Time again for This Little Underground’s annual Undie Awards ... even in a canceled year, some local music scene superlatives still emerged.
Fullest concert response to the pandemic: The Frontyard Festival
There’s been considerable hustle this year by the city’s live music venues to adapt to the times for safety and survival, but none have met the challenge with as much infrastructure and all-in commitment as the Dr. Phillips Center. By effectively turning itself inside out and becoming downtown’s own semi-permanent festival grounds of private boxes, the venue resumed its live programming on a grand scale out in its urban plaza. Its Frontyard Festival is importing heavyweight names from Jason Isbell to El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico in an age where touring has ground to a halt. They’ve even extended their outside, socially distanced setup to host broad community events like the upcoming free Live & Local Lunch matinee concerts, morning fitness class series Start Me Up and a Disney film series. The Dr. Phillips Center has turned an ad hoc response into something surprisingly holistic.
Best community rally: Will’s Pub crowdfunding campaign
Many music venues aren’t expected to survive the COVID calamity. But the Orlando community recently proved it’s willing to dig in both its heels and pockets to help keep the legendary Will’s Pub afloat. Beginning early in the shutdown, the local live music institution tried valiantly to diversify to stay open and not make its 25th anniversary its last. But package store sales, new merch line and food service plans have been mere band-aids for a decapitation. Finally in November, owner Will Walker gave in to community entreaties to open up a crowdfunding campaign. Within 24 hours of its public announcement, the Orlando scene and beyond rallied and donated about $20,000 on GoFundMe, double the initial goal. The drive racked up almost $35,000 before the fundraiser was closed. Will’s Pub is still far from being out of jeopardy, but at least it’s finally gotten back some of what it’s given to the community since the 1990s.
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