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Brian Lopez headlining Kennedy Center livestream Friday morning
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Brian Lopez headlining Kennedy Center livestream Friday morning

'Save Our Stages' aims to aid independent venues

  • Brian Lopez on stage at MSA Annex in Tucson
    Kerry WhelanBrian Lopez on stage at MSA Annex in Tucson
  • Mattea performing at 2019's Electric Witch Workshops
    Jeff SprytimeMattea performing at 2019's Electric Witch Workshops

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on the nation's musicians and other performing artists, cancelling festivals, tours and other live performances, delaying album releases and shuttering recording studios. On the other hand, the extended period of quarantine has led to a revolution of sorts in the world of livestream performances, uniting audiences on a nationwide and even worldwide basis.

It's in the latter spirit that the Kennedy Center recently announced Arts Across America, a 20-week free series featuring over 200 artists and performers from across the country. In one the very first performances, Tucson gets a little bit of love, as a well-known native son and some other talented local folks take a turn in the spotlight.

On Friday, Tucson musician Brian Lopez will be the featured performer in Arts Across America's "West Arts" episode of the series. The XIXA frontman and Giant Giant Sand alum will share the virtual stage with fellow Tucsonan (and trumpet-wielding indie soul diva) Mattea as well as Arizona psych-cumbia duo Los Èsplifs.

TucsonSentinel.com: "How did this whole thing come about?"

Brian Lopez: "I got a call from someone at the Kennedy Center exactly two weeks ago about performing in, and curating an hour-long segment for their new 'Arts Across America' video series."

TS: You chose to include a couple of lesser-known but wildly talented local artists to join as your guest for the performance. What led you to include them?

BL: "I chose Mattea because I had just seen her UAPresents performance and it blew me away. I chose Los Èsplifs because how can you have a  Southwestern showcase without incorporating some cumbia. Also, they are dope. Both artists are probably not on many people's radar right now, and that is also why I chose them."

TS: Thanks for sharing the spotlight with some great local performers. And good luck!

You can tune in to the performance via the Kennedy Center website or via Facebook Live at 10 a.m. Tucson time on Friday, July 31.

Save Our Stages aims to rescue independent venues nationwide

In other Arizona-related music news, performers and venues statewide will be taking to social media this coming Tuesday in support of congressional action to ensure the survival of struggling performance venues nationwide.

The Save Our Stages Act, one of a handful of proposed pieces of legislation aiming to support pandemic affected live music outlets and performers, would provide  $10 billion in Small Business Administration grant funding, specifically for independent music and entertainment venues,  with a goal to cover about six months of expenses for grantee establishments. It was co-sponsored by U.S. Rep Raul Grijalva. 

The bill would be a boon to Tucson's live music industry in particular, according to local performer (as Sharkk Heartt) and Rialto Theatre employee Lara Ruggles.

Lara Ruggles: "This is not a partisan issue - it will have a huge impact on the future of the Tucson economy. We are very grateful to Rep. Grijalva for recognizing how crucial the Save Our Stages Act will be for the survival of venues like ours, and we hope Rep. Kirkpatrick and Sens. McSally and Sinema will join this fight and sign on to support this bill as well."

The statewide day of action is being sponsored by the National Independent Venue Association, an advocacy group formed in March of this year to lobby for independent live music venues shuttered or otherwise impacted by COVID-19. For more information, visit SaveOurStages.com.

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