Gainesville has been a little quiet lately. Douglas Palmieri didn’t like that.
Threatening the existence of independent music venues, the COVID-19 pandemic has left the Gainesville entertainment scene inventing ways to keep itself afloat.
Palmieri, 34-year-old Gainesville resident and owner of Gator Sound and Lighting has built a fully functioning stage, complete with lasers and lights, in his backyard. After Alachua County mandated the closure of all non-essential businesses and prohibited public gatherings of more than 10 people, Palmieri saw a need to support local entertainers and performers.
“I’m just trying to get any artists who want to play and entertain folks at home that can’t go anywhere,” he said. “It’s basically a giant promo thing.”
The stage, dubbed the Quarantine Stage, has hosted two nights of performers so far, part of a series called the Quarantine Sessions. While Palmieri’s backyard doesn’t host a real crowd, the several DJs, bands and drag show performances are live streamed to the public through Twitch, at no cost.
Palmieri said the 36-by-16-foot stage took him about 50 hours to set up for the first show. For the second, more time was spent improving the overall set up.
“I added all the crazy lighting and that stuff because that’s what I do for a living,” he said. “So might as well make use of this stuff and have some crazy light shows.”
After launching a Facebook fundraiser for electric, lighting and building expenses, Palmieri said he has seen community support for a Quarantine Stage 3.0. He plans on putting on this show at the end of May.
Rather than streaming from a stage, Gainesville’s High Dive is streaming artists from their living rooms, with their High Dive Live from Home live stream benefit series. The first live stream on May 3 consisted of at-home performances by Gainesville artists Saint Simon, The Hails, Driveaway, Arrows in Action and The Forum.
High Dive Facility and Events Manager Pat Lavery said the second installment will be at the end of May, with a new lineup of artists.
“It kind of reminds people what we’re all about,” he said. “It’s really a nice, positive -- almost like a telethon kind of format -- where people are expressing their interest and their affection for High Dive.”
As an independent venue, High Dive has been exploring avenues of support for itself, its staff and the artists it houses. In addition to High Dive Live from Home, the venue has launched the sale of a benefit shirt and has joined the National Independent Venue Association, a newly created committee seeking federal relief and awareness for venues.
“I think music and culture are always changing and you kind of have to adapt to it,” Lavery said.
Contact Chloe Greenberg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @_chloegreenberg.