A Virtual Rainbow in the Time of Quarantine by Derek Sherlock
While the uncertainty of a world grappling to contain coronavirus causes general anxiety and economic turmoil, ordinances and executive orders banning live entertainment have leveled a particularly harsh blow to entertainers. Many resourceful artists have turned to online streaming, mostly on Facebook, to brighten everyone’s days and try to earn an income. Through streaming live, many local LGBTQ artists have found a way to express their beautiful queer selves. This story looks at three such performances: two by popular musicians Kim Trusty and Becky Chace, as well as a group of drag performers led by the talented LaDiva Jonz, who all bring us a welcome distraction and sense of togetherness amid current harsh realities.
Upon viewing Kim Trusty’s March 20 Facebook Live performance, you’ll understand why former Providence Journal music writer Rick Massimo once said, “Trusty’s voice has long been one of Rhode Island’s treasures: Think Tracy Chapman and give her twice the power, twice the silk, and three times the range.” Just from this stripped-down acoustic concert, you hear influences of jazz and rhythm and blues with just the right amount of rock energy to create the Kim Trusty sound. “It was challenging…I like to play off of the audience as to what song I play next,” Kim told Options. She relied on “visual applause and messages” to gauge if her audience was enjoying her “singing at the top of [her] lungs.” She did, however, go on to say that even though there was a lost dynamic to her Facebook Live show, her effort is always the same regardless if she is performing for one person or a thousand.
Local musician Becky Chace is offering fans short Facebook Live music performances, playing a number of songs that take influence from rock, blues, and a touch of country. The singer-songwriter is seen armed with an acoustic guitar, and her longtime lead guitarist Brian Minisce is seen performing at a safe distance in a video shot in her Barrington driveway.
Without an audience it might seem a little strange, but as Becky said, “There’s nothing like a live audience, but you have to imagine you’re reaching people through that lens, and try to give the same amount of energy.” That visceral amount of energy translated into these artists raising funds for a musician pal who relies on gigs for income. With each new video post there is a link to provide a virtual “tip in the tip jar,” as Chace puts it, for local full-time musician Steve Allain. Chace remarks, “Luckily we have the technology to reach many people, despite our isolation.”
If you are employed as a drag queen and every bar is closed and every stage is dark, how do you make a living? Gary Jacques, more commonly known as LaDiva Jonz, gathered some of his fellow queens to perform on Facebook Live as CyberQueens. LaDiva’s March 22 event was hosted by fellow Drag Bingo co-host Haley Star along with former Miss Gay RI Jacqueline DiMera, and included some of the most amazing drag talents Rhode Island has to offer. CyberQueens took viewers out of the stress of our daily reality and thrust us into a pleasant, familiar place. LaDiva said, “Of course there were challenges to performing online…. It was definitely exciting to be trying something different for all the performers. I found myself standing behind the camera and acting as a sort of producer. Maybe I have a new career when all of this is over.” Since the CyberQueens anticipate future performances, LaDiva welcomes feedback on their show at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are definitely some dark and uncertain times, but we will get through this. When things look their bleakest always look for the rainbow. Whether it’s in the bars, at the Statehouse, or online, the LGBTQ community will band together. Why not pick up your guitar and sing for twenty minutes, or start a Facebook “Watch Party” to simultaneously enjoy a drag performance with friends? We’re all realizing how much we count on entertainers to alleviate some of our anxieties and worries. And it goes without saying that nothing transmitted to our devices can replace the energy of live performance. As LaDiva says, “There is an energy in a live performance that the audience gives and receives.” Once it is safe to gather, I imagine our community rejoicing at our favorite local bars and nightclubs like The Dark Lady or The Stable, where we will be covered in glitter, reuniting with friends, and having a fabulous time.
Derek Sherlock is a senior at Rhode Island College who is a dual major in Gender and Women’s Studies and English. Derek is Options Magazine's spring intern.