On Saturday, May 30th, over 70 artists and thousands of fans came together for Quarantine Comes Alive, a virtual music festival that raised over $160,000 for a litany of causes via the comprehensive PLUS1 COVID-19 Relief Fund.
The 15-hour live-stream marathon featured virtual performances and never-before-seen performances by an array of artists from around the world including Neal Francis, the Chicago-area artist who has been rapidly earning new fans since the release of his 2019 debut solo album, Changes. A former child piano prodigy, Neal Francis had forged a successful path as a sideman with bands like The Heard before addiction derailed both his career and his life as a whole. Now sober and reinvigorated, Francis is now primed and ready to share his New Orleans funk- and soul-inflected grooves with the world.
Neal’s performance video for Quarantine Comes Alive begins with a pulsing synth line as he walks the camera into his place of residence: an apartment attached to an Illinois church that’s “closed until further notice.” As he continues into his home and down to his basement studio, his intention for the performance is emblazoned across the screen: “Neal Francis is going to make noises with himself.”
True to his promise, Neal handles all the various instrumental and vocal parts throughout the two-song set, which features a cover of Harry Nilsson‘s arrangement of Randy Newman‘s “I’ll Be Home” as well as a take on Changes original tune “Gimme Gimme”. As Neal Francis explains about his Quarantine Comes Alive performance,
“I chose one cover, “I’ll Be Home” by Harry Nilsson. The original recording is on an album of Randy Newman covers called Nilsson sings Newman. The song has always reminded me of the first time I heard it—getting drunk at a bar on Christmas Day by myself. Pretty sad story but it’s a beautiful, bittersweet song and a gorgeous, understated arrangement. I’ve always loved it.
The second song is an original composition called “Gimme Gimme” that I first recorded with my old band The Heard. It was a challenge for me to record the drums. My drummer Collin O’Brien lives with me at the church but he was in Denver at the time and I’m a terrible drummer… I committed to the most simple 4-on-the-floor groove I could stand.
I initially wanted to do something simple with this project but started working and got carried away. We started using Adobe Premiere in quarantine for our other video projects and I jumped in. For a first go at it I’m pretty happy with the results.
Watch Neal Francis’ full Quarantine Comes Alive performance below. If you enjoyed the performance, Neal asks that you make a donation to the Chicago Community Bond Fund.
Neal Francis – Quarantine Comes Alive – Full Set
Presented by Live For Live Music in partnership with PLUS1 and Nugs.TV, Quarantine Comes Alive was conceived as a way to celebrate and support musicians, provide fans with unique musical experiences from the comfort of their couches, and raise money for comprehensive COVID-19 relief during this time of uncertainty. All funds raised from the donation-based event will be split evenly between the artists on the bill and the PLUS1 COVID-19 Relief Fund, which works directly with leading non-profit organizations like Sweet Relief, MusiCares, Center for Disaster Philanthropy, World Central Kitchen, Partners In Health, Trans Lifeline, and Backline to provide aid where it’s needed most. For more information, head here.