Despite postponed and canceled events plaguing our social calendar right now, Wilmington’s music community continues to find ways to get artists and their music to listeners. Stoop Records, a local independent label founded and managed by Kevin Earl, is just one of countless recording companies that have had to think creatively to overcome the effects of COVID-19.
“The main setback of COVID-19 so far has been the cancellation of Jacob Jordan’s release show for his EP ‘Find My Way’ [March 14],” Earl says. “He’d been planning that show for a while and had a nice live set with a full band worked out. Unfortunately it landed right on the weekend that everything started shutting down. I’m optimistic we’ll still be able to celebrate that EP with a live show somewhere down the line!”
In the meantime Stoop Records has been keeping local artists busy with their weekly “Don’t Leave Your Stoop” series. Every Friday, 8-9 p.m., the label features three local musicians who livestream 20-minute sets from their own Instagram handles.
“We thought it would give the local music scene something to look forward to each week and maintain a sense of community,” Earl explains, “as most of us would normally get together for in-person shows Friday and Saturday nights before COVID-19.”
Earl started the series with Hannah Stomski (a Stoop Records artist who performs under the moniker “Rosemary”). Plus, Earl played a couple off-the-cuff, 30-minute shows via Instagram Live (@kevinearlmusic) early on. The streams weren’t planned or promoted but drew interest from those who stumbled upon them.
“I realized the best way to emulate a live concert experience from a livestream was to plan it for a specific date and time, and promote it the same way,” he says.
The series would not have happened without Stomski’s ideas, hard work and encouragement, according to Earl. “We immediately started working together to figure out the best way to organize a livestream concert series that followed the same structure and aimed for the same feeling of in-person concerts.”
The series will culminate in the “Don’t Leave Year Stoop” festival on Saturday, May 23, 5-10 p.m. on Instagram. “This final installment is definitely the biggest yet,” Earl confirms, as the show will go from being a mere one-hour to a five-hour event. Featuring 20 artists instead of three, the festival also acts as a fundraiser for Nourish NC (just voted Best Nonprofit 2020 by encore readers), with viewers able to make donations before, during and after the show.
“We have a goal of raising $200, but we would love to exceed that!” Early says. “I feel like our entire music community has rallied around them during the pandemic. Gravity Records has raised money for them in multiple ways, and all the profits from [a compilation of local artists collected by Team Player’s Marty Cunningham,] The Quarantine Sessions, were donated to Nourish NC. We just want to continue that effort!”
Stoop Records has long produced music on digital and physical platforms, such as cassettes, CDs and VHS tape. The livestreams are a chance to broaden their offerings. Aside from Earl and Rosemary, several other series artists are returning for Saturday’s finale. Early asked every artist that has joined them thus far to return.
“Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to join us again,” he says. “But it’s all good because we’re able to bring in some new artists—Also Joe, Chris Vinopal and Pokin’ Holes!”
Returning to the lineup are Pinky Verde (with a new song, “Antacid 750s”) and Billy Heathen, who will play from his 2019 EP, “Green. Field. Street.” Subtle Fuzz just released a demo song called “Punker” on the Quarantine Sessions. Marty Cunningham will be featured on the bill, too, alongside Seeking Madras, Color Temperature, Exercise, RizzyBeats, Patrick Carr, storeboughtisfine, Jordan Sutherland, CyDaddy, MoeSOS DC, Spider Bucket and Slow Dance.
Each artist will perform from their respective Instagram or Facebook accounts. Folks can follow Stoop Records for updates and future projects/releases on the horizon on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Though the series is coming to an end and states are reopening (with North Carolina entering Phase 2), Earl notes this does not mean the pandemic is over.
“We encourage everyone to continue social distancing, wearing face masks and washing their hands as much as they can,” he emphasizes. “The goal of this series was to keep live local music alive for a while, and I think we accomplished that. But we don’t want that to all be about Stoop Records. It’s about showcasing the great artists in our city. Anyone can do this type of thing, and I hope more people continue to do that.”