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Friday February 3rd

Carrboro Music Festival performers reflect on virtual COVID-19 concerts

<p>The band WhoIAre performed at the 2020 Carrboro Music Festival. Photo courtesy of Aaron Riley.</p>
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The band WhoIAre performed at the 2020 Carrboro Music Festival. Photo courtesy of Aaron Riley.

About 100 bands and solo artists from a variety of genres and backgrounds came together virtually for the annual Carrboro Music Festival to keep musical spirit alive during the pandemic. 

Though the audience couldn't watch the acts perform in person, they actively watched and commented about performances to show their appreciation online. The festival adapted to the pandemic by hosting both live and prerecorded shows last weekend.

The festival gave viewers nonstop entertainment from some of their local favorites. The organizers ensured that there were limited technical difficulties and that the performers could have an experience that was as close to normal as possible. 

The Daily Tar Heel talked to four artists, ranging from hip-hip to folk to rock genres, about their experiences at the festival and music during the pandemic. 


"I,Star," a folk hop band that is brand new to the festival, was especially appreciative of its virtual performing experience.

“The Cat's Cradle staff were such kind and patient folks, being willing to be out there doing it, knowing how much it means to all the musicians, as well as for people in the Triangle and beyond to get a chance to hear actual live music,” said Truth-I Manifest, the lyricist and MC for "I,Star." 


Aaron Riley, lead guitarist for "WhoIAre," was pleased with the Carrboro Music Festival’s setup, as he found he could fully immerse himself in his performance rather than focusing on technical logistics. 

“We just walked in and they were extremely professional,” Riley said. “They had everything ready and how they approached it was great. We have no complaints.” 

Fellow band member of "WhoIAre," Remedy Kincaid, said there was a difference in the atmosphere and energy of performing without an audience. Usually his role lies exclusively in being the keyboard and trumpet player. But he said there is now an even bigger job for each of the members: to bring the energy to the show.

“When we do a live performance with people you have the advantage of having the energy from the crowd,” Kincaid said. “Now, you’re having to bring the energy. You bring the party to the party. You are the party.” 

Several of the artists had similar feelings surrounding the vitality of audience energy as an element of musical experiences. Even when at a concert, they said there is an aspect of life that comes from the atmosphere, and without that touch the music feels less alive.

Liion Gamble

Liion Gamble, a singer-songwriter based in Raleigh, was introduced to the Carrboro Music Festival by fellow artist SkyBlew. The festival was Gamble’s first live gig since March due to COVID-19. 

Even though Gamble said he misses the connections between him and his fan base before the pandemic, he hopes some good will come from the adapting music world. After the festival, he noted there may be a positive twist of performing virtually. 

“Even when I’m practicing, I get pretty emotional,” Gamble said. “I feel like (my imagery) can be seen much more clearly (virtually) compared to someone in the back of the crowd. So, it might have a better representation of the kind of imagery I’m bringing.”

Across the board, the artists had positive outlooks on the circumstances the pandemic has left them with, despite the inherent challenges.

Sydney Rose Wray

Sydney Rose Wray, a 16-year-old local singer-songwriter who performed Sunday, felt optimistic about the way that everything will look in the future following this obstacle. She has worked hard to continue spreading her message of encouragement. 

Instead of seeing the pandemic as a setback, she used it as an opportunity to grow. 

“There’s so much you can do,” Wray said. “Now, being home doesn’t stop you from creating and getting your music out there, it just changes it.” 


Mario Farrow, better known as SkyBlew in the music world, is a local hip-hop artist who has been performing at the Carrboro Music Festival for three years now. Farrow said he misses making connections and touring around the world, but even during quarantine, he has seen more appreciation from his supporters through his rising stream counts. 

“Since quarantine started I feel like they’ve gotten more appreciation of my music,” Farrow said. “They already did, but a lot of times you don’t know you need the medicine until you’re sick.”

Farrow said he encourages other artists to continue to pursue their own musical careers, even through these times of uncertainty.

“I didn't work this hard just to have my career be on the line,” Farrow said. “My heart goes out to all of the artists that were trying to start up when this pandemic hit, but just keep that dream. 'Don’t lose sight, it’s not over.'

@_hannahkaufman | @elizmacon

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