While the coronavirus pandemic has forced the world to put live music performances on hold, the Vestal Museum is making the best of the situation with a virtual version of their monthly Second Saturday concert. The stream, which took place on Saturday, May 9 at 8 p.m., was broadcasted entirely through Facebook Live.
Second Saturday is one of the mainstays of Vestal Museum’s event lineup, taking place on the second Saturday of each month. Featuring a live music set from local musicians and an assortment of light refreshments, the events are free to attend but have a recommended donation of $10 to support the museum’s work.
Jessica Petrylak, art gallery director for Vestal Museum and a Broome County resident, said that the decision to host the event online was made due to community members asking about the museum’s plans for Second Saturday during the era of social distancing.
“We try to stay as active on social media as any museum would, but this is the first time we’ve really had an online-only event,” Petrylak said.
While it is difficult to predict what the rules for gatherings will look like even a month from now, the Vestal Museum is preparing for the possibility of additional livestreams. Petrylak mentioned that a variety of local musicians have been performing virtually since the pandemic began, giving artists the experience necessary to make the event work.
“I think we’re definitely open to it, if the musicians are down and they know how to work livestreams,” Petrylak said. “I could see it totally happening and getting into the habit of being online if we can’t have it in real life.”
The livestream on Saturday was headlined by Tom Lewis, the lead singer of local alternative rock band Tom Jolu and a Binghamton resident. The hourlong set featured a brief intermission halfway through, featuring a collection of photography from Broome County resident Nic Buttacavoli. Performing to a crowd of roughly 20 livestream viewers, Lewis played original songs focusing on diverse themes such as mental health and the struggle to get through the workday.
Alone in the museum, Lewis functioned like a one-man band, often playing the guitar, harmonica and kick drum at the same time. Lewis discussed how the pandemic has made it difficult for the full band to perform together, making solo sets a more viable option.
“Everything that’s happening with the pandemic, we have to adapt to how things are,” Lewis said. “It’s trying to find the infrastructure and trying to find ways to make a full band work, and also make it not super laggy.”
The Facebook post for the event featured a “digital tip jar” that linked to the band’s Paypal account, and comments on the livestream were supportive and thankful for the performance. One virtual attendee joked about lighting a virtual lighter and swaying back and forth while Lewis played a slower song. Lewis said that while playing a virtual show doesn’t feel quite the same as playing live, he does his best to simulate the feeling by interacting with the crowd and asking for requests.
“It’s not the same as people in the room looking at you and acknowledging and reacting to what you’re doing live,” Lewis said. “But we do what we can and we try to adapt with what we have and what technology we have.”