For generations the Rio Grande Valley has been home to many local, talented musicians who strive for success through playing gigs, selling merchandise and touring. As a result, the Valley has produced musical greats such as Baldemar Huerta, aka Freddy Fender and Narciso Martinez.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic in full effect, the means of which these artists could continue succeeding seem to have been completely closed off, like the venues where they once performed.
Fortunately, some of the local talents have been looking into online methods of performing for fans by playing live on Facebook or having practice sessions with band members on JamKazam, a music website that allows you to play music in real time with other musicians from home. One such performer is Lauren Corzine from McAllen.
Corzine, a country recording artist, typically performed throughout the country and state as well as locally, such as festivals like the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show in Mercedes, which was shut down the day Corzine was set to perform. This was the first of many cancellations.
“I was lined up to play seven shows at the livestock show and throughout that time I didn’t know what was going on, I only knew I had to play these dates,” Corzine recalled. “Right when that happened, I got a call from like eight other organizations… it was just like a domino effect.”
The country singer-songwriter currently maintains her music career by livestreaming performances on her Facebook page. Her last Facebook live performance happened this Easter weekend where she played cover songs from the likes of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash as well as unrecorded, original music. She also encourages her fans to check out her music online and on iTunes.
Despite these online avenues being available to everyone, not all artists find it easy to stream their performances on the internet.
Robert Hahn, guitarist and vocalist for McAllen-based thrash metal band Overt Enemy, speaks about the downsides of performing via livestream.
“It’s easier for a solo performer to do stuff like (play live online),” Hahn said. “We’d love to do a livestream, but we are all believers of following the guidelines of social distancing, so if we all have families and we’re all supposed to quarantine and stay home, how do we get together to do a livestream? The technology doesn’t exist to enable you to do that effectively with multiple people in different locations because of lag on the internet. It’s very hard to play along in time with someone else over the internet and the more people you add to that, the worse it gets…
“We’re just trying to figure out how we can practice together.”
Hahn also mentioned the use of music website JamKazam he tried out with his fellow guitarist and vocalist, Leo Ortiz, in order to get some practice in, but the technical difficulties had left them feeling frustrated rather than accomplished.
Overt Enemy, which began as a Slayer cover band after Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman died, was in the middle of recording their next album before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
San Benito’s Madelyn Victoria Vallejo was also in the process of releasing her upcoming album, “Senorita.”
Despite the limitations all aspiring musicians are experiencing due to public health restrictions closing venues and requiring residents to stay at home, Vallejo doesn’t see the downtime as a bad thing and rather an opportunity to work on her music.
“This quarantine is something I’m kind of used to,” Vallejo said. “You know you have a moment where you have a ton of shows and then you have a little … you plateau. I keep myself busy by writing songs and practicing guitar … I’m continuing planning on the cycle and release of my new album.”
Despite their differences in genre and experience, these local artists share their desire to perform live again once the air has cleared and social distancing regulations have been lifted. The three performers hope people will come out to watch and support them.
“Please be sure to support your favorite artists, especially independent artists,” Corzine said. “We financially support ourselves, we don’t have record companies, we don’t have booking agents to help us with everything, so it’s really important to support your favorite artist once quarantine has lifted.”
These artists’ performances can be found on their Facebook pages.