San Marcos based family band shares perspective of the effects of COVID-19 on young musicians
When the lockdown was first enforced in Texas, Texas State students and siblings, Sammy Wells and Mckenna Wells were still in high school. At the time, playing local shows with the rest of their family was the main way that they bonded and expressed themselves.
Now, with lockdown being lifted, both Wells siblings reflect on their experience together as young musicians during the pandemic.
Bands share the effects that COVID-19 had on the music scene in multiple Central Texas cities
With COVID-19 restrictions finally being lifted, live music can finally return to San Marcos and its surrounding cities.
San Marcos felt this hit to the music industry particularly hard due to the fact that the city currently only has 21 live music venues, many of which were closed due to the pandemic.
John Delbridge, 45, an Austin-based musician, compares the effects of the pandemic on different Central Texas cities.
“I have a daughter that goes to Texas State so I’m up there all the time trying to really get involved in the music scene and sort of diverge from the Austin area music,” Delbridge said. “I know a lot of places shut down in Austin but I saw the music scene completely wipe out in San Marcos. It was heartbreaking watching COVID destroy what little scene San Marcos had.”
Sean Ryan, 22, and Garett Douglas,, are both members of the San Marcos band Summer Rental. For these two, the pandemic brought both good and bad changes to their musical routine.
“It was definitely hard to go without playing in front of a good crowd for that long,” Ryan said. “But, honestly, it was a nice change of pace because I mean, we were able to create more music, like we made an entire album during lockdown.”
As many musicians felt the personal struggle of the pandemic, they experienced the industry struggle as well. Musicians watched as venues closed one by one.
“I had this gig where I was lined up to go play at this bar in San Antonio and it just completely fell through,” Douglas said. “The bar isn’t even there, like it’s closed down so now I’m out of that gig and the business shut down completely.”
Sammy Wells and Mckenna Wells, two members of a family band based in San Marcos, watched as many of the venues they frequented closed down as well. The siblings saw this as an opportunity rather than a loss.
“Well obviously we saw a lot of places close down, especially in our hometown, and so that made it to where we couldn’t perform live as much,” Sammy Wells said. “But this meant that we were able to really hone in on the recording aspect of the music. I was able to see an entirely new side of writing and recording music that made me a better musician and gave me a newfound appreciation for music.”
Although, the lockdown did not last forever. With businesses slowly opening up, the new social rules of a post-COVID life were unclear. Many found themselves feeling unsafe in public and unsure of how to navigate the lifting of the lockdown.
Ryan and Douglas from Summer Rental said that they were uncomfortable when they performed their first show after lockdowns were lifted.
“Our first gig back definitely felt kind of odd,” Garett said. “We weren’t wearing masks because obviously, we needed to perform but then a lot of people in the crowd were also not wearing masks so it made us kind of unsure of what people were supposed to do. It felt really unorganized.”
Other bands felt that the energy from their first performance after lockdown overshadowed any fear they had about COVID-19.
“Man, when you play in front of a crowd that sings along with the songs you are playing, it’s the craziest feeling,” Sammy Wells said. “The feeling is like no other, it’s this high that lasts for hours after the concert is finished.”
Mckenna Wells had a similar outlook on performing after lockdown.
“At first, we were a little nervous but after you get on stage that kind of disappears,” she said. “It’d be kinda weird if you weren’t a little nervous before every gig.”
Although the local music scene of San Marcos was struggling during the lockdown, the scene saw many people from the San Marcos community help out venues and musicians.
“There was this one guy that was kind of a well-known photographer in San Marcos that really stepped up,” Sean said. “I’m not sure if this was something he did before the pandemic but he started giving bands free photography sessions, like any band that needed it.”
Although some Central Texas music venues did not make it through the pandemic, many venues are reopening and beginning to host live shows again.
A series a photos show the Central Texas live music scene after the COVID-19 lockdown
As restrictions continue to be lifted, the venues that survived COVID-19 are beginning to host more live concerts. Although many venues and artists still require masks to be worn during the show, the Central Texas live music scene is being rebuilt to what it once was before the pandemic hit.