Four months in, and social distancing is not getting any easier for anyone in the North Bay, especially artists, musicians and others who rely on social gatherings for income.
Such is the case with musician, event producer and promoter Josh Windmiller, who runs the Railroad Square Music Festival in Santa Rosa, among other music-related endeavors.
That festival, like many in the North Bay this summer, was cancelled due to Covid-19. Yet, Windmiller is not taking the summer off. Instead, he’s figuring out new ways to entertain the masses and support his fellow artists virtually.
In May, Windmiller took on hosting duties for the “Living Room Live” online variety show, hosted by the organizers of Rivertown Revival. This month, he and the Railroad Square Music Festival crew launch a new online project, RSMFtv, which will feature several virtual series exploring musical exploits of North Bay artists.
“RSMFtv is about fulfilling the mission of the festival without being able to assemble in masses,” Windmiller says. “Railroad Square Music Festival is here to showcase what Santa Rosa is and foster what it can be through the eyes of its artists.”
The new digital initiative, sponsored in part by the City of Santa Rosa, is aimed at highlighting local artists with different projects including a series of lyric videos, video blogs featuring album reviews, and RSMFtv’s latest series, a socially distant virtual talk show Musicians at Home Eating Food, which debuted last week on Facebook and Instagram.
The series, much like Jerry Seinfeld’s online sensation Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, pairs food and conversation.
“It seemed like a good idea, because the restaurants are hurting and musicians are hurting, and this is a way to give some attention to both,” Windmiller says. “That’s a key part of this, how music and the concert experience and such can be paired with other aspects of life in the community. It also lets people see artists in a different way, other than just on the stage.”
The premiere episode of Musicians at Home Eating Food begins as all good things do, with coffee. In this case, Windmiller opens the show by picking up some coffee and brunch at Big River Coffee in Santa Rosa and delivering it (contactless) to accomplished local drummer, solo artist and social activist Libby, before the two engage in a socially distant conversation over Zoom.
Big River Coffee is a family-owned-and-operated business that’s been brewing coffee since 1991. With indoor dining cut, the café is still offering outdoor service and takeout, with a full espresso and coffee bar, pastries, made-to-order breakfast sandwiches, breakfast burritos and a lunch menu.
In the video, Windmiller orders an Everything Bagel for Libby and the “Next Level” Avocado Toast for himself, with a 16-ounce black coffee and a 16-ounce Aztec Mocha with oat milk.
“The toast was fantastic,” Windmiller says. “It was the top-of-the-line avocado toast.”
Based in Santa Rosa, Libby performs in several bands around the North Bay in addition to writing and performing under their own name. Libby recently released the full-length digital album, i forgive myself, a sequel to their 2018 album, TERROR JAZZ!!!.
Libby’s latest album is a cathartic cacophony of drums, Casio keyboards and experimental noise-rock elements that emulate the tones of an 8-bit video game sent through a threshing machine. While the record is instrumental, the sonic journey evokes an emotional response and Libby describes the record as “a picture into my brain” on the album’s Bandcamp page.
In the Musicians at Home Eating Food premiere, Windmiller and Libby engage in a long, free-flowing conversation that touches on topics such as those video games that inspired Libby’s sound, art, history, the Black Lives Matter movement, Libby’s involvement in the recent protests in Sonoma County and much more. At times funny, at times frank, the discussion is engaging and the food looks delicious.
“Libby’s album is very moving and powerful,” Windmiller says. “And then Libby taking a big role in these protests in the area, it made it an amazing opportunity to talk to someone who’s so present at these demonstrations, who’s put a lot of time and thought into this and is a great communicator in the community. To point a camera at them and get them really caffeinated seemed like a great idea.”