Bringing art to the community: The Wild Eye Pub in Grass Valley hosts virtual concerts, supports local artists
Special to Prospector
When Beth Moore and her husband David Kuczora bought the Mill Street building in Grass Valley known to locals as “The Swiss House” in October of 2017, they knew they wanted to establish a venue for artists to express themselves, as well as offer a great place for people to gather for a meal or cocktail.
After eight months of renovation and a name change, The Wild Eye Pub opened in June of 2018.
Moore and Kuczora have a passion for art in its many forms. Almost as soon as the pub opened, the couple begin booking live acts to perform on their large stage. Moore, who is also an accomplished singer, has been performing live for decades in a variety of bands. She made certain that when folks performed at her place, they would look and sound as good as possible. The Wild Eye Pub boasts a large stage complete with lighting and a great sound system.
Moore said even though the venue is closed to the public — except for takeout — the stage has been alive with music and other forms of entertainment. Moore has been allowing entertainers to come in and perform on Facebook live.
“We are learning to adjust how we provide music and bring art to the community,” Moore said. The pub normally had live music, poetry, comedy and other performances five nights a week, but now most of the events that filled the calendar have been postponed or canceled.
Moore said they have had a number of folk step into their new model which is to allow performances that are live cast via Facebook, with a virtual tip jar posted on the site. She said the stage is extended to 20 by eight feet for plenty of proper distancing and the dining room is empty except for a camera operator or occasionally a friend of the artist will sit in the room at a distance. The results have been heartwarming and a little bit surprising.
Moore said the first time they tried it, the performance turned into a family reunion for singer Tom McDonald. “It was darling. He had sisters and cousins and people from all over the country. I would relay comments to him, and he would say ‘hi’ to them — including his mom who is in a care facility. I felt like I was sort of eavesdropping on a family gathering but it was sweet.”
McDonald’s response when he realized his mother was tuning in was to play a special song just for her, Moore explained. “He played in Portuguese on behalf of their dad who had died a couple years ago, and this was the song he had played at the memorial. All the chatting stopped for a little while and I know people were probably grabbing their last square of tissue or whatever. It was really darling. The comments were so sweet because it was like having a virtual family reunion, but it was neat so I could carry their comments forward to him.”
Moore added the unexpected positive out of the concerts has been an expanded audience. “We are so happy with the outcome, we are thinking about doing it when we go back to live audiences because it expands who can an artist can reach rather than who happens to be able to make it on a specific night.”
She said people are tipping the artists online also. Wild Eye Pub is not charging for the service but is doing it to help the local performing community. Moore added the restaurant is open for take-out and even some delivery. You can go to their website to order food to go and to see who will be performing next.
Until last June, Moore’s “day job” was the Transition Specialist for Nevada Joint Union High School Districts special education department. In that role she developed a transition program serving students with special needs across the district to prepare skills and plans for life after high school. Now retired, she has hired former students to work at The Wild Eye Pub. Moore said, “We’re also training a young adult intern who is attending college who is also enrolled with PRIDE and DOR. Once a teacher…” she said.
While some plans have had to be postponed including a monthly babysitting program, Moore said they are working to see if they can continue the live casts even when life gets back normal, “We are exploring how to continue live casting once we return to having live audiences, and how to facilitate combining live and virtual audience interactions for live shows. It could be fun, as well as allowing our nightly artists to reach and interact with a much broader audience.”
She said it might be fun to put a live screen next to the audience so they can see the comments of the virtual audience. She added they are learning a lot of inside information about the performers from old friends or family members — which has been an added joy.
“We are all kind of stumbling through this strange time and figuring out what works,” said Moore. “We aren’t trying to pack our calendar because it is a task to do it and doesn’t really benefit us, but any artist that has come forward to ask if they can perform, we have said, ‘absolutely.’”
Unlike many of the do-it-yourself home productions, artists performing at The Wild Eye Pub are connected into the venue sound system so the sound of the performance has a professional quality. Live casts are preserved in video on the The Wild Eye Facebook page and will be transferred to their YouTube station as well.
Upcoming events are posted to Facebook, to Nevada County’s Gig Alert page and on their calendar at http://www.wildeyepub.com.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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