Adding to the national conversation on live-streamed concerts, The Vilar Performing Arts Center has announced that it will stream a new series starting May 7. The Ghost Light Sessions kick off with a performance from local favorites The Runaway Grooms live at 7 p.m. Access the stream on YouTube through the Vilar’s website, vilarpac.org/streaming. A hyperlink to the stream will go live at showtime.
During the concert, The Runaway Grooms will perform some new songs they’ve been writing with all the extra time on their hands. The band will also play tunes from its newly-released debut LP, “Tied to the Sun.”
“We have been working hard to really curate this set to be a very engaging listening experience that takes the viewers at home through a musical roller coaster,” said frontman Adam Tobin. “We want listeners to feel like they’re at an actual live show again.”
Listen to The Runaway Grooms live on the Vail Daily’s Newsroom Jams.
Additional performers will be announced soon.
“We plan to have a lot of local artists involved and want to support those local musicians,” said Ruthie Hamrick, the Vail Valley Foundation’s senior arts marketing manager.
During the Grooms’ performance and the ones following, the band will play on the Vilar’s stage to an empty room, lit only with simple spotlighting. The effect is intended to give viewers a sense of closeness. It also comes from a deep-seated theater tradition.
“There all sorts of traditions and superstitions in theater such as not bringing mirrors on stage, no whistling from backstage, saying “break a leg” and never mentioning The Scottish Play,” said Duncan Horner, the venue’s executive director. “Another is to make sure to turn on an exposed incandescent bulb centerstage known as ‘the ghost light,’ before turning off other lights and vacating the theater. I like to think of it as providing an eternal flame that remains on between shows, providing a baseline of energy that allows us to look forward to the next wave of entertainment.”
The Vilar hopes to continue the Ghost Light series beyond the Runaway Grooms’ performance, highlighting other local artists. Prior to the pandemic, the band opened for the Toots and the Maytals, and the venue and the band had been talking about booking more opening sets, so the transition to a live stream instead of a traditional concert was a natural one for both parties.
As for maintaining safe social distancing practices while these concerts are shot, The Vilar will ensure that no more than 10 people are present at the shoot and that organizers, camera operators and the band members are 6 feet apart.
Plenty of independent and mainstream artists typically connect with fans through live shows. Without tours, many are effectively out of work due to coronavirus. Full-time independent artists in particular get the majority of their income through touring. The bandmates are not full-time musicians, but to help the band financially, the Vilar will have a virtual tip jar where viewers can donate directly.
But for many performers, live shows are much more connected to emotions and expression than to money. The absence of a proper audience is a big deal. Tobin said that the band loves providing a “collective escape” and communal space during a show, and it comforts the band to be able to still provide a version of that feeling.
“I think it brings some normalcy back in people’s lives,” he said. “But it’s really not enough for us. We feed off of the crowd as much as the crowd feeds off of us, and that reciprocity creates that magical energy that makes festivals and shows so meaningful and profound and vulnerable.”
He’s excited to get the band back together in person again when social distancing measures are lifted.
Other ways to support the Vilar Performing Arts Center include purchasing gift cards, which are valid for 5 years – so you know you’ll be able to get to a show by 2025. Patrons can also donate and purchase memberships, which are available in many tiers and start with $25 contributions. Higher-paying members can request backstage tours, meet artists and enjoy receptions in the May Gallery Patrons Lounge.