C’mere, Chico

Josh Hegg's online happy hour.
Jason Cassidy

“Socially distant” is not how Arts DEVO rolls. When I greet Chico, I go in for the hug. I am, of course, following the COVID-19 stay-at-home guidelines by removing myself from the public sphere and hunkering down at Camp DEVO with my posse, stringed instruments, electronic devices and anxiety. But my heart aches for my community.

I’ve been out of the house—to pick up food and supplies, exercise and take care of relatives who need assistance. But it’s not Chico out there. The people are there, but the sensible among us carry our isolation into WinCo and navigate the aisles with nervous attention to invisible fence lines.

What Chico or any of the world’s cities will look like post-pandemic won’t be known until the businesses, schools and performance spaces are allowed to to reopen and we see the damage done. There’s a lot of prognostication in overcrowded social-medialand, much of it ill-informed or agenda-driven, and the majority of pieces I’ve read are fairly obsessed with a brave new virtual world that will be installed to solve all of our ills. I imagine that’s at least partially true, and though it kills a part of my soul to envision humans being less physically connected, I admit my crisis-consumption of social media has been a lifeline to my community.

Politico published one of the more thoughtful, wide-ranging articles on the could-be future featuring a series of brief insights by “34 big thinkers” who predict everything from a revival of parks to the cancellation of student-loan debt. Regarding the digital frontier, I was struck by what MIT sociology professor Sherry Turkle had to say in the piece about the potential for a “healthier digital lifestyle” after being inspired by seeing musicians, Broadway producers and yoga instructors building connections online.

This is breaking open a medium with human generosity and empathy. This is looking within and asking: “What can I authentically offer? I have a life, a history. What do people need?” If, moving forward, we apply our most human instincts to our devices, that will have been a powerful COVID-19 legacy. Not only alone together, but together alone.

I identify with this. I was heartened to see the hundreds of comments onscreen from an appreciative Facebook Live audience that joined an online party as pianist Joshua Hegg performed his Virtual Happy Hour and Sleepytime Piano sessions, and by watching Mrs. DEVO’s transitional-kindergarten students’ faces light up when they saw their teacher and classmates appear on their laptops during online Zoom classes.

If I can’t touch your face (seriously, just so you know, I will be touching your face as soon as we’re given the green light), at least I can be touched by your intentions as you play a killer Thin White Rope song during your wicked Dark Arts DJ set (I see you, Mark in the Dark).

As for keeping in touch with the local arts scene, in addition to Mr. Hegg, there are a handful of other local musicians performing regularly on Facebook Live, including The Bidwells and Pat Hull. And Max Minardi has been putting new videos up on his YouTube channel.

The Museum of Northern California Art (MONCA) has just started a new Pop-Up Virtual Museum Tour series, the first entry being a video exploring the Unbroken Legacies: Northern California Art Glass show that’s currently on display (watch social media for more releases). And, as always, you can browse MONCA’s permanent Reed Applegate Collection of Northern California art.

Documentarian Bill DeBlonk has archives of his Banana Grape Stomp live-music series—which shows on local PBS station KIXE Saturdays, at 10 p.m.—on YouTube. There are 47 half-hour episodes that include snippets of shows from all over Northern California, from the Mother Hips at the Sierra Nevada Big Room to the For the Funk of It festival in Belden.

Theatre on the Ridge is holding online auditions for its June play, The Shoemaker’s Daughters (cast will rehearse lines separately in their homes).

Michael Bone has revived his 1 Day Song Club. Like the Facebook page to get the weekly one-word prompts, after which you’ll have 24 hours to compose, record and submit a song on the theme to be included on a digital compilation. Find recent submissions here and the archive here.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Blue Room Theatre is now offering video content—footage from events at the venue, including comedy shows and a filmed version of Stuff-N-Things, the locally created musical comedy that had its March run postponed—to digital patrons who sign up for memberships via its Patreon page. And, the Chico News & Review is curating a growing YouTube list of music videos by local bands.

There’s undoubtedly more out there and more coming, so please email me tips/invites for online local art and performances that I’ve missed, and I’ll try and get the word out.

Excuse me now as I have an appointment with an acoustic guitar and John Prine (get well, sir!). When I get it down, I’ll meet you online for a beer and a song.


  1. Thanks Arts Devo for making this situation palatable (if for my eyes now) and my ears to follow 🙂

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