Josh Panda

Josh Panda

The soft, folksy songs of Burlington band Cricket Blue practically beckon the listener to come closer.

Since March, duo Laura Heaberlin and Taylor Smith have had to keep fans at more than arm’s length, awaiting safer days for live performances.

The duo had just finished a February tour and planned to play smaller three-day tours and festivals throughout the spring and summer. Now they are in quarantine, Heaberlin in her Burlington home and Smith out of state. Because of the latency of videoconference feeds, they haven’t performed together in that time, Heaberlin said.

“This is like the longest we’ve ever gone without playing music with each other,” she said. The two have sung together since meeting as members of a Middlebury College a capella group, later starting Cricket Blue in 2013.

Time in quarantine has shifted their focus, Heaberlin said. While days before COVID-19 were full of band-related “office work” and gigging, time after has allowed for more song writing.

“It’s this dual thing where it’s incredibly sad, I miss shows, and also it’s kind of shifted the focus back from Cricket Blue as a business into more of Cricket Blue as this creative force in my life,” Heaberlin said.

Smith and Heaberlin have sent some song ideas back and forth to each other. And Heaberlin has had a couple solo performances, starring – virtually – as a musical guest on The Moth Burlington’s “Light it Up Story Hour” and hosting her own livestream performance.

The experience of performing without an audience in the room is uncanny, Heaberlin said.

“You’re inviting over 100 people into your living room with you,” she said. “It has this kind of intimacy to it … and then at points in the song you just feel like you’re practicing by yourself.”

When Smith returns, Heaberlin said she can envision the duo hosting livestream concerts and playing at small house gatherings. Likewise, Heaberlin is partaking in “Singles Weekend Volume 2,” an album being crafted by Burlington musician Eric George. The album will feature songs created by local artists and mastered by George.

Heaberlin has thought about the future of concerts post COVID-19 and whether they’ll ever come back in the same way. Right now, it’s hard to imagine using a microphone someone else has recently used or having concertgoers closely packed together, she said.

“I feel like things are going to be different,” Heaberlin said. “What gives me hope going forward? I do feel very creatively energized right now.”

Josh Panda-emic

Josh Panda has graced stages at South Burlington’s SoBu Nite Out, the Shelburne Museum and the world over. His latest venue is a little smaller: Panda has taken to playing porch concerts from his Burlington home during the pandemic.

When Panda and his band became aware of first inklings of the virus, they contemplated canceling a March 14 performance in Jersey City.

Cancelling their hotel reservations and arming themselves with Lysol, they decided to make the trip a quick down and back. Soon after, half the band was sick with COVID-19.

“That’s how close to home it hit,” Panda said. “After that I shut it all down.”

Music is Panda’s full-time job, so he’s had to get creative about performing these days. So far, he has played a livestream concert as part of Higher Ground’s “Sessions from Beyond the Club” and has hosted some of his own livestreams.

But Panda’s biggest role right now is full-time dad to his three-year-old son, Otis. The two have taken time to make music together – Otis starring on the kazoo and harmonica. Panda and his wife are also expecting their second child this August.

“To me that’s the biggest silver-lining, the up-side to all of this is the time I’m getting to spend with my family,” he said.

As for this summer? Panda said he’s taking things day by day. He’s considering smaller house gatherings with appropriate social distancing, and continues to play on his porch for passersby to listen. He’s been grateful for unemployment benefits for the self-employed.

Panda said he tries not to think too much about possible changes to the industry post-COVID-19. Instead, he’s been thinking about time and how he spends it.

“This has just exponentially grown the feeling of utilizing every minute and being grateful for every minute that you have,” he said.

Once his tiny bandmate returns to preschool, Panda expects to approach his music making “like a starving man to a buffet.”

He said, “I just want to create and work and spend it all wisely.”

Eric George brings musicians together while apart

Eric George loves to create. As a musician and audio engineer he’s surrounded by music. When COVID-19 forced him homebound, he missed hearing his friends’ latest musical efforts.

“Like everybody else, I was getting stir crazy. I. just missed hearing my friends sing,” George said. “I thought that it would be really, really nice to be able to hear their music and give something to everybody’s music.”

Starting with one friend’s vocal recording, George began to add guitar, bass and drums. Soon he asked other friends if they’d be interested in doing the same. The effort came together to form “Singles Weekend Volume II,” a recording of bands with Burlington roots.

“I felt this really profound closeness to all of these people by spending so much time with their music,” George said. “We all need that closeness, and this was such a good way of feeling close to these people by spending so much time and energy on their creativity.”

The album will be available for purchase on Bandcamp on June 5. Proceeds will go to “Girls Rock,” a Vermont summer camp that teaches young women to play instruments.

As for his personal endeavors, things have definitely been different. Gone are live gigs, and in their place are virtual concerts and ample time for producing at home.

“If we want to be optimists, it’s a really good time to create music, and, at least for me, I always wished I had endless time to record music,” George said. “People are really thirsty to hear and experience what people are creating.”

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