South Bay musicians Renee Safier and Andy Hill were preparing for their 30th Dylanfest at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center to celebrate the songs of Bob Dylan when the novel coronavirus pandemic upended their plans.
So instead of the original one-day event on May 30, they are going virtual with shows on May 29, 30 and 31, from 5 to 8 p.m., each day on YouTube.
Safier said when all of their other gigs were cancelled, they had to pivot, so they began performing live stream concerts twice a week for their fans and for themselves.
“We love to play music and that's how we make our living,” Safier said. “I don't think we were willing to give that up quite yet. So we just said, ‘Okay, let's try to make this happen. I see other people doing it, let's do it ourselves.’”
Safier added, “It’s too important to us, it’s too important for the audience and it’s too important to the performers.”
To pull the show off, the duo enlisted around 40 artists who submitted videos performing Dylan songs.
Numerous South Bay performers are taking part in Dylanfest as well as artists from around the United States, Canada and Italy. A notable addition to the lineup includes Grammy Award winner Aimee Mann, who will be performing a version of “Simple Twist of Fate.”
“We used to play music together as junior high schoolers,” said Safier of Mann. “She was my next door neighbor in Richmond, VA. I've asked her to perform before, but she was always on tour.”
But to pull Dylanfest off virtually, they had to tackle the technology. Hill credits Safier for that.
“We've done 16 virtual shows and somewhere around eight or 10 we realized they were really good,” said Hill. “ So we thought we could do a Dylanfest like this.”
Safier added there were some hiccups early on with the live streams shows, but she said audiences were patient.
Hill said live streaming was new to many of the performers who used to make their living setting up complex musical equipment, but now are learning new technology.
“We were just slightly ahead of the curve,” Hill said.
Hard Rain, who Safier calls the heart and soul of Dylanfest, will perform via six videos interspersed throughout the event. Band members played remotely from their homes and then edited together the videos.
Dylanfest is usually a ticketed event, but this year's will be free, said Safier. Viewers have the option to contribute, she said, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Midnight Mission and Feeding America.
Other South Bay performers include Bob Malone, Craig Christy (Catalina Kings), Dave Batti (Hard Rain), Dave Leahy, Dave Tokaji (Dry September), Davey Allen, Evyn Charles, Fuzzy Thurston, Homer T, Jay Constable, Joe Caccavo (Catalina Kings), John Hoke, Karen Nash, Kelly Fitzgerald (Eden), Kirk Makin (Hard Rain), Nate LaPointe, Patti Orbeck, Ryan Hedgecock (Lone Justice), Steve Craig, Terry Buck and Wade Preston.
Safier said they hope a live Dylanfest will take place on Sept. 26 at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center.
For more information, visit andyandrenee.com.