Photo: For The Intelligencer
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a three-part series in the Intelligencer examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the music business in Madison County.
EDWARDSVILLE — Playing music is a way of life for Butch Moore, and when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of most of his live shows for 2020, it felt like part of his life was taken away from him.
“I lost so much work, over 150 gigs, and I was having a lot of anxiety and depression,” said Moore, who is currently in San Antonio, Texas, visiting his 10-month-old grandson. “But there are a lot of people that are a lot worse off than me and I have a lot to be thankful for, including a healthy grandchild.”
The 68-year-old Moore, who has played guitar for 55 years and is a longtime regular at the Stagger Inn in Edwardsville, is among the dozen of artists on the local music scene who have been affected by the pandemic, which is in its 10th month.
For Moore, the live music shutdown hurts more financially than emotionally, but it hurts, nonetheless.
Moore retired on March 15 of last year on his 67th birthday from his job as an investigator for the MRFH Law Firm, which deals with mesothelioma cases.
In a one-year span ending with his 68th birthday, Moore played 154 concerts. Even before he retired, he was typically playing 130 to 140 dates a year.
“I know some musicians that actually quit pretty decent bands and quit playing altogether to draw unemployment,” said Moore, a singer/songwriter from Glen Carbon who plays a variety of acoustic, folk and blues music. “I don’t need to do that because I have a 401(k) and Social Security, but the extra money is nice.”
The pandemic has hit equally hard for Dana Michael Anderson, a 44-year-old singer/songwriter from Mulberry Grove.
Music is a full-time job for Anderson, a Granite City native who has been playing guitar and writing songs since the age of 16. He has toured in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and has lived in Costa Rica, where he performed as well. He has released three full-length CDs and several EPs.
In March, Anderson was going to work for Carnival Cruise Lines as a soloist and was preparing to leave for Galveston, Texas, for a three-month contract to play on one of the Carnival cruise ships.
“It was two weeks after the lockdown happened and that got canceled,” said Anderson, who normally plays about 125 shows a year and would have played six shows a week on the cruise ship. “I had only been working for them for one other contract, so I was basically just getting started with them.
“I had time off between the cruises, so I wasn’t working. Everything in this business is scheduling and you usually have your whole year lined out, so the question is how you find a job in the middle of a pandemic. I got lucky within a couple of months because a friend of mine does wallpaper and painting and I have experience, so I switched up and starting painting houses again.”
Anderson has played some live dates since the pandemic started, but it’s nothing like his usual busy schedule.
“I only accepted outdoor gigs all the way up until the weather turned colder, but since then I’ve turned down all indoor gigs as a personal choice,” Anderson said. “I played three shows indoors since (the pandemic) happened and I ended up isolating myself for a week after each one.
“The cost isn’t just that night – it’s the week after for me. I don’t feel comfortable being around other people because I would hate to be the source of somebody getting the virus.”
Not being part of a band was an advantage for Anderson during the outdoor music season.
“I was lucky to be a solo act during the nicer weather because nobody was hiring bands,” Anderson said. “I was pretty busy playing Fridays and Saturdays, but none of it was scheduled long-term. I would get a call on Wednesday or Thursday asking if I could play Friday or Saturday night.”
The pandemic hasn’t been totally without live shows for Moore, who has been able to play a handful of dates, including some at the Broadway Oyster Bar in downtown St. Louis.
“I felt fairly safe playing Broadway Oyster Bar because we have our own entrance,” said Moore, who plays most of his shows with bass player Alan White. “We got shut down there when they reduced the capacity to 25 percent, but once they got up to 50 percent, they wanted music.
“We played outdoors at the Copper Dock Winery (in Pocahontas) and we played on the patio at the American Legion in Collinsville. For outdoor gigs, people were far enough away from us that I felt safe.”
Like many musicians during the pandemic, Moore has turned to video performances to connect with his audience.
But for him, it can’t replace the intimacy of a live show.
“I’ve done five or six Facebook Live shows, starting in March,” said Moore, who has hosted open mic sessions on Sunday nights at Stagger Inn for 35 years. “At first, I was trying to do one once a week, but everyone was doing it and I didn’t want to overkill it, but I’m looking to do another show sometime in January.
“I get bored not being able to go out and I miss all of my friends. Early on (in the pandemic) I did a podcast for the city of St. Louis where I did an interview and played music to raise money for small businesses. I also did an interview for a radio station in Alton.”
Anderson, meanwhile, has done virtual concerts on a limited basis.
“When (the pandemic) first happened, I had some requests from people on Facebook, so I filled those requests with whatever songs people wanted to hear,” Anderson said. “I also did two online open mic events, but it’s not really my thing, especially living in Mulberry Grove, where I don’t have good internet. I would have done a lot more if I had good internet and I turned down a bunch of them because I can’t live stream.”
For Moore, the coronavirus isn’t the only thing that has made 2020 tougher. Musician friend Don Starwalt passed away unexpectedly in January and Mike Zanger died the weekend after Thanksgiving after a long battle with cancer.
“Both were part of the Edwardsville music scene for many years,” said Moore, who sometimes plays with fellow guitarist Ron Dillow at Big Daddy’s or Stagger Inn.
With more free time on his hands, Moore has found ways to stay busy.
That includes some musical housecleaning as well as a new hobby.
“I’ve been having time to organize all sort of stupid stuff,” Moore said, laughing. “I have a pretty nice album collection and I’ve been listening to a lot of my records, including stuff I haven’t listened to in 30 years.
“I have so much music equipment and I traded in a bunch of stuff I don’t use anymore. I’ve been getting into birdwatching and I got a ‘Birds of Illinois’ book for Christmas and I’m excited to go through that.”
With his live dates dried up, for the time being, Anderson has been writing songs and working on a few studio projects with friends.
But when the pandemic finally does end, he is concerned about the long-term effect it will have on his musical career.
“In this kind of career, you take 20 years to build up the connections so you can get those phone calls to fill your schedule,” said Anderson, whose brother, JB Anderson, owns Gaslight Studios, a recording and performance venue in St. Louis. “For these seasonal restaurants and bars that have live music, if they go under or your connection leaves, you’ve lost all of those 20 years of work.
“The big takeaway is how you’re going to come out of this. The cruise ship thing is over with because certain things are just off the table now for me. It’s going to have to be a time for reinvention. I know there will be an end (to the pandemic), but I don’t know when or how, and I don’t know what the music scene is going to look like afterward.”
Moore, like Anderson, is anxious to get back out and play some shows.
“Big Daddy’s sent me some dates today and I’m waiting on some dates for Broadway Oyster Bar,” Moore said. “We lost every gig last year at The Winery at Shale Lake (in Staunton) and we’re already booked for all of next year.
“I sang at a couple of funerals this year, which was kind of different, but I did do one wedding at The Winery at Shale Lake. For now, though, the gigs are hit and miss.”
Moore has his own Facebook page and also has a website, https://butchmooremusic.com/, where people can listen to his music.
Anderson has his own Facebook page (Dana Michael Anderson) and has a Bandcamp page at http://dmamusic1.bandcamp.com/.