As we’ve gotten deeper into the pocket of the COVID-19 pandemic—i.e. we’ve already read those books that we said we’d never read and cleaned the house a thousand times—it’s become all the more important to find new, fun, engaging things to do while we’re stuck at home. Because we’re not going to be going anywhere anytime soon, it seems.
Something that’s become a regular occurrence at least in my house? Watching the many wonderful musicians out there, both nationally and locally renowned, who are performing online live for the masses. Many are doing it for no money at all—while some are helping to raise much-needed funds for worthy causes. And many of the emerging artists out there are smartly doing it for the exposure (and Venmo tips!), which, right now, is better than it’s ever been before. Think about it: Millions of people are at home as we speak—more than ever before—day in and day out. What better way to bring them joy than through live music?
When I put together my first list of artists who were killing it online during the COVID-19 pandemic, I realized too late that they were all dudes. So, here’s a list of the best and brightest women musicians you should be seeking out for live performances online right now.
Let’s kick things off 518-style. You may remember Troy-based Girl Blue (a.k.a. Arielle O’Keefe) from my first-ever top women musicians post, way back when. She played her final gig of the non-COVID-19-pandemic year way back on January 30 at the Savoy Taproom in Albany, and since then, she’s been erupting with wonderful content online. In fact, she has her own Monthly Song Club, where, depending on the tier you choose to buy into, you can become a “patron” of Girl Blue music and have her record (cover) songs specifically for you. As luck would have it, she’s actually doing a live stream on her YouTube channel this Sunday, April 19. In the meantime, catch her awesome cover of Prince classic “When Doves Cry” above.
You can’t get much better than watching a Grammy- and Oscar-winning performer play live every day. Just as we’re all adding up the days that we’ve been stuck inside our homes due to the COVID-19 crisis, so has superstar Melissa Etheridge, who has transmitting her sonic goodness from what can only be described as the world’s coolest Woman Cave or a She Rocks Shed, lined with music memorabilia, paintings, personal pieces (see: her Academy Award at stage left) and a number of vintage guitars, all of which are in play. It’s can’t-miss material. Watch one of her latest Facebook streams in its entirety above.
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Look, some writers may refer to fiddler/singer-songwriter Amanda Shires as “Jason Isbell‘s wife” and might also be able to still sleep at night knowing they turned that phrase. But that’s misogynistic sludge, as far as I’m concerned. Shires’ music stands firm, like the tall-as-hell redwood that it is, on its damned own, and by god, it’s brilliant. (Check out her all-women supergroup, The Highwomen, which features Brandi Carlile [see below], Natalie Hemby and Maren Morris, if you want more of that goodness.) Sure, she loves shooting funny Instagram videos, featuring her husband and their cute-as-a-button young daughter, Mercy Rose, but in recent weeks, she’s been recording solo cuts that will literally make the hair stand on end. Like this performance of her “I Know What It’s Like,” with her husband, rightly, off-camera, providing a stark acoustic accompaniment.
The Indigo Girls
How can you not be a fan of The Indigo Girls? At least for me, they were part of the soundtrack to my re-acculturation. Let me explain. From 1987-88, my family lived in a tiny, rural town in China—Qufu, for those keeping track—and for the entirety of that year, I was isolated from all Western culture. I didn’t hear a new pop song until we ventured as a family to Hong Kong, and while riding the world’s longest escalator, I heard this incredible beat and tune, which turned out to be A-ha’s “Take On Me.” (I didn’t realize it was that song until years later.) That’s a roundabout way of saying that in 1989, when I returned home to the states, I became a music sponge, and one of the tunes on the radio that year was “Closer to Fine” by The Indigo Girls. Most recently, one-half of the band, Emily Saliers, appeared on the Instagram live series, “You Can’t Come Over But You Can Come In,” with Brandy Clark (@thebrandyclark). Above, listen to a clip of the band recording their new single, “When We Were Writers,” from their forthcoming album, Look Long, which is due out on May 22.
Um, yeah, so apparently the last time I included young Taylor Wing on our Saratoga Living top women artists list, she was rendered speechless and maybe had a “no, you’re crying” moment. (I can neither confirm nor deny that fact; I’m just going off of her 2019 Facebook post.) Just for the record: I didn’t mean to make you cry, Taylor. If you haven’t already heard Wing’s Brobdingnagian voice and lightly strummed ukulele accompaniment yet, you’re in for a monster treat. And she’s been on a tear since the COVID-19 crisis hit, recording a string of live concerts that have all been archived. Check out the live performance above, which she recorded April 10 as part of the “Coping with Dystopia” live stream fest charity event.
A few years ago, here’s what my daily routine would be: I’d wake up, shower, shave, eat breakfast, take the dog for a walk, kiss my wife goodbye, drive in to Saratoga Springs, go to the office, boot up my MacBook Pro, plug in my noise-cancelling headphones and escape deep into the confines of Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy-winning 2018 album Golden Hour. I must’ve listened to that album 300 times. For me, that album this year is Phoebe Bridgers’ Stranger in the Alps (2017). I’ve listened to it pretty much every day, when I’m not working on a story like this one or doing heavy editing (I can’t concentrate on a song and write/edit at the same time, unfortunately). Much to my dismay, I missed Bridgers’ first foray into the live streaming concert world on April 14, when she played a gig on @pitchfork‘s Instagram. But she has a brand-new album coming out on June 19, entitled Punisher, which she’s already released two singles from. Check out the latest, “Kyoto,” above.
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Thanks to Chris Wienk, local DJ extraordinaire on WEXT 97.7/106.1, who’s been recording his nightly radio shows inside his closet during the COVID-19 crisis, I fell hard and fast for Brandi Carlile’s music, and it took just one song to do it: “The Joke.” (I included it in this week’s SL’s Job Hunters column as a pick-me-up for my recently unemployed brothers and sisters, many of whom are journalists.) Carlile’s been known to record an Instagram video from time to time—she and her wife are quite active on the platform—and she’s since been posting some great live music, most recently a haunting version, late night, of “Summer’s End” by John Prine, in honor of the fallen folk legend, who died of complications from COVID-19 on April 7. Listen to her cover above.
Remember, just a few minutes ago, how I said that I was obsessed with Kacey Musgraves’ music? Guess what? I’m still obsessed with Kacey Musgraves’ music. (I’m also a huge fan of her husband, Ruston Kelly, who just release an incredible new single—but that’s for another time.) Turns out that Musgraves is going to be part of the upcoming “One World: Together At Home” concert, which Spotify is putting on with partner Global Citizen tomorrow (April 18), “to unite the world and celebrate COVID-19 frontline workers.” The event will be streaming live on all the major web platforms (I’m assuming that means Facebook, et al.) from 2-8pm, and will then broadcast on ABC, NBC and CBS at 8pm. (For a full list of performers, click here.) In the meantime, listen to a clip of Musgraves covering TLC’s “No Scrubs” at the one live show of hers that I was able to catch, back in my Brooklyn-living days.