I had a ball the other night watching blues pianist Hanna PK on FB as she streamed and strode the 88s. The song she played ended in a crush of glissandi and boogie-woogie thunder that ran from the bass to the treble clef. It was beautiful. PK gave a curt bow but nobody clapped. Nobody whooped or hollered. Nobody cheered. Nobody was there.
Social distancing has gobbled up our hoorays and it’s swallowed our hurrahs. I imagine it must be hard for a performer when there’s no way to read an audience or find the reward in their applause.
“It’s awkward,” PK said. “I don’t really like playing alone in front of the camera with no audience. I think I’ll get a wind-up toy monkey that bangs the cymbals and I’ll play for him.”
The internet has proven to be an invaluable tool during the current pandemic. It’s keeping us together. Artists like PK are savvy and have taken to using virtual tip jars through sites like Venmo and PayPal to fortify their greenback stack in these lean times. But wouldn’t it be nice to hear some appreciation, too?
The applause isn’t always there for singer-songwriter Amanda Ashley and her Facebook show, “Afternoon Cocktail,” either. But does she miss it?
“Of course I do,” Ashley said. “But you’ve got to realize, I’ve also played live venues where sometimes nobody pays attention.” She looks forward to returning to the stage playing in front of a living, breathing, applauding crowd. Even though it won’t exactly be normal.
“It’ll be a new normal,” she said. “I’ve been doing live-streaming stuff for years. It keeps me in touch with my fans out of town.” That includes the ones she can’t hear clapping.
I suggest we download a clapping app on our phones and computers — not that app used for finding misplaced cell phones with a clap of your hands, but something similar to canned laughter. Instead of sounding like guffaws from an old episode of “All in the Family,” though, it could be the thunderous applause of “Live at Budokan” proportions that these artists deserve.
Or social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram could install “applause sound” reactions to go with the “likes” and “loves.” It’ll complete the performance, and it will let these musicians know just how we feel. So c’mon, give ’em a hand.
Frank De Blase is CITY’s music writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.