Humbird started this year soaring. Then the COVID-19 pandemic left her and other musicians grounded.
After years of touring and performing, Siri Undlin, a Minnesota musician who performs solo and with an ensemble as Humbird, was given an official slot at the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas.
“I was so honored,” Undlin said of the invite. “I thought, maybe what I’m doing, maybe it’s working.”
The festival was cancelled due to concerns about the world-wide outbreak of COVID-19 respiratory virus. Last week, the Rochester Thaw, music festival, at which Humbird was also scheduled as a headliner, was cancelled after Gov. Tim Walz advised Friday all gatherings of 250 or more people be cancelled to stem the spread of the virus.
Cancellation of the larger events has opened up time in Undlin’s schedule which she is using to rescind airline and hotel reservations.
“I think the schedule has come to a complete standstill,” she said.
It’s also time in which she isn’t getting paid.
“One or two festival days can support an entire week of touring,” Undlin said.
Now she’s seeing which shows are still scheduled and whether she can schedule new shows between those.
“It’s this crazy game of tetris,” she said.
Rochester musician Luke Hendrickson, who released album “One Night at the Crystal Lounge” last month, planned a tour with the release. So far, most of the venues haven’t cancelled -- but he is concerned about a short swing into Canada after talk of closing the U.S. border because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I have no intentions (of) cancelling any shows right now,” he said. “But it’s not like I’m playing in stadiums or big clubs, so I’m leaving it up to each venue.”
None of them have cancelled as of Monday, he added.
Alluding to Gov. Walz’s recommendation to cancel events of 250 or more people, Hendrickson said he isn’t anticipating a wave of cancellations.
“I doubt any of the gigs coming up are in rooms that hold that many people,” he said.
Whenever a show does fall through, Hendrickson said he gets on the phone to book a replacement show or even play at a venue for tips.
“Obviously you want the guaranteed money, but in a pinch, you gotta do what you gotta do,” Hendrickson said. “Giving up, even for a day or two, isn’t an option for me.”
On a recent trip, Hendrickson filled an empty Tuesday with a show in a small town of Bethany, Mo. -- a town of about 3,200 people. He landed the last-minute gig thanks to connections he made in the area on a previous trip.
Constantly being out there and being willing to play creates good luck and opportunities, he said. The locals didn’t mind either.
“You could see the surprise on their faces when they walked in,” Hendrickson said.
Humbird was on tour with fellow Minnesota musician Palmer T. Lee in the Pacific Northwest when SXSW was cancelled. The virus seemed to be following them, she said.
“It seemed like we were always one lily pad leap away from the wave,” Undlin said.
That wave caught up when Undlin arrived back in Minnesota March 11 -- the same day a case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Olmsted County.
“That reality set in pretty fast,” she said.
Undlin said she would look for possible shows at smaller venues.
“That just might be the only way to tour for a while,” she said.
People can help support musicians by streaming their music, buying it online or buying merchandise at shows, she added. Hendrickson said even just sharing social media posts can help them reach more people.
Hendrickson recognized other fields of work are affected by efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
“I’m sure a lot of people besides musicians are affected by this,” he said. “I think it’s important to stay calm and help each other out.”
“I think it’s important to keep in perspective that a couple cancelled shows aren’t the end of the world,” Undlin said.
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