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Concerts Canceled, Beth Bombara Has Found Community By Livestreaming

Singer-songwriter Beth Bombara joined Tuesday's "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss how she continues to perform — virtually — during the pandemic.
Matt Marcinkowski
Singer-songwriter Beth Bombara joined Tuesday's "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss how she continues to perform — virtually — during the pandemic.

Going to jam-packed concerts is high on the list of things many people miss most during the pandemic. But for the musicians who provide that entertainment, the loss of these concerts is also a serious blow to their livelihoods.

Among the artists who have had their business model upended is Americana musician Beth Bombara. The St. Louis-based singer-songwriter has not only faced canceled gigs around town, but also a canceled U.K. tour that had been planned for April. When she planned a socially distant concert at the Pageant earlier this month, the recent rise in coronavirus cases in the region canceled that too.

But she’s managed to still give her fans what they want: her music. At 8 p.m. every Monday, she offers a free, livestream concert from her makeshift at-home studio.

“My No. 1 goal is just to share music with people in these crazy difficult times, because I know that that helps uplift people's spirits,” Bombara said on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Bombara and her band are on a 37-week streak, so far only forgoing one week since March. Her dedication to the weekly program is not lost on fans. People often leave tips virtually via a donation link Bombara supplies.

“People have been very generous, and it's allowed me to continue to pay my mortgage,” she said. “And I feel extremely lucky for that.”

It’s also helped her build her fan base. She’s noticed fans tuning in from Japan and other countries as well.

“I can reach anyone, wherever they are,” she said. “When I go play a show, we all have to be in the same room together, and there's something very special about that — and the livestream does not replace that. But it offers a different way to connect with people when we can't all be together.”

And that’s why, even after concert halls reopen, Bombara said she’ll likely continue to livestream, whether it’s a low-key free event that generates donations (like her current weekly performances) or, in the future, a ticketed model — “more of a concert where you buy a ticket and then you get access to the show,” she said.

Bombara said she’s finally ready to write some new music again. She considers herself “a slow processor” when it comes to turning her feelings into song. But after months of the new normal, she can feel her creative juices flowing again.

“I've been processing a lot of stuff in my head, and I think I'm finally ready to get that out there on the page and demo some new songs out,” she said. “So yeah, it's been slow, but I feel like I'm finally there.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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