In mid-March, Dave Briggs and his band, Dave’s Fault, were prepared to perform at Intrinzik, a live music venue. The band — Briggs, Karen Henderson, Dusty Day, Randy Arndt, Paul Heide — had rehearsed and prepared, as they always do for a scheduled show.
But, there was no performance on that night. On March 16, Gov. Jared Polis issued the closure of restaurants, bars and gyms statewide to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The unexpected order forced the group to change their plans. They were one of the first bands to cancel a show at the venue, which subsequently announced it would not reopen.
"It was tough,” Briggs said. "We weren’t sure what was going to happen.”
What transpired after were months of uncertainty. Local bands and musicians faced an unusual reality — closed venues and nowhere to perform.
“It was really depressing,” Briggs said. “It was amazing how much music was a part of our life at that time.”
The band pivoted quickly, deciding to take some time off, figuring the closure would last a few weeks.
But weeks turned into months. The closures were extended.
Members didn’t think it would extend into summer even when answers ranged from limited to non-existent.
"A lot of it was unknown,” Briggs said. "At one point, we were unsure if we would ever play again.”
The loss of performing for a crowd stung, Briggs said.
“Seeing the joy in somebody’s face, that's the stuff we always talked about after shows,” he said. “Being able to interact with the people and giving people a reason to go out. Not having that was the most painful part of it.”
Local band Neon Sky — Legendary Live Music shared a similar sentiment. Cancellations came pouring in, and the scheduled performances on the calendar, in one swoop, were wiped clean.
“We've all been pretty depressed about it,” said Rusty Wouters, who started the band a few years ago. “Just that we can't get out there and do what we love to do.”
Neon Sky features musicians Zach Frank, Rob Labig, Wouters, and Zin.
Frank, who also performs with the band Pearl Road, noted online shows have become a recent trend.
But it doesn’t replace a live performance.
“It’s definitely not the same as live venues,” Frank said. “It’s nice to get music out there, but it’s just not the same.”
Neon Sky’s shows currently are canceled through early July, Wouters said. He and Frank don’t anticipate a return to live performances until late July or early August.
The band usually performs 50 shows a year, Wouters noted. In 2020, for obvious reasons, that number will look much different.
“This is going to be a very strange year,” Wouters said.
The loss of Intrinzik, which announced on April 22 it will not reopen, was massive, Briggs said.
“The fact that we lost that music venue, it hurt all the bands in town,” he said. “It hurt the community in a way.”
Danny Morales, a professional musician in Montrose, hasn’t seen any income in months. It’s his job to perform at the venues. But with closures, and nowhere to play, income has been cut short.
“Crappy, considering it’s what my actual job is,” Morales said when asked what music has looked like for him during the pandemic.
“It’s not just the performing artists that get affected by it. The venues, the promoters, ticket sales, bus drivers, truck drivers, the roadies. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, and everybody’s affected. It sucks.”
Morales noted friends of his around the country have sold off their gear and decided to do something else.
“It’s sad, but what are you gonna do?” he said. “The future of live music is very uncertain right now.”
Band members in Dave’s Fault have used the time off to write some new material, Briggs said. The rock-centric band started interacting through Zoom, bouncing ideas off one another and keeping the creative process alive.
“Once we did the Zoom meetings, we were seeing each other again, and we figured, ‘OK, it’s time to do something,'" said Briggs. “We started a text chain for music that we would work on individually, just something to inspire us again. In the end, we’re such a tight bunch of friends that we always knew we would come back.”
Although Neon Sky hasn’t rehearsed as much the past few months, the band has worked on some new music and prepared a new set list for the summer. Wouters hopes to keep the band versatile in the event a specific venue wants to employ its services and requests a specific genre of music.
Earlier this year, Neon Sky secured a guitar sponsorship from G&L Guitars, an American guitar manufacturing company. G&L sent the group guitars and basses.
Curt Mangan Strings, a guitar string manufacturer based in Cortez, also sponsored Neon Sky.
As a band that features a few members, the group has been able to gather and perform among one another, Frank said. Though it may be a while before live performances can return, he indicated there's "positive aspects that come from this.” He praised Montrose County, which applied for and received a variance to the state's safer at home orders. Frank said that should help accelerate the timeline for a return of the local music scene.
“A lot of the local bands are being united and supporting one another,” Frank said. “Figuring out ways to help each other and continue through this.”
Morales went back to “where it all started” — playing on a street corner in front of the post office in Montrose — collecting any cash he could to keep the lights on.
“It was enlightening,” Morales said. “I’ve been playing music professionally and done a lot of shows for over 20 years. I’ve played a lot of places and every major festival from here to Idaho, Denver. But when you break it down to its simplest form, it’s just like, ‘OK, what am I going to do to survive?’ and that’s play music.
“So while everyone was on lockdown, and no music was being made, it was really nice to actually be up in front of people in the elements, playing for people who were scared.”
Hoping for a lively late summer
As of now, Dave’s Fault doesn’t have any official shows lined up in the near future. The group is speaking with a few venues, and is entertaining the idea of outdoor performances to help with social distancing. The band has discussed private parties or renting out parks as options, but it’s “in a holding pattern for now,” Briggs said.
The members want to make sure they can return responsibly and ensure the safety of patrons. The group is hopeful it can perform at the Montrose Summer Music Series.
However, Dave Bowman, music promoter at Blue Sky Music and a board of director for the Montrose Summer Music Series, indicated the series seems unlikely to go ahead this summer.
The June show has moved to July 17, but Bowman, who is also a Montrose City Council member, hopes to reschedule this summer’s shows to 2021. The bands scheduled to play in August and September have canceled, Bowman said. He hopes to feature local and regional bands during those months, provided it is allowable under state guidelines.
Neon Sky’s performance in Silverton on July 4 was canceled, leaving the group pondering when its next performance will be. The band is hoping to perform at the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival on Aug. 1, and currently is scheduled to perform at a wedding a week later.
Morales performed at Horsefly Brewing Company on Sunday. He plans to perform this Saturday at 5 p.m., also at Horsefly.
Morales and others are hopeful the live music scene’s outlook improves because of the connection music offers.
While playing in front of the post office, an elderly lady walked up to Morales, and planted a kiss on his forehead, thanking him for the music he played.
“You can see it in their eyes, they’re hungry for that connection,” Morales said. “It’s a magical thing, that connection.”
“I think Montrose could use a summer music series,” Briggs said. “It could be the biggest show ever.”