When the going gets tough, just jump onboard a flatbed trailer and play some mobile concerts.
That’s what Denver-based indie rock band Wildermiss did when COVID-19 canceled all the group’s shows this summer, and fans got the unique opportunity to pay for a personal concert right outside their home.
“Our manager, Nate, kind of as a joke, was like ‘What if we put you on the back of a trailer in front of people’s houses?’ Then it was, ‘Wait … I have a trailer and know where we can get a generator,’ so we started brainstorming and tried to see if we could make it happen,” said frontwoman Emma Cole. “You could tell people needed it, and it was a cool experience to see neighbors stepping out on front porches, dancing their butts off and playing in front of a few apartment complexes and people would stand out on their balconies.”
The four-piece band relies heavily on touring, but management’s innovative idea helped lessen the financial blow of missing out on several months worth of shows.
On Sept. 11, the group is excited to return to Cheyenne (Wildermiss played Edgefest in 2018) and help christen The Lincoln – a friend of the band was even sending them updates on the construction project until its August completion.
The upcoming performance is notable not only for its venue, but because it’ll be one of the first times the musicians will get to play new single “Supermagical” for a live crowd.
“We all stayed home, and we didn’t practice or see each other for a solid month … but then stay-at-home lifted, and we kept circles really close, knowing we could still creatively meet up in a space that didn’t have anyone in it, and we were able to kind of work on creative work together,” Cole said. “(We got to) write songs and record them, then that gave us the opportunity to release ‘Supermagical’ in May … (I love that) we’re allowed to release music right now if we want, and it doesn’t have to be perfectly coupled with a tour and a big old campaign.”
During that month or so before they reunited, Cole said she couldn’t bring herself to be creative. She had all this extra time, yet being away from her bandmates, she just didn’t have it in her to work on new material. But once she got out of the house and was able to share a space with her fellow music makers, that fire reignited inside her.
Guitarist Josh Hester said his own quarantine period included both moments of creativity and stretches without – as well as a whole lot of processing.
“I’ve felt more challenged as a creative during this time because usually there are groups of people you can play in front of, but when that’s taken away suddenly, that’s new territory,” he said. “What does it even look like to be a musician nowadays (when there are) more important things going on, like people’s health and their rights? It’s more than just me and my guitar. That’s inspiring, but can be intimidating – how do I feel about the world that’s big and chaotic right now?”
Drummer Caleb Thoemke agreed, adding that even though he felt that pressure, he also enjoyed having a break from being on the road so often. Instead of constantly preparing for the next show, he said, he and his bandmates got to fill their time with rehearsals and brainstorming sessions for the future.
Wildermiss’ first live stage show since February was July 31 at The Mishawaka in Bellvue, Colorado, and Thoemke said it felt amazing to play on a stage again, even though he wishes they could have reached out and hugged all the fans they’d gone more than four months without seeing.
“It felt very safe, too,” Cole added. “At first this felt wrong, like can we not play a show right now? What’s socially acceptable, where do we draw that line? … There are a lot of things you need to have in place, but this was an outdoor show, and it felt really good … we’re excited that the people we’ve been talking to for future shows are in that same boat.”
One positive about being a band with a large regional fanbase, but not as large of a national following, the bandmates agreed, is that they can play shows all around the Rocky Mountain region right now and still attract a good crowd for midsized venues, while superstars like Ariana Grande will likely have to wait a while to pack arenas again.
The vibe of those shows has been fun, but also cautious, Cole said. Halfway through the group’s Mishawaka gig, to break the tension and confusion surrounding how concertgoers should act during a pandemic, she had to tell people they were allowed to dance, as long as they didn’t leave their table.
Despite the unusual dynamic, the musicians agree this whole era has been a valuable learning experience for both bands and their fans. Everyone is learning the importance of flexibility, in particular, because shows could be canceled at a moment’s notice.
Guitarist Seth Beamer said another lesson has been both the fluidity and timeless characteristics of music.
“I’m starting to feel like some of the things I’m saying are really relevant for the times, so it’s funny how as an artist the things you say and the music you write, it just changes as your life changes and the meaning of that song changes,” he said. “That is what music does, and that is what we do, write for the times or write for the future, but no matter what, I think music in general is pretty timeless.”
And the role of music has perhaps never been more important, Cole stressed.
“It’s so important that it’s mind-blowing,” she said. “I’m biased, but damn, imagine going to someone’s funeral without it. Imagine the people who are losing their memory and the one thing they have that helps them remember their past is music. It’s a huge part of our culture, our DNA, our humanity.”