Even though he lives in the city of Smoke Rise, Georgia, veteran folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon is a popular fixture in the Bay Area and throughout California.
That is because McCutcheon annually plays venues like the historic Sebastiani Theatre in Sonoma and the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley as part of a self-described “Left Coast Tour” that he’s taken each January for more than 30 years.
This year, McCutcheon could not make the trip out to California due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. So he’s doing the next best thing, performing online shows that will benefit his usual haunts on consecutive Saturdays, Jan. 9 and Jan. 16.
Each show benefits a number of California venues and organizations that McCutcheon regularly works with. For example, McCutcheon’s January 9 performance benefits the Sebastiani Theatre and the Freight & Salvage as well as KVMR (Nevada City-Grass Valley), Modesto Peace/Life Center (Modesto), and KZFR (Chico). McCutcheon’s performance on Jan. 16 will benefit venues running from Winters, CA, to Bakersfield, CA.
On McCutcheon’s webpage, virtual concertgoers can purchase tickets to the shows through their preferred venue’s link, which will ensure their ticket helps to support that sponsor directly.
“A lot of these presenters have become old friends by now. I want and need them to survive so that can continue our work together on the other side of all this,” McCutcheon says in a statement. “Each presenter gets a unique ticketing URL and sells tickets to ‘their’ audience. They get a cut of the sales that they sold, just as if I were there live. In fact, it’s a better percentage and they don’t even have to turn the lights on.”
The concerts will be broadcast on Mandolin, a new presenting platform that is becoming known for high-quality audio and video production. “We’ve done a couple concerts using this model and they’ve been really successful,” McCutcheon says. “I can’t wait to gather my audiences from California and get them all sitting together for the first time.”
Tickets are available for the virtual concerts at three price points to give the show a “Pay what you can” feel, including a five-dollar ‘unemployed/laid off’ ticket.
“Everyone needs music these days, so we want to keep it affordable,” McCutcheon says.
The prolific musician also promises that he will have plenty of new songs and stories for the upcoming virtual show, as he does each year that he comes to California. In fact, McCutcheon recently released his forty-first album, Cabin Fever: Songs from the Quarantine.
Written over the course of three weeks of self-imposed isolation following an Australian tour in Mid-March, Cabin Fever: Songs from the Quarantine is not even the album that McCutcheon was planning on recording in 2020.
Following his last release, To Everyone In All the World: a Celebration of Pete Seeger, McCutcheon had stockpiled over 30 new songs, but that record went on the shelf once the pandemic-related music and lyrics began pouring out of him while he was in isolation.
“It’s an album that is completely of its time,” McCutcheon said when the album came out this summer. “That is, the subject matter, while not exclusively about Covid-19 and its effects, came out of that milieu. It was recorded in total isolation, mixed in isolation, my graphic designer worked on her part after she put her kids to bed, a remarkably quick turn-around time, and, to top it all off, it’s a pay-what-you-can release.”
Like his upcoming virtual concerts, McCutcheon wanted to make the album accessible to everyone, regardless of finances.
“We’re in this together and we need to look out for one another,” McCutcheon says. “It’s the only way, in the music business or in “real life”, that we’re going to make it.”
John McCutcheon performs his Virtual Left Coast Tour for Northern California venues on Saturday, Jan. 9 and Saturday, Jan. 16. Both shows are at 4pm. $5-$30. Get tickets at Folkmusic.com.