Since 1967, the Washington County Fair has taken place at 78 Richmond Townhouse Road in Wyoming. It has always had tons of food vendors, carnival games, a big ferris wheel and a bunch of live music. Because of COVID-19, the fair will be
Since 1967, the Washington County Fair has taken place at 78 Richmond Townhouse Road in Wyoming. It has always had tons of food vendors, carnival games, a big ferris wheel and a bunch of live music.
Because of COVID-19, the fair will be going virtual this year for the first time in its storied history. One of the performers as part of this new edition will be Warwick country rock musician Kevin Herchen. He’ll be livestreaming on Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. via both the fair’s Facebook page, facebook.com/thewashingtoncountyfair, and website, washingtoncountyfair-ri.com.
Herchen and I had a talk ahead of the virtual experience about what he’s been up to over the past few months, getting back into the swing of things, his thoughts on the viability of livestreaming and missing his backing band.
ROB DUGUAY: How have the past few months been for you during the pandemic? Have you been able to be productive?
KEVIN HERCHEN: A little bit of everything. During the height of the pandemic, I was doing some co-writing with some friends in Nashville, Chicago and even Canada. We had more time to write via Skype or Zoom, so we did that for a little bit. I was also doing virtual shows via Facebook and Instagram because we couldn’t go out at all. A lot of it was keeping in touch with all of the places I usually play at to see what we could do to circumvent the current situation.
If I could do a livestreamed show where I was promoting their business, whether it would be me pushing some swag, wearing a shirt or even throwing up a poster behind me with their logo on it, I would do that to get the word out about their take out service. I also went to some of the empty establishments and played there with nobody coming in, they just did take out. We tried to do as many creative and inventive things that we could while quarantining while keeping touch to make sure when the guidelines allowed it for when I could go back and play. Now I’ve been doing outdoor shows, even though I’m not back to how my schedule was.
I used to perform seven to eight times a week. I’m not fully back there yet but it’s getting there so I can’t complain.
RD: A few places you’ve been playing at since phase three started have been the Waysider Grille in East Greenwich and George’s of Galilee in Narragansett. Has the vibe of these places changed a lot over the past few weeks?
KH: It’s definitely different because everyone sits in the room and they all have to abide by certain things that they didn’t have to before. On the whole, it’s been pretty positive. Originally, when I first got back to playing, everyone was so excited and happy to be back out and doing anything. There weren’t any sports, there was nothing, so to get a sense of normalcy again and do something different rather than staying in the house was great. People have been tipping generously along with being generous with their engagement with me as the performer.
It’s been good to see everybody again and all of that, but overall it has been positive. I’m still bummed out that we can’t be exactly the way we were pre-pandemic, but I think everybody gets it while wanting to have fun and take their mind off of things. Being able to entertain them has been a blessing.
RD: That’s great to hear. How were you able to get involved in this year’s virtual version of the Washington County Fair? Were you already slated to play at the beginning of the year before COVID-19 hit?
KH: I have been a part of the Washington County Fair for three years now. At the beginning, I was doing acoustic shows, and two years ago I played twice on the side stage. Last year, myself and my band got to open for Matt Stell, and that was a great experience. Since that show, I worked with the organizers to get involved again this year, so we were already on the bill to play. There was supposed to be a big name act and I still don’t know who it was because of disclosure clauses and that stuff, but I was going to open for them.
I was slated in there beforehand and one the pandemic came I told them that I still wanted to be a part of it. The organizers kept me in the loop to let me know what was going on and then he ran the idea of doing a virtual show by me and I was absolutely down to do it. This is how it came to be, we’re all doing it virtually. Obviously it’s not ideal, but I’m still excited to be a part of it and I’m glad that it can still happen in any kind of way.
RD: What do you think of livestreaming? Do you see any viability in it? Say you have an off day, but you’d like to get some money into your PayPal or Venmo account. If everything was normal, would you consider doing a livestream set from your home in that situation?
KH: I think it’s a very viable resource and the silver lining of the pandemic was just that. I hadn’t really done a lot of livestreaming because I’ve always been so busy playing bars, restaurants and venues. I didn’t really feel the need to do that, but shame on me because there’s a segment of the population that either works a different shift, has children or is in a different part of the world. My family specifically, and friends, are all around the country, so shame on me for not tapping into that resource earlier. I really do feel that if there’s a rainout of one of my gigs, instead of canceling I can switch on the livestream and try to do it that way.
I think it’s a great supplement, plus I’ve been watching a lot of my favorite acts while taking different ideas from them. I’ve seen different themes of certain live shows where they’ll do all cover songs, they’ll do all originals, they’ll do ’90s rock or they’ll do a country set. Whatever it is, you can really set up your audience to be interactive while knowing what to expect and looking for something different than what you’d get at a live show. It’s definitely a different animal and I’m glad I’m able to take advantage of it and do so moving forward as well.
RD: It’s pretty cool seeing how people put their own spin on it, either with streams or going to a certain location. I’ve seen performances from a farm, an abandoned building or a warehouse covered in graffiti. After this virtual performance for the Washington County Fair, what are your plans for the rest of the summer?
KH: I’ve been in touch with all of the venues I usually play at while trying to move forward. I usually book three to six months in advance, which I love and I’ve been very lucky to do so for the past five years. Now it’s obviously a little different, so some things are on hold. I have some tentative bookings with some venues for the winter while crossing my fingers and hoping I can do it with the socially distanced rules in place. Which is fine for me, I don’t mind but I miss playing with my band.
I can still take advantage of playing solo acoustic shows and if the people enjoy it then I enjoy it. That’s the plan to move forward into the winter, and hopefully at some point the band can get back together because I miss that, too.
To learn more about Kevin Herchen, visit kevinherchen.com.