Indiana based county-blues group Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band have quickly adapted to performing, recording, and reaching fans during the Covid-19 outbreak. The Rev, washboard vixen Breezy, and drummer Max Senteney were mid-tour when the lockdowns began. Covid stopped The Big Damn Band in its tracks when Austin music festival SXSW was canceled the day they were scheduled to perform.
“I broke my thumb in January, and that sidelined me for two months. I was so excited to get back on the road and start playing again,” Rev said in an email. “I was paying attention to what was happening in China with the virus, maybe earlier than most people, but I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was.” He described Austin that day as being in a dream, adding, “The whole weight of it was suffocating in that town.”
The band had also just come off a week-long cruise ship show through Miami, the southern epicenter of the pandemic. Shortly after SXSW was cancelled, members of the band and their families fell sick.
“It wasn’t a big deal until Breezy was just so sick,” Rev said. “She had a fever for three weeks as soon as we got home from the canceled tour. She had blood clots and scars on her lungs in a CT scan. She lost her sense of taste and smell.” Tragically, Rev’s father lost his cousin to Covid-19 as one of the first in the nation to die from the virus.
“We may never know for sure if what Breezy had (and all the rest of the band and crew had) was Covid-19, but either way It was by far the scariest time of my life,” he said.
The pandemic has nearly destroyed live music for now. Touring
musicians everywhere are mourning months of gigs and for the Big Damn Band, things are no different. The trio has had to make quick adjustments and find new ways of reaching fans. They quickly began a monthly livestream concert and a patreon.
“Like a little kid thrown in a pool, we realized it was sink or swim time, so we started treading water'” he said. “Our fans have responded in the most amazing and beautiful way. Their support and generosity has been life saving.” However, he said he is worried about friends in the industry.
“There are so many more people effected by the lack of shows. Most folks don’t really understand how many people are involved. Music venues are closing their doors for good on a daily basis. Crew and musicians and drivers and security and agents and so many people are starting to get desperate,“ he said.
But Rev said his biggest take away from all of this is that artists need to figure out how to cut out some of the middlemen and get everything straight to the fans. “Fans need to in-kind figure out how they can best support the artists they love and appreciate more directly,” he said. “We need the entire music fan base to help be advocates for all of us in the face of this pandemic, the government, and some of the giant, gate keeping corporations that are between the artist and the fan.”
The band plans to continue the live streams for as long as necessary, but said it’s been a learning and growing experience. Now, they have the right equipment and are making their online fan experience better and better. “I have been committed to coming out of this better than before. Our fans have rallied and it has given me hope and strength,” Rev says.
“We have to survive until it’s time to come back. I don’t know if the industry can improve while so many of us are just trying to literally survive.”
Rev said despite the circumstances, some great things have come from the pandemic but not without a hard fight, pain, or from the generosity of their fans.
“Everyday we are fed and the lights are on is a big giant check mark in the win column,” he said. “Health beats wealth any day of the week. I am so thankful for my family, my friends, and my fans. I wouldn’t be any kind of nothing without them. I’ll never take any of them for granted.”
Additionally, in March and April, under the stress of this disaster, says he wrote the greatest record of his life.
“We recorded it, and it will be out next year.” he says. “I was able to be home with my Dad as he dealt with… and beat an aggressive cancer diagnosis. It was a literal miracle. We set up a multi-camera, multitrack studio in our living room so we can livestream and build community directly to our fans.”