Med City has a diamond in the rough — the rough times for Rochester’s pandemic-limited music scene, that is — and a proper Jewell. As a solo act, and along with his bandmates in Calling Dinosaurs and Hair of the Dog, Jeremy Jewell has been one of the area’s busiest musicians during this time.
Jewell’s played outdoor weddings, breweries, streamed music festivals, taco joints, bars, sushi houses, drive-in concerts, and on the street corner outside of Old City Hall for the Sidewalk Sessions. The one thing that’s been true of all these performances is that he has tried to bring people some joy doing what he loves — playing rock-and-roll.
“I feel very lucky and grateful for having a good amount of fan and venue support in Rochester,” he said. “I’ve been performing in this town for a long time, and I will never take that for granted.”
After the first couple months of the pandemic, Jewell said experimentation with new ways to play music for live audiences started opening up some performance options.
“A lot of outdoor and socially distanced shows started happening,” he said.
Much of the playing Jewell’s done has been outdoors. As he puts it, Minnesotans have always been good at “taking advantage of the weather we have.” But now the cold and snow are moving in, so creative ways to perform safely for audiences indoors are becoming more important.
Jewell will play with Hair of the Dog on Friday night and Calling Dinosaurs on Wednesday night. For the Calling Dinosaurs show, Jewell will be joined by duo partner Tracy Sonnier.
“Normally, it would be a trio with Ellen Thomes on vocals and violin, but we will just be performing as a duo so we can better social distance,” he said.
It’s been nine months since Jewell’s played at the Half Barrel.
Before the pandemic, he had a standing gig there twice a month for several years.
“I really like where we play, right inside the big window looking out onto First Avenue,” he said. “Also, we’ve played there so much the last few years it feels like a second home.”
Jewell is quick to recommend the Half Barrel’s smoked old fashioned, a drink he claims “should be on everyone’s cocktail bucket list.”
Performing despite the pandemic is important to Jewell.
“Just like all art forms, music provides a much-needed escape from a lot of the daily stresses and anxiety from life, even more so during a pandemic,” he said.
Jewell had some hesitancy to play at the first few performances after the stay-at-home order was lifted. Now, though, he said, “I feel like as long as we’re following the protocols we’re supposed to — wearing masks when we’re not singing, keeping proper distance — then everything should be fine.”
For Jewell, making music for others is an important part of his identity.
“I feel the most like myself and the most at home when I’m performing,” he said.
He also thinks that music is something that breaks down barriers between people.
“There is a lot of division in our world right now,” he said, “but I think music, especially live, is a great way for people to remember how much we are actually all alike.”
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Since Calling Dinosaurs are playing the Half Barrel the night after the election, a little live music to bridge our differences might be especially welcome.
“No matter what happens, we can all at least celebrate that we won’t be getting any more junk mail for a while,” he said.
If you go
What: Hair of the Dog
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30
Where: North Star Bar, 503 N. Broadway, Rochester, MN
What: Calling Dinosaurs
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4
Where: Half Barrel Bar & Kitchen 304 1st Ave. SW, Rochester, MN