I wanted to write an article to share my thoughts on the nomadic rhythm of life that I would normally be immersed in as a musician. But these are not normal times, and for now, that life is in the past. Instead, I will speak of this lockdown life from the perspective of an American musician in Los Angeles and some of the crazy things I’ve observed while being holed up since this shit started.
My name is Nick Demopoulos. I work primarily as a jazz guitarist and electronic musician. I have worked for the U.S Department of State as a cultural ambassador and have traveled to many parts of the world. In the last three years, I’ve driven across the United States around five times.
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, I was in Los Angeles and planned several tours for later in the year. I had frequently been traveling and not used to being anywhere for more than a month at a time. As the pandemic set in, slowly, my plans fell apart.
Being a performing artist is about momentum. The more momentum I have, the better the types of offers I will receive to perform. It was really hard to accept that I had to stop my life and cancel everything. After I resigned myself to chilling in one place, I watched the days turn to weeks, then to months, with the hallucinatory nature of reality settling in.
Nature reclaiming the Earth
If you aren’t familiar with Los Angeles, it is the epitome of car culture. Because of this, there is a layer of grey smog that constantly clouds everything.
In the first week of everyone staying home and not driving, I could see mountains and horizons I never knew existed. At one time, I could see the beach from three miles away and the mountains surrounding much of the city that you never normally see. It was a beautiful thing that I will never forget.
The global trend of nature reclaiming the Earth as humans are on lockdown affected different geographic regions divergently. I was amazed at the footage of gangs of street monkeys taking over towns in Thailand.
And I love bears swimming in hot tubs.
As lockdown set in there was panic surrounding several things. One thing, in the beginning, was toilet paper. You couldn’t buy it at any store and for some reason, people started hoarding it. Luckily I had a few spare backup rolls while this shortage lasted.
Many artists and organizations couldn’t accept the idea of stopping. At first, I did a lot of Instagram live and Twitch shows myself. A company I work for also hired me to do weekly solo guitar concerts on Zoom, which I have been doing since March. Anyway, at the beginning of quarantine life, it seemed as though there were streaming music concerts all hours of the day. It eventually started to taper off.
I don’t think I can ever get used to getting dressed up and playing music for a laptop. But I appreciate the human connection that I’ve experienced through these endeavors and love any human interactions I can get in these times.
As the Zoom quarantine concerts continued to occur they started to get weirder. I was playing one electronic music party on Zoom and I saw another performer had a cat face that was shooting out lasers. This was my first introduction to Snapcam. Make sure you all get it so you can have a crazy alien face for your next Zoom meeting.
I also started to hear about Zoom sex parties, which was a newer form of adult interaction, as you are encouraged to participate and broadcast your own video rather than just watch, like porn. I found myself really tripping on the possibilities of this new augmented reality, with virtual voyeurism mixed with Cat Face Cam filters.
In addition to this, I started using all these other applications when broadcasting a performance, programs like Loopback, CamTwist, and Syphon, which let mix different video or audio inputs and outputs. It seemed like the boundaries of this new virtual performance landscape were being tested in the extreme.
I did one concert where I used CamTwist, Loopback, some music software, and Processing, which is a software to create video animations. The stress of performing with this precarious technical set up had me drenched in sweat before the concert even started from the fear that my computer would crash.
As if enough crazy shit wasn’t already happening, an asteroid the size of the Empire State Building was in danger of crashing into the Earth at the end of April. Luckily we dodged that one.
On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd, an innocent black man was killed by a Police Officer in Minneapolis. Like a wildfire, outrage and protest swept across the U.S. You have to imagine the context of this for a minute. We had been under lockdown for close to three months, most were unemployed, and there wasn’t much to distract us, like movie theaters or sports events. This created a perfect storm all across the United States, and there were anti-police brutality protests in every single state in the United States. It NEVER happens where something takes place in every single state, but it did for this.
I went to the second day of protests in Los Angeles. It was a peaceful demonstration, but there were lots of cops and a certain kind of energy brewing that felt like a match about to get lit.
After I left the protest turned violent. This violence spread throughout the city and erupted into looting. This happened all throughout the United States.
To combat the looting Los Angeles experienced a curfew. Everyone had to be home by 6 PM or you could get stopped by the police. Also, the National Guard, which is like an army type force with tanks, came and occupied the city. So now the city was really under lockdown. Shit was getting more real. During this period you could hear police sirens all night long, and military helicopters flying overheard all throughout the day.
In the United States in June and July, you hear a lot of fireworks. They usually peak on July 4th, American Independence day. Well, this year, after the protests started, the fireworks were more powerful, and going on all hours of the day. This phenomenon was taking place in many parts of the United States, including LA. I was shocked at how powerful the fireworks were, like a battle taking place outside the window. Theories began to circulate that the fireworks were being set off by the police to justify their job. I know that some firemen were caught lighting off fireworks, which just added to the speculation.
Will live music ever come back? Will musicians play in bars, at weddings, big concerts? In this present situation, the live music industry might be one of the last things to recover. I started working intensely on creating a digital instrument/interface I can sell. Let’s face it, you can’t make any money selling music in the present climate. If I can have something I can sell other than music, then maybe I can make a little scratch while I wait to see what happens with live performance. To be continued…