Local musicians go quiet in COVID-19’s new normal

Income source dries up for working Valley bands


The COVID-19 shutdown has touched every element of everyday life, from social interaction to public gatherings to fun outings to essential income.

For those in the live music business, that means all of the above.

And not necessarily the superstars who roll in and then out of town on blockbuster tours. The community residents, the neighbors, the men and women who teach kids piano lessons by day and then play with their bands at night for parents who get away to bars and restaurants.

When Phoenix ordered the closure of in-house bars and restaurants as a pandemic precaution, it was an apt coincidence that the measure went into effect on March 17. St. Patrick’s Day is one of the liveliest and most engaged holidays for live music and patrons, and now those options are gone around the West Valley as well.

Musicians’ livelihoods changed overnight.

“Basically for Jerred he’s doing this full time so he’s losing his source of income. In my case, I’m losing my part time income,” Ryan Arguillo, who makes up half of DirtyKeyz Duo along with Jerred Williamson, said over messaging March 26.

Mr. Arguillo, a vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Mr. Williamson play up to 15 gigs a month as DirtyKeyz around the Valley, including a number of regular West Valley spots. Since the COVID-19 precautions increased, they have lost around 10 paying gigs.

“I have my day job as a technical IT lead,” Mr. Arguillo wrote about how he’s been spending the downtime. “Aside from that learning new songs, working on original music, working on bringing new music to our followers once it is safe again to perform live music.”

March and April are usually among the busiest months for The Priscilla Rose Band, another staple of the West Valley live music scene.

The Rose Band has lost eight gigs to this point, and, under normal circumstances, plays around 10 gigs a month. Looking ahead, the band says its summer schedule is “on hold” for now, singer and keyboardist Priscilla Pinches stated in an email.

“As a band, we’ve easily lost over $1,000, and depending upon duration of the virus threat, we could lose hundreds of dollars more,” she said.

She adds that the band “remains optimistic” during this downtime while rehearsing new music, streaming other music, and keeping an eye on social media “to see how our fellow musicians are handling this crisis.”

“We know that a lot of musicians here in the West Valley are seniors who are able to perform at no charge, and do so simply for the joy of it,” she said. “For those of us who depend upon these gigs as an important source of income, it can be frustrating. This sudden downturn of events makes a highly competitive business even more difficult.”