Andy and Renee at 100

Andy and Renee. Their 100th livestream performance is this Sunday. Photo courtesy of the artists

In dreadful times, a musical milestone

Andy and Renee? They never went away

by Bondo Wyszpolski

The South Bay’s preeminent musical folk-rock duo, Andy and Renee, have been performing week after week after week, yes, even during the time of the coronavirus. Furthermore, no one’s had to leave home in order to enjoy their music. This Sunday is a special occasion for them, and for us, and here’s why:

Easy Reader: The last time we conversed was in May and we discussed the imminent Dylanfest, which ended up being livestreamed over three days. You’d already begun to livestream local concerts on a regular basis, which brings us to March 14, this coming Sunday, and it’s a milestone event for you. So, would you like to describe it?

Andy and Renee: “Our last in-person gig was March 14, 2020, a St. Patrick’s Day party in Manhattan Beach. The seriousness of the COVID-19 virus was becoming painfully evident, and we knew life was going to take a serious turn for everyone. When the lockdown happened a few days later, Andy and I were too naïve to know that Livestreaming was a more complicated endeavor than we had thought, and we dived right in, with our first Livestream on March 19. We had a lot of missteps those first shows… bad sound, bad picture, bad streaming… you name it. But as we navigated the steep learning curve of dialing in the technical aspects, our audience was very patient and forgiving. I think they knew we were in uncharted waters and appreciated that we were trying.

“Everyone was so afraid and missing their friends, that our Livestreams provided connection with the amazing community that has built up around our music. They are a generous bunch as well, and though we don’t charge a set ticket price to watch the shows, our audience has kept us afloat. We also donate a portion of the proceeds of every show to charity, mostly the Midnight Mission, but also to Feeding America and some Fire Relief organizations. Show #100 will be a new jumping-off point and a look back at what we’ve done over the past year. We’ve had special shows — Canada Day, Halloween, Festivus, Holiday Concert, New Year’s Eve, Neil Young Tribute, and remote shows from the road. We have also played every song on our song list, 506 different songs. It’s been a journey of dusting off and relearning many songs on our list, so that’s been really fun.”

ER: You’ve managed to have small audiences for your live shows, at least the more recent ones, all socially-distanced, of course. I’m guessing that performing in front of even a few people is more stimulating than no audience at all. Am I correct in this assumption?

A&R: “Yes, definitely. The first few months of Livestreaming were surprisingly difficult because playing to a camera is a one-way experience. We had to generate the energy you have when you’re playing in front of people so the performance isn’t flat. Normally, you get that energy back from the crowd, but when you don’t, it’s really draining. We got better at it, but adding just one person who would monitor the Chat Room, helped a lot. When we could have 10 people in the driveway watching the shows, we felt like we were at Staples Center!”

Andy and Renee. Photo courtesy of the artists

ER: Concert 100 is a milestone. What have you perfected with livestreaming that you weren’t so good at before?

A&R: “Not to bore everyone with tech-talk (that’s always riveting conversation!), we found hardware and software solutions for better sound and picture. We upgraded our internet speed and hard-wired into the router to assure a smooth stream. With all that said, every once in a while we encounter some mind-bending glitch that defies logic, but somehow we seem to almost always figure it out just in the nick of time!”

ER: When COVID-19 recedes into the background, do you hope to shelve livestreaming as well or do you see it as a likely supplement to your live shows?

A&R: “I think we’ll continue to do the Livestreams along with in-person shows. We have viewers from all over the world who tune in, and we love connecting with them. Continuing the online shows will also give our local viewers an additional way to enjoy the music.”

ER: Dylanfest tends to occur in May, and of course May isn’t far off. Have you been planning for this year’s rendition, and if so how may it differ from last year’s event?

A&R: “We are still in limbo regarding the possibility of Dylanfest31 happening on May 8 at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. We are looking into rescheduling to the Fall, but everything is just theoretical for now. Dylanfest31 will happen, online or in person… Stay tuned. In the meantime Dylanfest30 is viewable on our Youtube Channel, www.youtube.com/reneesafier, as are almost all of our Livestreams.”

ER: What about other Andy and Renee projects? Are there more original recordings in the works? How does the future look to you from where we’re standing today?

A&R: “We are looking at starting our 17th CD in a month or so. Our producer, Marty Rifkin, hasn’t opened up his studio yet, so we have learned a lot about recording ourselves and sending tracks to him for mixing. We really miss playing with our band, Hard Rain, so this has been a way for us to keep working with them during the last year. We did six Hard Rain videos for Dylanfest, with everyone recording their part from home, and we are currently working on a video project with a wonderful organization, Childnet. Andy and I have been playing together for a long time, so we have seen the music market change time and time again. Of course, no one has seen something like this before, but as long as we love playing music and someone wants to hear it, we’ll find a way to get it to them. So, the future is bright.”

Livestreams are 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and 4 to 6 p.m. on Sundays. In April the times on Sundays will switch to 5 to 7 p.m. All info on Andy and Renee’s website, andyandrenee.com. ER

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Written by: Bondo Wyszpolski

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