For musicians who make a living by playing shows in Idaho, this pandemic hasn’t been easy — and the record shop that supports them has had to close their doors. Despite this, the local music scene is still alive and well behind closed doors in Boise, and its players are now showing up for each other in a big way.
If this past Saturday played out as planned, Idaho’s diehard music fans would have lined up outside of The Record Exchange on Idaho Street, itching to get their hands on some freshly-pressed vinyl.
But this year, the only soundtrack that played — was crickets.
But what I’m finding is, inside our homes, that might not necessarily be the case. I asked some of our social media users to share with me what music is helping them cope — during this time of uncertainty. For me, it’s The Velvet Underground. But for Marisa Lovell, it’s Neil Young. For Steven Bowman, it’s Billy Joel’s greatest hits — and for others it’s instrumental Disney songs, or a variety of other artists and genres.
“There have been scientific studies done in multiple different fields that show that music is healthy,” The Record Exchange Marketing Director Chad Dryden said.
So while music is there for us in this time of crisis — despite being closed, The Record Exchange wants to be there for us too.
“Record Exchange: ‘the world’s greatest record store,’ as I always say,” said Curtis Stigers, prolific jazz and blues musician from Boise.
“Without having Record Store Day this (past) Saturday and having to wait until June, we thought, ‘Well hey, let’s still do something fun this weekend,’” said Dryden.
The 43-year-old cultural mainstay is now adapting to be there for us, just like they always have, according to Stigers.
“I’ve been meeting there, hanging out there since I was in high school,” said Stigers. “There’s always great support for musicians that comes, just, from the heart that that store has.”
Dryden says Record Store Day is typically The Record Exchange’s biggest sales day, but instead on this Saturday, it sold tickets to a one-time special online screening of a new never-before-seen documentary, called “Vinyl Nation,” about the resurgence of vinyls. Its filmmakers are letting stores like The Record Exchange absorb 100% of the screening’s profits.
“Instead of being able to come to the store this weekend for Record Store Day, they can still celebrate The Record Exchange and celebrate independent music and independent record stores, by supporting us, and getting a couple hours of entertainment in return,” said Dryden.
They’re also providing a virtual space for memorializing legendary country-folk singer-songwriter John Prine, who died from coronavirus complications on April 7.
Stigers was one of several musicians who performed a Prine cover from his home for the Exchange’s virtual tribute concert on Sunday.
“And one at a time, we’re going to post videos throughout the day,” said Dryden. “And anybody who’s watching, if they want to throw a few bucks in their proverbial virtual tip jar, they can go ahead and do that.”
With the shutdowns, Stigers says that kind of support can mean a lot for local musicians.
“They’re not playing at clubs — that’s tough — it’s hard to pay the rent when you’re not doing your job,” Stigers said. “There’s also sort of a need to reach out and connect with people.”
Stigers says he hopes his new music can also help people feel connected in some way. His upcoming blues and jazz album is called “Gentleman.” Its title track is out, and you can preorder the album now. Stigers says its a modern reassessment of what it means to be a man, or more specifically, a gentleman.
“It evolved as I made it, and as it comes out, we’re in a pandemic. I mean, this album has had several lives,” he said.
In the meantime, the world keeps spinning… and so do our turntables.