By P.A. Geddie
Max Stalling and his wife and bandmate Heather are used to performing for a thousand people or so at shows all over Texas and beyond — they’re just not used to having that many people join them in their living room, even if they are “virtual” visitors.
COVID-19 shut down their gigs for the foreseeable future so like a lot of musicians they are doing live stream concerts from the comfort of their home.
One of Max’s hit songs is called “I Ain’t Drinking Alone,” so they decided to call their weekly series “We Ain’t Drinking Alone Wednesdays.” Guests — more than 1,000 each week — start trickling into the Facebook chat room a few minutes before 7 p.m. every Wednesday night and enjoy an hour or so of great music with Max’s original songs and Heather’s fiddle playing and harmonies.
Visitors can see each other’s comments in the chat room as they scroll by and interact with each other. Lots of clapping hands, floating hearts, and other emojis make it feel a bit like a crowded venue, a quiet one though where voices don’t drown out the music.
Some of the guests watch the performances on their cell phones or tablets, laptops, and computers, while others hold backyard parties and watch on their big screens and families gather around to watch on TVs in their own living rooms.
At the bottom of the chat feed is a way to make a donation if guests would like, but it is not required.
“It’s basically busking,” Max says, “It really is helping us get through. We’re very fortunate.”
Although the money is nice, needed, and appreciated, it’s not the main reason they are doing the live stream concerts each week.
“We’re trying to provide a release for people,” he says, “give them a break from what they are suffering from. We’re all in this together.”
Max and Heather visit often with other musicians, venues, and booking agents trying to figure out what their new normal is in the coming months or so and admit they don’t know any more than anyone else at this point but have some thoughts.
“I don’t see a concert with 500 people happening anytime soon or a big gathering with The Eagles at American Airlines Center. I have a sense that the small towns are where we’ll start back with smaller crowds.”
In the meantime, they are trying to adjust with the times.
“I think we’re witnessing a paradigm shift,” he says. “There’s the chance now to get all kinds of entertainment over the internet from artists of all different ilks. I think some people will carve out a niche for themselves.”
They are certainly getting new fans.
“We’re reaching new people we have not seen before,” he says, hearing comments like “We just found you guys. Really like your stuff.”
They are also selling more merchandise like T-shirts and CDs.
“We have orders coming from out of state — Georgia, Maryland, North Dakota, and Alabama to name a few.”
Max and Heather say they are looking at possibilities of how they might continue some kind of live stream shows indefinitely but for now they’ll keep doing their live stream Wednesday night shows as long as they are needed.
“If it helps give people a break from being stuck at home, we’re here,” Max says. “We’re straight up providing a service — that’s at the heart of it.”
Check out the County Line calendar for Max and Heather’s streaming link and other shows and entertainment — there’s something fun going on almost every day of the week.