Tom Catmull can’t put his guitar down. The local songwriter has been playing weekly virtual shows since the onset of COVID-19 and has an audience of loyal listeners who tune in on a regular basis. Like many musicians, he’s been able to bring in some income via virtual tip jars and even recently received a pandemic-inspired gift of gratuity: a 12-pack of toilet paper with several five dollar bills mysteriously slipped inside the plastic.
“They are getting creative,” Catmull said of his audience, adding the tips are a reminder of how important music can be to people.
With weeks of solo and duo performances under his belt, he is getting his full band back together for the first time since the pandemic canceled concerts and events across the nation. Tom Catmull’s Last Resort, featuring Travis Yost (bass, harmonies), Jesse Netzloff (lead guitar), Jaime Rogers (drums) and Catmull (songwriting, guitar, vocals, harmonica), is set to play a virtual performance on Saturday evening (see box).
“As soon as this thing hit, it looked like, OK, if I’m going to keep playing, I can either play by myself or point my phone towards me,” Catmull said, adding during his solo shows, he’s been dipping into old songs he hasn’t played in years and taking on requests from listeners.
The upcoming performance with The Last Resort will include songs unique to the band, many unrecorded, so Catmull said not to expect much of the “old classics.”
“There’s going to be some songs that people don’t know and I’m excited about that.”
The band will play from Yost’s living room, taking advantage of the recording engineer and producer’s tech skills and equipment.
He said the group is eager to play together again and have been sharing songs back and forth to prepare. But with the pandemic being nearly impossible to predict, he can’t say when they might be back on stage for in-person shows.
As a solo act, he’s done a few smaller, outdoor patio gigs, but added, “(a full band) is kind of kicked mostly to the curb right now in terms of live performance because band performances are designed to put a bunch of people together to jump around and sweat and spit on each other. That’s not a great thing right now.”
While Catmull said tips have somewhat dropped off since March when everyone was first stuck at home, it’s still enough to make putting on the virtual shows worthwhile.
And there are benefits to performing in a digital venue that allow for more closeness and intimacy despite everyone being separated by a screen. Looking back, he’s surprised the music industry hasn’t been doing virtual performances all along.
“These little digital rooms, there’s only like 20, 25 people in there, and you’re used to playing for 100 or 150...the difference though is that you have 20-25 people basically staring at you in quiet and that is much better than playing for 150 people who just happened to be there drinking and will occasionally look over,” Catmull said. “It’s much more intimate in that way, which is kind of ironic. We’re just playing into my phone, yet we have this weird closeness going on.”