Music to My Ears

Local bands bring vibrant performances to the community.

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GoodFastCheap gathers for the first time in a while to play for neighbors. Photo by Rhys Gwyn.

As people stroll along University Avenue on a weekend night, the twinkling street lights shine on musicians whose lively performances can be heard floating up and down the street. These vibrant gigs attract friends, family and diners at nearby restaurants, and the energy of the music can be felt by everyone who passes by. 

The magic in the air from the explosion of live music performances in Downtown Palo Alto is reminiscent of a time when music was more of a shared experience. This music not only brings joy to people passing by or dining in nearby restaurants, but to the musicians themselves.

Luc Pardehpoosh, a student at the University of Washington and the guitarist for rock band GoodFastCheap, plays with his bandmates for reasons other than just making music. “For me, playing in a band is another thing that my friends and I can do together, so it’s a way for us to bond, to hang out,” Pardehpoosh said.

Others, like Gunn senior Julia Segal, lead singer of indie-pop band Reverie, find that being in a band helps people grow creatively as an individual, and serves as an outlet for expression and fosters a community of mutual support. “[By being in a band,] I definitely got a lot more confident,” Segal said. “If you had asked me two years ago if I could see myself performing in front of 300 something people at the Battle of the Bands, I never would have believed it.”

Reverie practices for upcoming performances in a driveway. Photo by Benie Cohen.

Not only do these musicians feel accepted by their bandmates, but also by the Palo Alto community, which openly supports local bands. Because of this support, there are a variety of locations that welcome performances by local bands. Many groups choose to perform at indoor music venues in Palo Alto as well as in popular outdoor areas like local parks. 

Gathering in areas with heavy foot traffic is the best place to get noticed by residents. However, due to COVID-19 and the many regulations put in place, most bands had to stop playing in their usual locations.

To recent Paly graduate and electric bass guitarist Joseph Cudahy from indie rock band Metro, COVID-19 has drastically changed the world of live music. “Before [the pandemic], a lot of shows we’ve played were at venues for music with other bands,” Cudahy said. “Now, really all we can do are shows on our own in public places because venues for music aren’t open.” 

Although performing on their own has required more effort to set up and plan, that has not stopped Metro from continuing to play for live audiences. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 guidelines have brought to local bands, musicians have found a silver lining during these unprecedented times. 

Metro performs for a crowd on California Avenue. Photo by Kris Loew.

The driveway concerts that Pardepoosh and the rest of GoodFastCheap put on are not only a way to “jam out with friends,” but are also a refreshing way to bring the community together. “Recently, it’s been a way to bring something to the community that was severely lacking, so that’s been nice as well,” Pardehpoosh said.

Similar to GoodFastCheap, Metro drummer and Paly senior, Rein Vaska, enjoys the change of scenery and what it brings to the community. “What’s cool about playing outside as opposed to a gig is [that random] people come to see the music,” Vaska said.  “Anybody can stop by, and I feel like people really appreciate hearing random music when they’re just on Cal Ave or in a neighborhood driveway.” 

His bandmate Toni Loew, the keyboardist for Metro, echoed the same sentiment. “Especially in quarantine, the fact that we’re still able to stay safe and follow protocol, but also bring a little bit of hope [and music] into people’s lives after so long, is fun for us, but also fun if you’re just passing by and you’re hearing music,” Loew said.

Especially in quarantine, the fact that we’re still able to stay safe and follow protocol, but also bring a little bit of hope [and music] into people’s lives after so long, is fun for us, but also fun if you’re just passing by and you’re hearing music, ”

— Toni Loew

Although enforcing social distancing and keeping the crowds small is a new priority for performing bands, many still faced backlash for continuing to play during these times. Disapproving neighbors shared their feelings about the noise created from outdoor performances on the application NextDoor. 

“At first I was pretty annoyed because I thought the [noise complaint posts] would cause the concerts to come to an end, but then I realized through all the comments on the post that the majority of the community loved the concerts and wanted them to go on,” Pardehpoosh said. “My bandmates and I were all annoyed, but we also understood why people wouldn’t like the loud music.”

Despite these complaints, many bands were encouraged to continue performing. “I think it’s definitely cool for bands to play during COVID so long as they are safe about it,” said Miles Schulman, a drummer for GoodFastCheap. “[After] months of people stuck in their houses with no relief calls, live music can break the monotony and bring some good energy to the scene.”

[After] months of people stuck in their houses with no relief calls, live music can break the monotony and bring some good energy to the scene.”

— Miles Schulman

While COVID-19 has brought difficulties and controversy to the various bands in Palo Alto, they have all found ways to adapt and continue to perform for their friends and neighbors. Whether it’s playing downtown or just in their driveways, these bands bring vibrance to the community one performance at a time.

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