Live vocal performances still aren't permitted in San Francisco under pandemic rules, even outdoors. But on Thursday night, Mission District venue The Chapel pulled off an experiment in COVID-safe live performance, with the singer live except not physically in the space with the band or the audience.
The musician, Kelley Stoltz, was finally able to celebrate the release of an album he put out in November titled Ah! (etc.), at two live dinner shows at The Chapel last night. His band was near the audience, on a stage by the outdoor patio at Curio — no wind or brass instruments allowed, but guitar, drums, and bass. But Stoltz's image was actually projected across the patio wall with a psychedelic, 60s-style light show by Lance Gordon of the Mad Alchemy Liquid Lights, with Stoltz actually singing from the third floor of a nearby building.
"Kelley Stoltz has always been a 'giant' of the SF musical scene — but now he has finally assumed his mythic proportions in real life, expanded as he has been, across our 80ft outdoor wall," the Chapel writes on Instagram.
Stoltz was set up with special monitors to hear the band with, but there was no guarantee that this was all going to go smoothly.
As the singer told KPIX before the shows on Thursday, "It will be strange! I did realize that in a sense, the whole point of live performance is that interaction with the audience; the feeling of energy feeding off of them, saying a joke between songs, getting a laugh from this guy or working with the crowd that way."
Still, the performances seemed to come off without a hitch, and fans were able to see a live(ish) show for the first time in many months.
The Chapel sold out both shows last night, which came with $90 tickets that included dinner from Curio. And while the venue will continue doing dinner shows like these with instrumental acts — Dan Horne Band is playing two shows, brunch and dinner, on March 14, for instance — the Kelley Stoltz performance proves that they can pull off safe and socially distanced shows with vocals too, albeit in a complicated way.
It remains unclear when San Francisco's health department may lift the ban on live singing and wind instruments at live performances. But with the expected move into the "Red" tier next week, SF will be allowing later hours for outdoor spaces again, with food served past 10 o'clock.
Photo: Dave Pehling via TheChapelSf/Instagram