Live Entertainment Changes Drastically

Westside Bowl hosts online music events during the pandemic. Photo by Zach Mosca/The Jambar

By Zach Mosca

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing large events to be canceled worldwide, the world of concerts and live entertainment has been turned upside down. Venues are making little to no revenue and bands need to find new ways to perform.

In order to keep themselves afloat in the age of social distancing and quarantining, venues must adapt to this new way of life. This is no easy feat, but one local venue was able to pull it off.

Westside Bowl hosts online music events during the pandemic. Photo by Zach Mosca/The Jambar

When the lockdown started, Westside Bowl owner Nathan Offerdahl was very nervous about the fate of his business. The venue continued to function as a carryout restaurant, but business was slow. 

However, things began looking up when local band Rebreather decided to buy 10 pizzas for the next 10 callers.

“We posted a video on Facebook with two of the guys from the band, and about 10 minutes later, we had another local band called Daggrs who called in and wanted to do the next 10,” Offerdahl said.

From there, bands and supporters of the venue stepped up to the plate and continued paying for pizzas for customers. 

“Quite frankly, that first four or five months, that’s what sustained us,” Offerdahl said. 

Venues aren’t the only party struggling, though. For many musicians, playing shows and touring are their livelihood, and because they can’t play shows, their incomes have come to a halt.

Avid concertgoers, such as Jennel Benson, have been buying a lot of band merchandise and supporting bands in any way they can.

“Bands had their merch for their tours and what I did was I bought some of their merch so I could make sure I was still supporting them,” Benson said.

Benson also said she’s been watching more live streams of bands performing on websites such as Facebook and YouTube. Venues like Westside Bowl are using these live streams to allow bands to still perform under social distancing guidelines.

“It’s a way for us to stay relevant as far as live music is concerned. It’s also a way to interact with the folks who like to come here and see bands play,” Offerdahl said.

According to Carolyn Jesko, assistant director of programming for Youngstown State University’s Student Activities, YSU’s Penguin Productions has also done live streaming events to make up for the inability to plan in-person concerts. Youngstown’s annual local music festival Federal Frenzy was live-streamed on Penguin Productions’ social media pages. 

“The students still wanted to plan a virtual event that celebrated the spirit of Federal Frenzy. Our students were able to showcase local artists and highlight a lot of the partners that traditionally help us pull off such a large-scale event,” Jesko said.

While live streaming is working for now, many concertgoers long to go out and see their favorite bands in person again. Benson said this feeling cannot be replicated anywhere else.

“At concerts you’re in an environment of people who like the same thing you do, but you also have so many stories, whether it’s your favorite band making eye contact with you, or talking to the person next to you about a new band,” Benson said.