When the phone rang and Rachel Hansen answered, her good friend asked what she was doing on January 15th. Jokingly, she responded that most likely recovering from a three-day run of shifts. Her friend had just won the contest for a private performance with the band Barbaro and immediately wanted to gift the experience. She instantly burst into tears.
Rachel has been a nurse for five years and is currently at Methodist Hospital. She’s been in the ICU for almost three years and as you can imagine, the last year has sucked. That neighborhood is filled with a ton of nursing homes and elderly communities, so when covid-19 struck, they were hit really hard. Almost a year later there’s been another wave of younger people, which is even tougher to witness.
“This year the highs are higher and the lows are lower,” shares Rachel.
She’s kept a positive attitude through the year and points to the year-end Spotify roundup as an example. Some people can see the posts as annoying as everyone wants to share what they’ve been listening to. Rachel sees it was a good way to see other cool bands that like-minded friends are into. She can discover music and be open to new bands. By leaning into those lists, she sees the positive side verses the scorn of Spotify.
In the Absence of Live Music
Historically Rachel has listened to live recordings of shows. She loves the Grateful Dead and would throw on an old show to listen to. But the first couple months of the shutdown, she couldn’t bring herself to listen to anything live. It was a self-preservation method for her to not be in the reality of no live music. Now as she’s desperate to see any live music in person again, the live recordings are making a comeback. She did a weekend trip up to the north shore in August and came across a local guy playing guitar in a town square.
“I just instantly, again, I’m a nurse and we’re cry babies, burst into tears as I sat and listened. That’s what my soul needed, just a little bit of a refill.”
Rachel went from going to shows at least once a month and traveling to other states, to nothing. Most of her good friends are people she met on a tour, at festivals, or at local shows. The community piece of live music has been the toughest thing to miss out on. Her circle has been wonderful to check in and touch base. They continually share YouTube videos, song clips, and live recordings to keep the music alive.
Rewind to the Blue Ox Festival in 2018. At large festivals, you’re always focused on hearing 4-5 bands. Which means you arrive to a stage a little early so you can catch them. Barbaro was sandwiched next to the Jeff Austin Band, whom she had to see. She remembers hearing Barbaro and immediately having her head pivot. Discovering music is one of the best feelings.
Rachel loves their new record Dressed in Roses as it has some nice highs and lows, interesting vocals, and the combination of some more rustic sounds mixed with some edgier sounds. “Loathe” is like velcro in her brain. The overall vibe of the song is not like anything she’s heard before.
Fast forward to the destined date of January 15th, 2021. Three songs into the performance, surrounded by records, Barbaro eased into “Loathe”. Watching the four members self blend their instruments volumes by stepping forward or pulling back, the dynamics of live music was alive. The progression of the song combines Rachel Calvert’s fiddle prowess, Kyle Shelstads clever lyrics, and Isaac Sammis fast-firing banjo pickin’. Substitute upright bass player Taylor James Donskey was also a special treat to the evening, adding a solid rhythm section with ease.
“Better days, better ways to throw my weight around
The bed we made only holds the shape of one of us now
to be somebody to loathe”
The evening mixed some older songs from their first EP “Touch Too Much”, favorites from their new release “Montana Oh”, “Cold Snap”, and “Aunt Betty”; and a few new unreleased songs like “Ike’s Farewell”. Barbaro also played a cover of George Jones “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me”, punctually coinciding with the pandemic. We even were treated to a bit of silliness with a cover of “Baby Shark” and Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City”.
The softness and style of live music wasn’t lost in the venue space either. Without microphones, Barbaro used the space like a canvas. Hearing the textured tones of all four instruments hit deep as the room glued together each song. It’s this vibrancy and showmanship in live music that is missed. Witnessing a band play together again, and seeing that passion shine through, builds that common connection with the audience.
Exclusive Video – “Ike’s Farewell”
The Meaning of Live Music
Growing up Rachel had strict requirements and expectations, but if she wanted to go to show, her parents never said no. Going to shows was the first time where she really recognized that there can be a significant difference between the music on the record and live music. The beauty of live music for Rachel is never really knowing what you’re going to get. It’s an adventure and the joy of being around other people that love what you do is so fulfilling.
“The biggest thing is that community energy, everybody’s excited, nobody is there because they don’t want to be. It’s one of the few places you go and everybody’s there on their own volition for a joyful reason.”
One of Rachel’s favorite things to do, especially at a bigger venue like Red Rocks, is to turn around and see the absolute bliss on people’s faces while they watch the band. It’s seeing those faces filled with joy and celebration that helps her escape from the real world, which as a health care worker, can be very crappy at times.
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