click to enlarge Vertrell Yates, aka Trellblazzer Beats, performs on Facebook Live this Saturday from 8-9 p.m.
Vertrell Yates, aka Trellblazzer Beats, performs on Facebook Live this Saturday from 8-9 p.m.

Here we go for week number five (I'm losing count) of downtime due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, as we stay in private and out of public places as much as possible. Since this column is based mainly on talking about live music performances, we've had to adjust to other subjects, including live streaming shows. I encourage all local musicians presenting online to send your info to calendar@illinoistimes.com or use the IT website to submit just like it's a live music gig at a regular venue.

Folks in the Americana music world, or anyone interested in good songwriting and heartfelt songs, mourned the passing of John Prine last week. An Illinois native, born and raised in Maywood, near Chicago, the much-beloved performing songwriter succumbed on April 7 in Nashville at the age of 73 to complications of COVID-19. He is heralded by many in the know as a great American composer of three-minute (often less, sometimes more) songs that were plainly constructed, complex miracles in exposing and explaining, observing and describing the human condition. This deceptively simple form of artistic endeavor, generally using only three chords and a melody anybody could hum, sing or otherwise follow along, produced indelible songs, including Angel from Montgomery, Paradise, Sam Stone and many others. Written articles and music tributes abound online from those that knew him, or were simply influenced by his life, times and music.

Personally, I never met the man, but at the 2018 Americana Awards show held in Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, while John was waiting to receive the Artist of the Year award, I had a close encounter of the unusual kind. I really wasn't supposed to be backstage, but Kevin Hays of Old Crow Medicine Show got me inside, and when he left, I hovered in the background trying to be invisible. I guess it worked because John came over and stood right in front of me, so close I could smell the songs coming off of him while he waited to be announced and receive his award. He never even knew I was there. When Iris Dement choked up while presenting the honor, John patted her hand to comfort her, and then they sang In Spite of Ourselves. I never budged until it was over. And that was that. RIP John Prine.

I can report the local online streaming action is heating up, at least if not in our calendar music listings (come on you), definitely in real time on the internet. Bill and Lori McKenzie did a Sunday night show last week and committed to another this coming Sunday evening. Cowboy Randy, the pioneer of local live streaming, continues nearly nightly performances from his music studio. Singer-songwriter performer Avery Kern pushes on with her Friday night Lockdown Live show as Theresa O'Hare and I have proceeded with the George Ranks Friday Frolic from our living room. Marina V, the Russian native who started out her American music adventure in Jacksonville and now lives in the Los Angeles area, produces three shows from her home every week. Tom Beverly and Geoff Ryan are live streaming this Friday for the first time, while Ventrell Yates, as Trellblazzer, a regular online performer since the quarantine, presents his music this Saturday night. Random local musicians are popping up on Facebook all the time doing shows for hours or just singing a few songs, and there's even a karaoke site happening. In the midst of this awful pandemic, it's a breath of fresh air through music, if you just tune it in for a time.

We shall return, always looking forward to when live music will actually be live again.

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