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Though few businesses have made it through COVD completely unscathed, music and performing arts continually rank as the industries most affected by the pandemic. Music venues like the Rialto Theatre and 191 Toole have remained closed for in-person concerts for nearly a year now. Luckily for some performers, safer outdoor events are becoming more common, and the push to support venues in need is strong as ever. 

On Friday, Feb. 5, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero hosted a virtual town hall meeting, gathering local artists and musicians to discuss the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which includes $15 billion in grants to shuttered venues, to be administered by the Small Business Administration. The program can provide eligible applicants 45% of their gross earned revenue. In addition, Romero also announced that the City of Tucson is joining the Re-open Every Venue Safely initiative, which is a national collaboration of cities “sharing strategies and resources to best position their community for the reopening of live music.”

“The arts are important not just because they make us so unique and add love to our life, but also because they are a very important part of our economy,” Romero said. “With the new REVS initiative, Tucson will be working alongside other cities and local stakeholders to share best practices and position ourselves to successfully re-open our local venues—who have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic—as soon as it is safe.”

This initiative is the latest in many efforts to bolster the music and performing arts industry, such as the Save Our Stages act, which was passed as part of a COVID-19 relief bill in December to provide additional emergency relief to independent venues and promoters.

“The devastation of 2020 has been comprehensive on so many levels, particularly as it impacts the arts and culture sector,” said Michael Bracy from the Music Policy Forum. “At the same time there are things we are very enthusiastic and excited about, particularly the Save Our Stages campaign, which is by far and away the most successful advocacy effort I’ve seen around music and policy.”

While we’re waiting for the indoor concerts to return, a few locations around town are hosting outdoor and socially distanced concerts.  

The Gaslight Theatre on the east side is keeping busy and safe with a variety of outdoor shows in their parking lot. If you’ve never been to a Gaslight show, here’s what to expect: engaging music, corny jokes, some ridiculous stage banter, and plenty of food and drinks. On Monday, March 8, the Gaslight is celebrating a night of traditional Latin music by two local mariachi groups. On Saturday, March 13, they’re hosting a “Return to Woodstock,” which is a two-hour show of hits from bands like Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. 7010 E. Broadway Blvd. thegaslighttheatre.com

Monterey Court Studio Galleries and Cafe is continuing their outdoor concert series, where you can enjoy local music and grab a bite at the same time. They host shows almost every day of the week, and will be hosting bands like Eric Schaffer & the Other Troublemakers (Wednesday, Feb. 17), a showcase of singer-songwriter music (Thursday, Feb. 18), Little House of Funk (Saturday, Feb. 20) and much more. 505 W. Miracle Mile. montereycourtaz.com.

Hotel Congress has also been presenting live music on its spacious patio. Teaming up with the Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation, the hotel has hosting Congress Cookouts on Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. The Bad News Blues Band takes the stage on Sunday, Feb. 21, while Connie Brannock’s Little House of Blues will play on Sunday, Feb. 28. 311 E. Congress St. Hotelcongress.com.

Another way to support local venues is by buying merchandise from the new “I <3 AZ’s Independent Venues” initiative, a collaboration between 16 Arizona music venues. Sales of the group’s t-shirts, jackets, tank-tops and koozies directly benefit venues like 191 Toole, Club Congress, the Fox Theatre and The Rialto Theatre. iheartaz.net 

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