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Discovering your destiny can be as simple as looking for the signs. While scanning the horizon of Westerville near Maxtown Road, Josh Gandee’s eyes happened to fall upon a “Truck Route to Broadway” road sign, sparking the idea of a musical about a trucker who longs to perform in The City That Never Sleeps. Gandee [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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Discovering your destiny can be as simple as looking for the signs. While scanning the horizon of Westerville near Maxtown Road, Josh Gandee’s eyes happened to fall upon a “Truck Route to Broadway” road sign, sparking the idea of a musical about a trucker who longs to perform in The City That Never Sleeps. Gandee and Mike Kolar, both stand-up comedians, debuted the idea with a few sketches for Wild Goose Creative’s Monday Night Live variety show.

The Gandee and Kolar duo teamed up with musician Andy Gallagher, who spent two years writing the music to Semi Fame, the story of Pete, a trucker and regular at Margie’s Diner. Pete becomes convinced by Carl, Margie’s on-again, off-again alcoholic boyfriend, to take his voice of gold to Broadway. Along the way, Pete teams up with Dan, former Hollywood child star, who learns the ways of the road from Pete.

Semi Fame: The Truck Route to Broadway will premiere at the Short North Stage this month, and in the lead-up, (614) took a backstage pit stop with Pete to discuss his amazing career transformation and plans for the future.

Can you describe your journey to Broadway? What were the greatest obstacles you faced along the way? It was just like any other long haul. The difference this time was the cargo I was dropping off was myself. The hard part was finding someone to take a chance on me. We got there on Tuesday, and it wasn’t ’till later that day that I actually found someone who would let me audition. That four hours before finding my agent was stressful as hell though.

So much of this business is who you know. How do you network in this industry—particularly as an outsider? The trucking business or the Broadway business? I’ve met a lot of people in both. As far as networking goes, I’ve found that just being myself has always suited me best. “Who you know” usually happens after “where you were, at the right time.” It’s important to keep plugging, to always be talking about what you are doing. Someone always knows someone else. Start conversation, talk about your likes, your doings, your wants. Go to where things happen, talk to those who are doing, and never be satisfied. If you are bored, then you are boring.

What can you tell me about perseverance and passion? It’s perseverance that keeps you awake when you’ve only got 16 hours to get from Columbus to New Orleans, and it’s passion that keeps you from giving up halfway through. I used that when I got to Broadway. I knew I wanted to be up on that stage, and no one was going to stand in my way. You got to love what you do, whether it’s singing to a full house on opening night or driving a truck full of blue jeans halfway across this country.

Define success. Do you think you’ve gotten there? Success is knowing you’ve completed your job—knowing that without you, it wasn’t possible. I think that I’ve gotten there. If I wasn’t successful I’m sure someone would have told me by now.

Chicago or Jersey Boys? I’ve always been a fan of the classics, so most of me wants to say Chicago. Since I got my feet wet in the business, I think it is important to keep the role of corruption in the limelight. That being said, most of my life has taken place at or on my way to a jukebox, so I think my heart is with Jersey Boys.

Leading lady: Barbra Streisand or Audra McDonald? It’s gotta be Babs. She’s one of a kind.

Union: Actor’s Equity or AFL-CIO? Anyone fighting for civil rights is okay in my book.

I hear the trucking industry is pretty lonely—possibly more so than acting. True? Has that helped you adjust to your new vocation? People can be lonely anywhere. In trucking, there is the act of discretion. Just like the road, we’ve created our own signs to let other truckers know what’s going on, and if we want to proceed. With us, we never run into the problem of getting the signals crossed. With acting, it’s all out there, so if someone reads it incorrectly, it can get awkward… I think as far as “adjusting” there was just the initial shock of how accepting the industry is. You can view this aspect of trucking as “acting.” A lot of these guys have families off the road, and sometimes their needs and wants don’t coincide with location or current relationships. A lot of straight faces have been warped in a bathroom stall.

What’s your dream gig right now? Playing my hits in Branson. I’ll have a run of shows there starting in November. After that who knows? I’d love to work with Hugh Jackman. That guy can really carry a tune.

Pete and the rest of the crew hit the Short North Stage for Semi Fame: Truck Route to Broadway November 5 – 8. For more, visit shortnorthstage.org.

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Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause

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To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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