Saturday, May 30th saw over 70 artists and 200,000 viewers come together for the inaugural Quarantine Comes Alive, a one-day virtual music festival that raised funds for a variety of charities through the PLUS1 COVID-19 Relief Fund.
The 15-hour livestream marathon featured new contributions by an array of amazing artists from around the world. It was a lot to take in and you surely missed at least a few of the many performers, so we’ll be rolling out the individual segments over the next few weeks to highlight each of the individual performances.
Just as the sun was setting during the eight o’clock hour on the East Coast, viewers across the globe were treated to a cosmic, two-song performance by SPAGA, the jazz trio fronted by The Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner. The two songs the band performed, “Up For Grabs” and “Wild Bill”, were each filmed using unique and creative approaches which made SPAGA’s “set” one of the most visually enthralling segments of the day.
On “Up For Grabs”, SPAGA remained true to their roots as a piano-forward band jazz trio. Less groove-oriented and more freeform, “Up For Grabs” took viewers on a journey through time and space. Filmed in the typical quarantine split-screen style with help from colorful backing lights, the song saw Magner exercise his excellent piano skills as drummer Matt Scarano and bassist Jason Fraticelli showed off their ability to follow his lead and lay down a proper rhythm section.
As Magner explained to Live For Live Music about “Up For Grabs”,
It’s one of our newer songs that we had intended to record together for another album back in March…but then…you know….Covid. The process of now recoding these songs in isolation is always fascinating—that even with the limitations of being apart and not in a “real studio,” the end product turns out pretty solid. Looks great, sounds great. It’s not perfect nor ideal. None of 2020 is. But we make use of what we have available to us. And we’re getting better in use and acceptance of those limitations. That goes for almost all these artists on QCA. The end products that artists are able to put out now are getting noticeably better. It’s forcing us to evolve in ways we didn’t necessarily want or need, yet we’re resilient and adaptable.
That visual “evolution” manifested beautifully on SPAGA’s second song, “Wild Bill“, which took the Quarantine Comes Alive audience into a Sims-style, animated world for a virtual performance perfect for this “virtual music festival.” The video began with the camera flying through the halls of a computer-generated theater and into the main concert hall where the three animated musicians were placed upon the stage. Behind them were three “screens” featuring live-action videos of the band members performing from their respective quarantines. A dazzling light show accompanied the animation, highlighting each member’s solos and dancing along to the groove. Noted Magner,
“Wild Bill” is a tune written by our dummer, Matt Scarano. We initially recorded it in isolation back in April. For QCA, we wanted to do a couple special things, and Andy Cass at C2 Design and Drafting had a brilliant idea to take the song and reimagine it in a virtual concert setting. He programmed the virtual lights, like he would for an actual performance, but also built the stage, theater and our bodies in a 3D environment. We each took 16 pictures from different angles of our faces that he was able to animate onto our avatars. I think the end result was an incredible cool departure from the limitations of life in quarantine, and the art in this technology is in its potential for the future.
Combined, the two songs stretched just over 10 minutes and highlighted so much of what makes SPAGA a must-see act—interplanetary improvisation, a tight rhythm section, and genre-bending compositions—as well as the levels of artistic creativity that made their QCA performance the talk of the festival “crowd”.
If you enjoyed the performance, the band asks that you make a donation to the Jazz Foundation of America. As Magner explained, “There are so many great causes out there. There’s also a ton of completely out-of-work jazz musicians that live gig-to-gig or can’t pivot to make ends meet. We have already lost a lot of older jazz musicians to Covid this year. Additionally, the Jazz Foundation recognized that Jazz and Blues are transcendent, universal languages that are inseparable from the African American experience and inseparable from a legacy of systemic racism and inequality in our country. I wouldn’t be a musician if it weren’t for black artists.”
Watch SPAGA perform “Up For Grabs” and “Wild Bill” at Quarantine Comes Alive below:
SPAGA – “Up For Grabs”, “Wild Bill” – Quarantine Comes Alive
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. The $160k+ in donations raised from the 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.