NEW YORK - There may not be a live audience, but singer/songwriter and Queens native Jesse Malin puts his all into his performances from Bowery Electric, the East Village club he co-owns. He has been producing weekly live streams that he calls "The Fine Art of Self-Distancing." It's an an effort that began in his apartment on an iPhone when the pandemic erupted.
"It's kind of a way to support what's happening, keep awareness going and try and entertain the troops during these times,” said Malin, who has been a fixture in the Downtown music scene since he was a teenager.
Malin co-owns five night spots in the East Village, and the virtual shows are an effort to raise money for employees, his band and crew, which had to cancel a tour supporting his recent successful Sunset Kids record.
It's also to keep the music playing at venues like Bowery Electric and Niagara.
Hundreds of other independent music venues around the country are in danger of closing. They were the first businesses to close because of coronavirus, and likely the last to be permitted to reopen.
"I understand it's a time where we need to be smart and safe and beat this thing, but it's been really tough to figure out and have faith that nightclubs and venues and bars will be able to survive through this thing, so we are fighting for that,” said Malin, who was a member of the bands Heart Attack and D Generation before embarking on a solo career.
An alliance of these musical businesses, called the National Independent Venue Association or NIVA, is calling for federal financial assistance.
Locally, City Councilman Keith Powers of Manhattan has formed the CBGB Caucus, named for the legendary music club on the Bowery that closed in 2006, with musician and fellow Councilman Justin Brannan of Brooklyn. Through this, they hope to provide a voice for the venues and artists.
"We need to do targeted tax relief for them, we need to get them capital to help keep their business open, we need to get them federal stimulus relief,” said Powers, who was a regular visitor to music clubs like CBGBs growing up in Manhattan.
Kae Burke, co-founder of Brooklyn nightclub and entertainment space House of Yes, said some places have already shut down for good. In those cases, owners couldn't pay the rent anymore without a source of revenue.
"We would like to keep our spaces, not just so we can survive, but we want to be able to survive this so we can thrive and our culture can come back full force,” said Burke.
NIVA has set up a Save Our Stages campaign to send a message to congress about the issue. Find out more at saveourstages.com.
For more on Jesse Malin's upcoming live streams on July 23rd and August 6th, head to JesseMalin.com.