Coronavirus

COVID-19's So Bad, Morning Bear Just Canceled a Live-Stream Concert

COVID-19 rates are so high that Morning Bear canceled a live-stream concert.
COVID-19 rates are so high that Morning Bear canceled a live-stream concert. Brandon Marshall
You know the pandemic's out of control when a singer-songwriter cancels a live-stream concert. And that happened.

Early on November 12, indie-folk artist John Runnels, the creative force behind Morning Bear, pushed back his live-stream show with Stone Cottage Studios, a Boulder-based music nonprofit that has been producing a high-quality virtual concert series for the past few weeks.

"Right now it's estimated 1/100 Coloradans are contagious," Runnels wrote on social media. "The right thing to do is keep everyone safe by staying home for now. I know it's disappointing, and it's frustrating, but we will make it through this."

Performing, he tells Westword, doesn't feel safe when COVID-19 rates are so high — even if the only people joining him are his band and a skeleton crew running cameras and producing the show. 

"When you sing, you have to take your masks off," he says. "It’s a little riskier. Right now, I’m living with my parents. It’s better to wait a couple months than to risk their lives and mine."

Still, the decision hurt. While Runnels has broadcast a couple of live-stream performances from his basement, this online concert was going to be more substantial.

"We were really excited, because this was going to be a real production, with multiple cameras, high-quality production and great sound," Runnels says. "But the more people you have, the more dangerous it is."
Runnels has lived in his parents' basement since March, when he returned to Denver from a year-long songwriting residency in Melbourne, Australia, just before the United States restricted international travel. During his last two weeks abroad, Australia instituted a strict stay-at-home order. 

"They shut down entirely," he says. "It was police-state level. You can’t leave your house except to go to the store...110 days. Now they’re done. Now they’re over it."

Not only is the stay-at-home order wrapped in Australia, where case counts are extremely low, but his musician friends there are back to playing concerts. Runnels envies Australia's handling of the pandemic and says he thinks that the United States has blown it.

"I think we’ve sort of half-assed it, and it’s made it a lot worse," Runnels explains, adding that he would have preferred a total shutdown. "It’s like pulling off a band-aid. Do all the hard part in the fore-end, so you don’t have to experience as much pain in the long run."

Morning Bear's move to scrap the show falls in line with pleas from Governor Jared Polis that Coloradans stay home for the next few weeks as COVID-19 cases continue to break records across the state and country.

Polis has resisted instituting another stay-at-home order at the state level, instead leaving further restrictions up to counties and individuals. Some county health departments have instituted curfews, but so far they've all avoided stay-at-home edicts.

Runnels isn't waiting. He's staying home and putting safety first.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris