KT Tunstall has all her musical gadgets in tow, and she’s ready to go. On Saturday, August 22nd, Tunstall will perform “Live From The Lobero,” a live pay-per-view concert series started by the historic Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, CA. The live-streamed performance is the second show in the Lobero’s series concert series, which kicked off with Kenny Loggins, and proceeds from Tunstall’s show will also support NIVA and go toward keeping theater up and running.
“It’s one of the oldest theaters in America,” says Tunstall, “and it’s really struggling to stay afloat through this.”
Opened in 1873, The Lobero Theatre is the oldest, continuously operating theater in California. After closing following COVID-19, the theater has lost more than $1 million in revenue, and started the video on demand model to help keep everything up and running, and to offer fans a live concert experience.
Working with producer Byl Carruthers, Tunstall says that the various camera angles of the live stream will add another dimension for the viewing audience that she’s rarely been able to share in a traditional concert setting.
“The nice thing for this show is that I use all these amazing gadgets, loopers, sample machines and other things,” says Tunstall. “Viewing that kind of up-close is not something you’re able to see when you’re sitting in the audience. You can actually see how I’m creating my science, and it might be really cool for people watching the live stream.”
Each Lobero performance takes place without an audience and under strict COVID-19 safety protocols. Each Lobero Live show is filmed using multiple camera angles with only a handful manually operated. Adhering to strict safety protocols around COVID, personnel are kept to a minimum, and everyone is assigned specific entrances and exits and workspaces to further isolate.
While Tunstall is happy she can support the Lobero, she still fears for the future of live music and the survival of venues like Lobero, which were forced to shut their doors during the pandemic and are hanging on by threads.
“It’s really heartbreaking, and it’s an impossible situation,” says Tunstall. “Obviously we have to try and stay safe, but that inevitably means an absolute extinction of events for venues and for artists. It’s over 200,000 jobs and a five billion a year economy in the live music scene, so it’s a huge ecosystem.”
Venues shutting down not only hurts the individuals putting on the show, says Tunstall, but the restaurants, bars, and nearby establishments and services threaded into the venues’ events with most live music employees working within a consultant-based business model.
“It’s a very much a freelance business, the live music scene, and these are really skilled workers who’ve been working sometimes for decades doing very specific jobs within live music,” says Tunstall. “You don’t really go to college to learn that stuff. You learn on the job. My fear is that we get the venues back and playing gigs, and there’s actually no one working there anymore because they’ve had to take other jobs.”
Back home in Los Angeles, Tunstall has been staying active on Instagram Live but says playing “live” from home does have it’s challenges since you’re not only the artist, but the engineer and set designer as well. “All of us suddenly have to be engineers,” she jokes. “It’s a whole different skill set, but it’s definitely a bit of a neat situation at the moment.”
Living in lockdown has also been a revelation for Tunstall, who has spent a majority of the past 15 years on the road and welcomes the time home for once. She even feels more connected to her fans and recently started a Patreon campaign to better interact with them. So far, Tunstall has hosted a lesson in making Japanese pottery and has event centered around making collage art.
“It’s like an old school fan club that you subscribe to whatever you want,” says Tunstall, who believes lockdown has helped people remember what it’s like to really engage with art again and connect with artists in a more visceral way. “I just wouldn’t have the bandwidth and time to be able to do this if I was on the road, so it has really offered a kind of potential different looking future, which I really like the look of.”
Inspired by the more clinical side of living in quarantine, Tunstall recently released the parodied track, “Wash Ya Hands,” which she recorded directly on her laptop. In addition to her upcoming show at Lobero, Tunstall is putting the finishing touches on her home studio, where she is planning on recording the third part in her trilogy of albums, which started with 2016’s KIN, and follow up WAX (2018), capturing the concepts of the soul and body, respectively. The third part, Tunstall says, will focus on the mind.
Working with her team transatlantically, it’s been slow-moving, but she says she has a lot of songs and just need to focus in on the lyrics. “That’s been hard, finding the inspiration for lyrics,” says Tunstall. “My world feels very small at the moment, but I’ve started reading books about the brain and I’m filling up on the subject.”
At the moment, she’s feeling inspired to play Lobero and offer whatever support she can to keep the venue running.
“I can’t wait,” says Tunstall. “It’ll just be so nice to be connected to everyone again. I hope it at least provides the feeling of a Saturday night out for people.”
KT will perform at Noon PT/8 pm BST on Aug. 22. Ticket holders will be able to view the concert using Vimeo anytime within 72 hours after the show. Tickets are available at lobero.org.