The devastation of the pandemic took away live music for much of 2020 and the first half of 2021, but now live music is starting to slowly trickle back. One Lansing venue, UrbanBeat, has been soldiering on in recent months, hosting a slew of small intimate gigs featuring a selection of chamber crooners and jazz musicians.
Club owner Terry Terry said it’s been quite a revelation to get back into the swing of hosting live music for an in-person audience.
“I’m not into this for the money. I just want a place where people can come together, hear great music and enjoy each other’s company,” Terry said. “It’s been a long time, so I’m pretty excited. We’ve had good turnouts already. Musicians are calling and wanting to play; we’re booking further into the future.”
UrbanBeat began to experiment with a return to regularly scheduled shows earlier this spring by hosting sets by solo musicians five nights a week. The shows required limited capacity and several COVID safety protocols, such as requiring the non-vaccinated to continue wearing masks.
“The vision has always been to have the premier listening room in Mid-Michigan. We made sure to do everything just right. We had a long quiet period with COVID. We weren’t able to do much,” Terry said.
UrbanBeat places a large emphasis on making gigs comfortable for musicians. Many traveling bands are all too familiar with gigs that see them shoved into the corner of a bar that also lacks a green room. UrbanBeat instead tries to make them the main attraction.
“We’ve taken great pains to put the music front and center,” Terry said. “We have a private space for musicians where they can chill out. If they’re enjoying themselves, everybody plays better.”
As summer fast approaches, UrbanBeat is now beginning to host full bands once again. Jazz band Michael J. Reed and Friends performed at the venue on Saturday. Terry said UrbanBeat plans to utilize the recently enacted social district drinking laws, which allow people to enjoy alcoholic beverages outdoors within certain confines, for a slew of larger shows later this summer in the large back parking lot behind UrbanBeat.
“People can come and buy drinks and walk around Old Town and enjoy them. With concerts out back, that’s going to work out really well.”
Lansing JazzFest, which was held virtually last year, is so far scheduled to make a live return in 2021. Terry said the bulk of the performers have been booked, and Michigan BluesFest is expected to make a live comeback as well.
“We’re optimistic, things are turning in the right direction. We’re ready for it, the musicians are ready for it, and the people who are ready for live music are ready for it,” Terry said.