Socially Distant Fest provides 'virtual stage' for performers

Standing under a carport in the bandleader’s own yard, Atlanta favorite Funk Cake played a show for thousands of fans.  Just like any other gig — except, in this case, the band couldn’t actually see any of those fans.  

"We finished, and I heard someone clapping and cheering way off in the distance, and I was like, ‘Yay!  Someone's here,’” says bandleader and trumpeter Alex Rodiek with a laugh.

That show — back in late March — was for Socially Distant Fest, a Facebook group created as a live digital stage for performing artists around the world.  Founder Jacob Allen explains the idea’s inception:  "I have a lot of  friends who play music, I hadn't seen them play in a really long time, so I wanted to entertain them and have them entertain me, and my that's where it all began...with a song on Facebook live."

Since then, the Facebook group has grown to include more than 160,000 members, and now features a constant stream of live musical performances.

"You just join the Facebook group, and any time you feel like you want to perform a set, you just go live straight from the group, and we'll provide an audience,” says administrator Jayda Knight.

Those audiences, by the way, can be huge.  Funk Cake was the festival’s first “Sunday Showcase” — and the band’s set has gained more than 18,000 views to date.

"That was a really a first for us, in terms of a full set, being just for the purposes of being recorded like that,” says Rodiek.  “To the comments and everyone that was leaving comments, I was absolutely blown away by it.  I was not expecting that...The response to it overall was actually overwhelming."

And that is exactly what the festival’s founders want to hear — hopefully, they say, for a very long time.

"I don't see virtual performances going anywhere, anytime soon,” says Allen.  “I think we'll still have performers who get home from their dayj ob and they're like, ‘Man, I can hop on here and play a set really quick and make a couple of extra dollars,’ and I think they'll do that.  And I think that the people that are watching it are enjoying the connection that they have with creatives, and they'll keep coming back for that, as well."

To join the Socially Distant Fest Facebook group or watch the performances, click here.