A band with disappearing shows: How 90 Proof Twang adjusted to COVID-19

Josh Brock, founder and lead singer of local country band 90 Proof Twang, was accustomed to playing up to five shows a week during the summers over the years. He remembers when it hit him things were changing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was when the big bands and festivals started canceling their shows,” he said. “We’re a pretty well-known local band, but nobody saw it coming. It was a shock. But when that happened, we knew it would reflect on us.”

The group is one of many affected by the changes in live performances and the lack of live shows, and its experience is a window into the challenges bands have experienced in the past year and a half.

90 Proof Twang started in 2012. Brock originally played solo acoustic shows until he was invited by older, more established musicians to play with them.

“Social media wasn’t crazy then like it is now,” he said. “Luckily, we were supported by good friends, family, and just a lot of people who liked to go to bars and hear music. More people kept showing up and it kept growing.”

The members of 90 Proof Twang have day jobs (Brock works for Hamilton’s water and gas department), but music was still responsible for a significant amount of their income. With RiversEdge the only local venue having concerts in 2020, Brock said everyone took a major financial hit.

“Summer income is big,” he said. “I’m the only one who doesn’t have kids to support. People got by through other means, picking up shows, jobs, wherever they could.”

Brock said he looked at the bright side when his summer 2020 concert schedule was reduced to RiversEdge, where he performed for masked, socially distanced patrons.

“It was just so good to see everybody,” he said. “(The social distancing) was difficult in the sense that music is about people being next to each other, but it was refreshing because we hadn’t done anything in awhile, and we’d been told we wouldn’t be able to play any shows.”

Many musicians went inward during the pandemic, immersing themselves in writing and recording. Brock went a different route.

“I’d just bought a house and that was scary enough,” he said. “I did a lot of home projects. I missed making music and missed seeing the people I was used to seeing every weekend. When you’re a band, you look forward to the camaraderie. When you’ve been doing this stuff for so long together, you’re family.”

These days, 90 Proof Twang’s band schedule is back to normal, for now. They’re playing several shows in Butler County in August alone.

“We’re slammed, and that’s great,” Brock said. “When you’re an entertainer, you feed off performing for people who are excited to be there. But we wonder what’s going to happen. It’s not up to us.”

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