Live Music Is Back, but the Musicians Are Out of Practice


After a long, quiet stretch, Matty Metcalfe suddenly found himself planning the most frenetic week of his 20-year career as a professional musician.

It was a welcome change for the 46-year-old in Charlottesville, Va., who had so much time on his hands during pandemic restrictions that he decided to record and produce an album of French accordion music. His busy week included seven gigs in seven days, playing four instruments in five different lineups and in multiple genres—plus a five-hour round trip to rehearse with his ’80s tribute band called the Legwarmers.

One problem came up the second night of the run: All three of the sidemen in his New Orleans-inspired band Crewe d’Bayou were too busy with their own projects to make the three-hour show. So he had to make six calls to find three other guys to fill in, and then squeeze in extra rehearsal time to get them all ready.

“It has the feeling of something being a little bit out of control,” Mr. Metcalfe said of the rush of gigs.

Live music is making a comeback. That’s good news for everyday working musicians after a year of mask mandates and crowd limits—but the shift to feast from famine has turned into a mad scramble. Behind the scenes, they are feverishly practicing, brushing up on lyrics and searching for equipment that’s been hiding in the back of a closet.



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