In late August, HuntsvilleMusic.com published a piece on seeing Huntsville live music shows safely during COVID-19. This advice stemmed from a combination of CDC recommendations, local and state ordinances, and individual venue guidelines. We decided to experience the scene ourselves by checking out a few shows.
Tom, Alex, and I hit our first stop, Stovehouse, when it was still light outside, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was straight-up crowded – crowded, while managing to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Steven Jackson, Stovehouse’s Director of Marketing and Communications, gave some insight into how Stovehouse has dealt with crowds, COVID, and fostering a sense of community safely.
“Like everyone else, we stressed about the best ways to handle crowds safely as they slowly returned to eat and drink. Luckily, we have a 200,000 sq. ft. campus that is mostly outdoor plus a bazillion tables and chairs. We were able to encourage folks to use the whole space to socially distance while enjoying each other, live music, and the backyard party atmosphere that we try to provide here. Not to mention we’ve used five years’ worth of hand sanitizer over the past few months.”
This initiative has been a success so far, with groups of show-goers dotting the green outdoor space at Stovehouse with six-foot gaps between them. More impressive still: everyone, right down to the littles, seemed to be wearing a mask when not eating or drinking. When asked how he managed to pull that off, Steven was honest.
“We kept the mood light instead of oppressive. It’s a lot easier to ask folks to ‘Do it for MeeMaw’ than it is to say ‘wear a mask or you’ll be escorted off campus.’ We’re fortunate to have patrons who get our whacked sense of humor AND the importance of keeping each other safe.”
The band that evening was ToY ShoP, a local chill rock sound that had a few brave masked souls dancing by the third song. Add a cold cocktail and a languid sunset and by the time we finished dinner (Fresko Grill for Tom, vodka for Alex and me), spirits were high and we had that distinct, familiar looseness and sense of camaraderie that live music brings.
When we walked in, she of course recognized Tom and Alex (who in Huntsville doesn’t?) and greeted them both before making a point to thank everyone for coming out. And, like Stovehouse, it seemed everyone had come out; the narrow street outside of Green Bus was a study in lawn chairs and six-foot gaps, with music lovers sipping from purple cups and calling to one another through masks. Ally seemed absolutely in her element, undeterred by the distance and masks as she promised a ‘great night’ and started strumming the opening chords for her next song.
If you’ve been out in downtown Huntsville, chances are you’ve heard Ally play. If not, you need to; her voice is if someone took the coziness of hot cocoa, the decadence of supple leather oxfords, and the smell of campfire and packaged it into one smoky sound. She’s generous with covers, guaranteeing you’ll be able to sing along, and she has a way of connecting with her audience that makes you feel as though she’s genuinely happy to see you.
And that night, she was genuinely happy to see everyone at Green Bus.
“I love playing [at Green Bus]. The crowd is receptive and, for the most part, very respectful of the COVID rules they’ve set in place. I always have a great time, especially when they have the Art Walk the same night I’m playing.”
Our last stop of the night was Rocket Republic where April Pendergrass was playing in a trio with an accompanying violinist and drummer, creating a dreamy, winding-down vibe. It was late enough in the night that the crowd had thinned, leaving ample space to socially distance. And, since we were in the outdoor biergarten, we felt comfortable slipping off our masks to sip our Scotch Rockets. It was the perfect end to a much-needed night out, and our own Alex Hendrix sums it up best:
“I didn’t fully realize how much I’d missed the energy of live music until I was finally back, standing (a safe distance) in front of a stage.”
Live music is back, Huntsville. Mask up, grab a purple cup, keep a six foot distance, and practice safe sound.
Grace is the Content Director of HuntsvilleMusic.com and lives in Madison, AL, which really isn’t that far, guys.
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