While it certainly isn’t the same as being in a room together, this virtual concert series allows viewers to watch past SPACE performers ‘go live’ from their living rooms. We miss giving customers the opportunity to connect with the music and artists they know and love.”
The stream also includes an outlet for viewers to tip the performers and donate much needed funds to SPACE’s venue staff as well. So many of the performers have found their livelihoods gridlocked, unable to hobble together after their gigs came to a screeching halt some weeks ago with the shuttering of sic venues and clubs.
Ramirez kicked up some light banter between songs with the audience. He took requests of originals and answered questions from fans and family chiming in. The performance flowed naturally, with all the ease and informality of breaking out the guitar after a dinner with good friends.
“What are you drinkin’?” one viewer solicited. “Tequila!” Ramirez answered with a cordial smile and a laugh. “Hopefully you can crack open up a bottle of wine with me. If you’re sober, have a chocolate cake. indulge yourself in this moment with me, please!” “Despite the circumstances” he added, “I’m in very good spirits, but I miss being around folks.”
Ramirez’s world-weary troubadour charm and free-wheeling style projected well through the screen and into the living room, just as one would imagine he would light up an entire venue with positive vibes from the stage.
The next few tunes were new, unreleased material. They were woven with his signature songwriting. Narrative ballads of hard living with brooding insight. Night of the Hunter bread-and-butter. Though his subject matter is stark, his tone is not without the saving grace of pop. On the backbone, he maintains a pulsating rhythm that refuses to quit. A catchiness and a kind of hard-won optimism prevails throughout. His harrowing voice casts each line toward heaven, in spite of the odds. Though it’s a dark ride, he reassures you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
In the moment, it makes for an opaque dynamic, of high noon and midnight at once that has characterized so many of the hours and days as of late.
By the second half of the performance, the ticker in the corner steadied around 365. That’s easily the capacity of several of the city’s intimate and slightly larger venues. Yet still, a humming fixture in his own room, Ramirez strummed his guitar and sang out with all the spirit and raw emotion as he would in a packed house. Which, in a way, it was.
The internet is an infinitely vast place, but 365 pairs of ears and eyes tuning in directly is quite an audience. An audience you could bet is truly listening and hanging on every note as if it was being sung solely for them.
His latest single, released in early March, “Hallelujah, Love is Real,” captures the essence in its timing and perseverance.
“Hallelujah, love is real,
I found myself at the end of my rope,
I’ll never let go, no I’ll never let go.”
The sincerity of the performer and the audience is not lost in this new thing. The reverence and the gravity remain intact in the exchange between artist and listener. A community forms, and the effective medium of the livestream becomes apparent to the viewer. In the confines of our homes and apartments, we can still find a bond by being in the presence of one thing we know we love, live music.
Despite the circumstances, no matter how strange, isolating, and totally unprecedented, we are still compelled to connect with each other and recreate these moments. Even sitting around with a bag of chips and our bellies hanging out, we have a yearning to transcend the couch and escape the four dismal walls that surround us. After all, isn’t that kind of what’s its always been about, to listen and get lost, alone, together?
Ramirez closed one of his last songs and said, “It’s about being present. Thank you everybody for showing up”
I’m glad I did. I certainly will next time. We could all use it right now.
Follow SPACE on Instagram and Facebook for upcoming announcements on more artists on All Dressed Up & Nowhere to Show. The next livestream is on Thursday, April 2, 2020, at 7pm CT with Nashville Based guitar virtuoso Daniel Donato.
Find David Ramirez at www.davidramirezmusic.com. You can also follow him on Instagram and Facebook. He can be found on all the major streaming services as well.