On June 23, Salinas vocalist/guitarist Daniel Cortes wrapped up his set, which ranged from hard-hitting blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn to country ballads, like Ryan Adams’ “My Sweet Carolina,” then finally ending with a zippy Mexican folk song, “Cucurrucucú Paloma.” There’s banter in between songs, with several mentions of Cortes’ fedora. It resembles a regular old show. Only the banter is with a tiny production team, and the audience is watching and listening from behind a screen.
This is live performance in the era of the pandemic, delivered via livestream by Hear & Now, a production company that launched this spring.
Since June, three months into shelter-in-place, they’ve featured weekly livestream concerts. Acts have included psychedelic folk duo WuWu, vocalist/keyboardist Sej Miles and neosoul/funk band The BASSment.
When Cortes performed, it looked like the team had hit their stride. The lighting, sound and staging gave it the feel of a produced show. Cortes played with a sunflower projected onto a blue curtain, matching his mother’s sunflowers on the table. Multiple cameras captured different angles, going from a blur to a closeup as he strummed “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac.
“We nailed it. It was a standout day for all of us,” says Lauren “Razz” Palumbi, broadcast and marketing director for Hear & Now.
While nothing can replace live music, the series is meant to closely mirror the experience, complete with artist commentary between songs and a host (Palumbi) to interact with the audience and encourage comments on social media feeds. As Cortes covered “Eladia,” a song by his former band American Trashbird, a bandmate posted comments: “Oh, man. I’m crying already,” and then, as Cortes played a fast solo, “That’s some slick, slick picking.”
There is no fee for artists or viewers. But the series is part of a business plan and vision for Hear & Now as a recording and video production studio.
The four-member team – Palumbi, musician Chelsea Riddle, director of photography Grant Kinsey and sound engineer Kevin Proctor – have worked on well-outfitted live event sets, such as Concours d’Elegance and concerts at Folktale Winery and Sunset Center. They want to make the same production talent accessible to local artists.
Palumbi has toured the country as a vocalist and electric violinist, and noticed those who presented professionally got booked first. The mission is to help local musicians get there – and prove Monterey County has production chops. WuWu recorded and released a single with Hear & Now, and they’ve been gaining traction on Spotify since.
“It’s been inspiring to see how the scene has responded,” Palumbi says. “It’s like being with friends again.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the following corrections. Grant Kinsey's name was misspelled. It is Kinsey, not Kensey. In addition, his title is director of photography not photography director as previously reported.
HEAR & NOW streams concerts at 6pm every Thursday. See the lineup at hearnowmonterey.com