We Are Band Nerds had been hitting the streets this year.
The Dallas-based nu-metal band played shows all around DFW, the state, even a floating rock festival that cruised from New Orleans to Cozumel via Key West.
At the moment, though, the band is staying home. Their South By Southwest show was canceled nearly a week after the festival officially called it quits, and their upcoming local shows are off as well. This is the case for nearly every event in the region after Dallas County banned gatherings of 500 or more people and strongly discouraged those of 250 or more. On Sunday night, the CDC advised all to avoid gatherings of 50 or more.
Despite the lack of tour dates, the group, something of a throwback to the days when Korn and Linkin Park were in heavy rotation on The Edge, is confident it can grow its profile.
It’s a new world for musicians. Even in the midst of a pandemic that prevents gentle swaying in a crowd–not to mention mosh pits–bands like The Nerds are hoping to improve their social life.
“The game has changed now. You don’t really need a label or anything like that, it’s about how big your brand is online,” lead singer and rapper Brandon Cross says. “That’s something we’re working on ourselves, and with the new format, how the music industry is going, we’re trying to adapt to that. That’s our fault people don’t know who we are, and we’re planning on changing that dramatically this year.”
Victor Rimach spent most of the last week scrambling to find new artists for his booking agency, Chasquis’ Indie Rock Latin America Festival. Ultimately, he had to pull the plug when the county’s event ban was announced.
Even with the proximity boost from SXSW, Rimach said fewer and fewer musicians in the Trump era are concerning themselves with playing festivals, turning to social media to build a fan base and rack up digital streams instead of chasing the attention of industry insiders.
“It’s very strange. South By is a positive thing for sure, but at the same time I don’t feel they bring the artists that they used to bring, at least in the Latin American market,” said Rimach, who plays in the group MAYTA in addition to his role booking concerts. “I think it has lost a little bit of momentum in the alternative Latin American scene, especially with the regulations for traveling, for the visa, all that.”
Andrea Cruz, a Puerto Rican folk singer who was set to play the show at Club Dada before SXSW’s cancellation, has seen an explosion of artists helping other artists spread their music and cross-promote.
Cruz’s second album Sentir no es del tiempo came out last week, and she planned to promote the new record at her Texas shows. While those concerts aren’t happening, Cruz has generated buzz, partially thanks to other artists, many of whom she connected with online.
“I think we’re moving once again to the digital spaces to promote projects, to figure out a way to sign contracts and generate some movement” before playing shows in places like Dallas or Austin is back on the table, she says.
Yet, face-to-face interactions are a powerful tool for artists. For Cruz, connections she made at SXSW paid off in a major way.
“I had the chance to participate in the Tiny Desk Concert series, and it was because I met the NPR editors in SXSW the year I went two years ago,” she says. “So, definitely, we’re missing out on all this type of networking and contact with the cancelations.
“Music, unfortunately, has to come in second place to everything that’s happening, but it’s sad for all the artists who were going for the first time and had this hope about what happens in South By.”
Even during a public health crisis, the power of music can be felt. Whether it’s digital events, like the live-streamed concerts Dallas native Marc Rebillet is providing in lieu of his canceled shows–or the simple act of getting reacquainted with your record collection, it’s something you can lean on in the most uncertain of times.
“That’s what music is for, to make sure people forget about the struggles we have in our day-to-day life,” Rimach said. “Even if it’s a pandemic or the Coronavirus, we’ve got to keep doing our own thing.”