Eric Kiefer was well prepared for the change the pandemic brought to the live music industry in the spring of 2020.
This change occurred in the mode of performance, when musicians moved from standing on a stage in front of humans to standing at home in front of a camera. It was a necessary change in the music world, and if you were a touring musician who still wanted to perform despite your tour being canceled, you would go for computer performance.
The virtual concert, however, was nothing new to local musician Kiefer, who has recorded and performed online under the name “Oblee” since 2007. These performances were part of the online and virtual world of Second Life, and therefore, he has sold records and has been paid for shows that have been seen by other citizens of Second Life here in the United States and as far as Russia, Japan, New Zealand and beyond.
In addition to playing shows online, he also continued to write and record. In August, Kiefer released “Shapeshifter”, an EP of his experimental lo-fi folk music. These are songs that Kiefer describes as having “existed in the garbage drawer.” This is where random items end up in your home, like an old lighter, screwdriver, loose allergy medicine, and your extra pair of sunglasses. Only then, the draw held songs that were on the back burner, eager to find the right place to hang out.
âThese are older songs – ‘Shapeshifter’ itself was recorded in 2016. It didn’t fit with the next album I’m making, and I didn’t want to lose them because I loved them,â said Kiefer said. âIt’s 2021, you can just pull something out, you don’t have to rush it or anything. I can just let him go. So, I had this, and I wanted to complete it, so I had a few other pieces. So, these are some misfit tracks that I love enough that I wanted to do something with them, but they didn’t quite fit where I was going with the next album.
This next record will take a more rootsy route, a route Kiefer rarely takes except when he played with country crooner Sand Sheff, or when his old band Aftergrass sometimes explored newgrass territory.
But all of those songs end in his performances, whether these shows take place in real life or in the virtual world that so many musicians have been forced to enjoy since March 2020.
Kiefer jokes that when it comes to online performance, he “was doing it before it was cool.” The jury is still out on whether playing online is ‘cool’ or not, but one thing’s for sure, when other musicians tried to figure out how to become artists online, they already had that infrastructure intact. It’s a performance method he was heckled for at first, but that heckling stopped, and Kiefer found something good in the online shows he has been playing for over a decade now. These positives for the fans include not having to deal with venue distractions like crowds or overworked chatterboxes, and for the musician, this is another avenue to further perfect their chops.
âI laughed at that back in the Aftergrass days. These guys were like live music people. They said: “live music should be in person in front of real people and real places”. But it’s playing in front of real people, right at home. People are listening on headphones, people are thinking of the lyrics, people are kind of overanalyzing your performance, which could be bad or good, âKiefer said. “And when you do 100 or 200 performances a year on top of your actual performances, you’re pretty well trained.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and director of KDUR station. Contact him at email@example.com.