Like many other things, live performances have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Some performers have taken to giving small shows online, often from their living rooms.
Sidewalk Prophets is giving a twist to its digital presentation, with, as lead singer Dave Frey explained, virtual tour stops in many cities.
On Sunday, Aug. 30, Sidewalk Prophets will perform its New Orleans show. The band will be on a stage in a studio in Nashville, Tennessee, performing a unique show in a livestream that starts at 7 p.m.
In what some might consider a God-guided act, the group’s current album and tour are “The Things That Got Us Here.” And the coronavirus pandemic is what got the band into a virtual concert tour.
“We had to get creative. … We play 150 shows a year on the road, and we lost close to 100 of them with COVID," Frey said. “In order to survive as a band, we had to get creative, cause that’s where you are able to live — what you make touring.”
Frey said bandmate Ben McDonald, whom he called a visionary and the creative engine of the band, came up with the idea.
"I was like, ‘What does that even look like?'" Frey said.
McDonald “came up with this idea to rent a studio up here in Nashville, and we have a bunch of TV cameras and we film it live and we play our concert. We broadcast it with incredible audio and incredible visuals. What’s so unique is that we wanted to do it city by city. So when we are in New Orleans, we are playing for New Orleans,” Frey said. “We might be in Nashville, but this is New Orleans' show.”
The show includes an interactive poll so fans can chose what they want the band to play.
Frey also said “a guy who — for lack of a better word — ‘Doc Brown in the garage' invented this 3D camera” that is used for some of the show.
“It’s awesome. We don’t do the whole thing in 3D, but we have a couple of songs and they are made cooler with 3D glasses.” Glasses are for sale on the website or viewers can use their own.
Anyone in a 2½- to 3-hour radius of New Orleans can watch for free, but fans need to register for a ticket to get the link to the show. The tour will use a new radius checking system that will grant ticket access to those who live in ZIP code radius of each market.
Fans can make donations in any amount they choose. Other levels allow access to the live show and to replays of it, and for $19.99 people out of the radius can get a ticket.
“If you don’t have money to come to a show or can’t pay anything, don’t worry about it, just tune in,” Frey said. “We just wanted to make it affordable for people to come and feel like they are at a concert during this pandemic. So far, it’s been going great.”
Tickets are available at Sidewalkprophets.com.
Frey said it’s been great to be a band making music in the same room again. He said the new format still allows interaction with fans, and allows the band to remind the fans they are not alone.
“We’ve had some fun interactions with fans emailing after the show saying 'This is exactly what I needed in these times.’ Or, ‘Man I didn’t know I could go to a show during a pandemic but this has made me feel like I was absolutely there.’”
“Those are those are the biggest compliments we can receive,” he said.
Frey also answered a few questions about the band, its music and the future.
Who is Sidewalk Prophets?
"Our goal — we love people, we love having fun and we love Jesus. And we hope that people who tune into our show are ready for a good time and will hopefully walk away realizing that they are a part of something bigger. That’s our band in a nutshell."
Where did the name come from?
"When we were in college, my buddy Ben (McDonald) named our band Four Floors to Heaven with a Z and a numeral 2, and it was a terrible name. We were like we’ve got to change this, chapel’s coming up."
Frey said the word of the day on McDonald’s dictionary calendar was “prophet” defined as someone that tells the truth about life. “I was like that’s a simple and beautiful definition. And that’s what we want to be. Men who are telling the truth about life through our music.”
Frey said the sidewalk part came from the Jars of Clay song “Art in Me.” One line says, “Images on the sidewalk speak of dream's descent.”
“I just pictured a man walking down a sidewalk and right in front of him is what God wants him to see and he walks right by it. He’s maybe too worried about life, he missed what God wanted him to see. … I’m not in a relationship with God, I haven’t spent time in the word, so I walk right by it.
“We want to be men that are listening to God and prophets speaking the truth about life.”
Your latest album title seems to be very accurate for the times.
“The Things That Got Us Here” — “That’s serendipitous and God’s hand is in that for sure.”
Frey said the album was titled a year and a half ago and comes from a song on it, “Real to Me.”
“It says, ‘Hallelujah for the questions and the trials, Hallelujah for the road and all the miles, Hallelujah for the days of doubt and fear, and Hallelujah for the things that got me here.’
“Going through some hard times, going through these long roads of life, these pandemics, these tragedies, we find they’ve become a part of our story. We wouldn’t be who we are without them, so we give thanks for that.
“(For) all of us, the things that got us here might be ugly things, they might be great things but we are here today standing here because God chose to allow them in our lives and allowed us to overcome."
You’ve released two singles from the album. Tell us about them.
“We had no idea a pandemic is coming, but we look at these and realize how relevant they are today.
"’Smile' is a very joyful song. I think we sometimes confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is great, it’s amazing when we have it, but joy is absolutely what we should pursue. Joy comes from the Lord."
He said joy can be a moment of peace in a really hard time or a thank you from a friend.
"'Smile' is based on the fact there is always a reason to choose joy. It’s definitely a fun song and we have a music video where I get dressed up in an '80s track suit (and) play ping pong with strangers in downtown Nashville.”
“Chosen” is the second single and “is absolutely based on 1 Peter 2:9 — ‘You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, you are God’s special possession.’”
He said it is to remind the outcasts, the people who feel unseen, that “God sees them and says ‘I love you. I know you feel like nobody sees you, but I see you. I choose you every single time.’”
What about the future?
“With COVID, (plans) change every day. We’ve been writing a lot and do all those things you do when you have some time on your hands. This is our first album in five years, it’s been way too long, so we need to get another album out way sooner than 5 years from now."