COVID relief package music to venue owner's ears

The sweet sound of jazz has cut to silence in the COVID pandemic. Now, for the first time, federal relief funding is on the way. 

The COVID relief stimulus package, signed by President Donald Trump, sets aside $15 billion dollars for live music venues. Mark DeNinno, the owner of Chris’ Jazz Cafe, calls it music to his ears. 

"It’s a big weight off everyone’s shoulders," said DeNinno, who has been a leading voice in the push to save Philly stages. He says it's an all or nothing game, and if you aren’t packing a club of people, you don’t have the money to pay bands. 

"The ability to open up at 25% capacity for a venue, it doesn’t work. you are putting n a production that has a fixed cost, and that production needs to have sold out shows to pay for it." 

Rachel Hampton, from Fishtown, and Peter Escalada-Mastick, who lives in South Philly, consider themselves regulars at Chris’ pre-pandemic. They hope this new stimulus package will give them a big boost. 

"When the music is playing, and the door is open, it just draws you in from the street," said Hampton. "It’s the spirit of Philadelphia to keep places like this alive, and the stimulus check will defiantly help with that." 

Chris’ Jazz Cafe is surviving on virtual shows, streamed by four different camera angles, a small production staff, and musicians separated by plexiglass to make the magic happen.  

"The only thing missing is the vibrations through your body that we can't send over the internet. Well, maybe if you turn your speakers up loud enough," DeNinno laughed. 

Previously the club raised money strictly to benefit the artists in a GoFun Me account. Now the musicians are returning the favor, playing for free in a festival to save to Chris’ stage. 

"It just goes to show you what a tight-knit family we have in the jazz community," said DeNinno. "We feel really blessed." 

Tickets to the virtual shows are pay what you wish. The next show is set for Tuesday night, Dec. 29, at 7 p.m. Then the festival Musicians Unite for Chris’ starts Jan. 9. Tickets and fundraisers can be found, here


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