Eddie Gumucio, host of KSMU’s Wednesday night program “Beneath the Surface,” talked by phone about the 10-year anniversary of Queen City Shout, the annual music and arts fundraiser to support poverty relief here in the Ozarks. Normally it takes place on Historical Commercial Street in numerous food-and-drink venues there. COVID-19 has caused quite a few changes to the festival this year, he said.
“We had planned to do a kind of a two-parter, partly in person with a limited amount of activities and then partly virtual. And it was about, oh, I'd say about a month ago where we made the choice to go ALL virtual this year.” Organizers knew they had to take safety precautions during the pandemic to protect artists, volunteers, and the public—and they had to follow the current face-mask ordinances. “We just didn't want to put (our volunteers) in weird situations like, you know, ‘Excuse me, sir, I know you finished your burger and your drink--you mind putting your mask back on?’” And with limited seating as dictated by social distancing guidelines, Gumucio said, the venues are not up to full capacity for patrons. And what were they to do when the situation arose of a patron buying a full three- or four-day pass to Queen City Shout events and getting turned away from a venue due to limited seating? “And what if that happens two or three places? That's not going to be an enjoyable event for anybody.”
Last year’s event had about six live stages for performances, in addition to the art gallery they had set up for the visual-art element of the festival, and the back room at Big Momma’s coffee house where they were screening films.
So, for “safety and health reasons,” said Gumucio, he and his organizers decided “it just makes more sense to go virtual this year. So that's what we've done. Instead of a five-day event, it's a week-long event, August 17th through the 23rd.” He said they had wanted eventually to expand to a full week, and this was a good opportunity to do that. “It wasn't our goal for this year to do that, but because of logistics and trying to fit 92 songwriters and bands into virtual ‘stages’… we kind of had to stretch it out in terms of coordinating times and things like that.”
The performances will all be live streams instead of pre-recorded, and have been scheduled to take place on specific days at specific times through the week. “Everything is going to be filtered through https://www.queencityshout.com. That is the go-to site.” Gumucio described it as evolving from being simply a “storefront” website where they published the dates and the schedules of the live events, some contact information, and a list of the live venues. “When we made the decision a month ago to change the virtual I mean, my creative team that literally went from, oh, we've got to create banners for the stages to, oh, now we need to develop an actual Web site. And so, you know, they're creating navigation bars and adding pages.”
One important element to the newly updated site is a link to the fundraiser. “Virtual” attendance at Queen City Shout is free of charge—“We are not selling tickets,” Gumucio said. Whereas with live event venues there would be an admission charge either for a wristband for one day, or for a four- or five-day pass to the entire event. “It just didn’t seem to like the right time or place,” he said, to set up a “locked” website that would require pre-payment for access. Instead, there is a link on the website to a GoFundMe page to raise money for the nonprofit agencies Queen City Shout is designed to serve. “We're working with Harmony House, Isabelle's House, Great Circle, Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Victory Mission, The Kitchen, and OACAC.”
The lineup of more than 90 performing singer-songwriters and bands is up six or seven artists from last year, Gumucio said. “I'm not really consciously trying to let it grow that way. It's kind of a good problem to have, I guess. But every year, word seems to get out more and more. And so I’m being contacted through texts or Facebook Messenger or emails about (musicians) wanting to play. And, you know, when I check out a lot of these links and a lot of the music, it's great, you know? And so I try my best, within reason, to fit it all in, to fit as many in as we can.” Last year Queen City Shout incorporated visual art and film/video for the first time. “Eight years ago it started as a music festival, and the heart of it will still be music, (along) with film and art as well.” Gumucio feels the sheer number of bands and musicians participating makes it clear the main emphasis is still on music performances.
Gumucio explained how the live-via-the-Web music performances will work. “They will be live streaming through the website, and there'll be a direct link. So if you go to like, say, Monday, and you wanted to find someone who was playing, you will see the schedule there, and directly below would be a navigation button to send you directly to that virtual stage.” There are in fact two virtual stages: one is on the main Queen City Facebook page, and the other stage is part of the Queen City Facebook group. “There's not really a lot to remember: if you go to queencityshout.com, it'll connect you directly to whatever stage you want to see. You know, you see someone, you see the day, the time; click it and it takes you there.”
Performance times will basically work the same way they would have if they had been able to put on a live-in-person festival. Monday through Friday performances will take place online from approximately 4:30 to 11:00pm; Saturday and Sunday August 22 and 23, the schedule kicks off around 1:00pm and will run until 11:30pm.
Queen City Shout will partner with the Springfield Regional Arts Council this year for their virtual art gallery, which will also be linked to the QCS website. “So if people want to check out some of the visual artists around the area, they can do so through the website as well.” The virtual art gallery will be available for viewing basically 24/7.
There are about a dozen films and videos lined up for Queen City Shout as well, and those will stream through the Queen City Shout YouTube channel. When you click on “Film” at the QCS website there will be a dedicated page that will describe the films and the schedules when they will stream on YouTube.
Films will cover various categories such as independent documentaries, narrative films—there’s even a full-length feature. “Also, SATO48 is one of our partners this year,” said Gumucio, and they will showcase some background “the-making-of” videos that follow the different SATO48 production teams as they create their short video during the 48-hour SATO production schedule.
Queen City Shout has grown “exponentially” in the past few years in both patron turnout and fundraising, said Gumucio. They reached just over $10,000 in donations to nonprofits last year, so this year’s goal has been set at $15,000. Because it’s being promoted as a free festival this year, Gumucio said they encourage people to give what they can either before or during the festival—“just kind of maybe consider what they think the value of the whole week is for them,” he said.
“I just encourage people to check it out,” he added. Going virtual this year is going to be an unusual experience for everybody, but Eddie Gumucio and his Queen City Shout crew have had at least some experience with the concept: when the quarantine was first declared in mid-March, he created the Queen City Open Mic Group page on Facebook, where numerous musicians posted pre-recorded videos performing their songs. In fact, the Open Mic Group page is now one of the two Queen City Shout 2020 performance pages. Gumucio said they had such a “wonderful response” to the Open Mic concept, “we're just letting those folks know, hey, now, now you've got your own stage here and these are the artists that are coming through to it.” As a participant himself as well as a page administrator, Gumucio noted there was a learning curve for everyone in the Open Mic group: “’How do I log on to this,’ or ‘how come I can't see this window,’ or ‘why is this showing?’ or ‘how do I blow this up?’ or ‘why is my guitar turned backwards? Why is my image upside down?’” He concluded by saying that, since the decision a month ago to move the public Queen City Shout festival to an all-virtual platform, in many ways it feels like they’re starting over from scratch, “just kind of learning things in different ways all over again.”