The Show Goes on for the Java Barn
Never before in the long-spanning history of the Java Barn has a show had to be canceled due to a pandemic. Canceling a Java show was once a rare occasion; reserved for a band blowing a tire on the drive up, or a DJ not coming prepared with their equipment. However, never before has the normalcy of The Java Barn been met with challenges like those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During my Spring semester as a junior living in the Java house, I decided that Java was something I was passionate about and wanted to be involved in a helpful way, so I volunteered to take on the role of booking agent. The booking agent reaches out to bands, writes contracts, books shows, and in my case especially, cancels shows.
Spring of 2020, I was studying abroad in Cortona, Italy, while simultaneously being taught the tricks of the trade by senior Java booking agent Jack Dolan himself. About a week after my untimely return from Italy amidst the rise of the pandemic in Europe, I was indescribably sad to hear that the University was sending students home and continuing the semester remotely due to the health risk for students, faculty, and the county. This of course meant that the remainder of Java shows, including the traditional Senior Week show, were to be canceled.
As Jack, the former booking agent finished his semester remotely, I began to take over and work towards realistic solutions given the information we had at the time. Bands who had to cancel expressed deep sadness that their Java debuts and reappearances were no longer able to happen. Blissfully ignorant of the timeline that COVID-19 had in store, we paid the bands half their contracted price and promised the other half at their next performances which I promptly booked for the end of fall. Knowing the strain that the pandemic has put on the live music community, we did our best to get them their check and schedule an upcoming performance for them to look forward to. When fall shows too had to be canceled, bands were compensated their other remaining half.
The fall came fast, COVID-19 persisted, and The Java Barn seemed to be approaching a turning point in its decades-long existence. As businesses, music venues, and campus groups found new solutions to adapt to the pandemic, we as a house had an obligation and a passionate will to create a safe space to perform music and spread Java love.
Opting out of a livestream, we hung tight for the first month of campus due to strict guidelines from Student Life. As some restrictions lifted, Java mapped out a way to have shows safely. New York law requires that events have to be under 50 people, so we advertised our open mic for two, 30-minute segments. We ended up getting so many sign-ups, that we had to shut down our sign-up form days before the event. Speaking on behalf of the Java house, it warmed our hearts to hear how excited people were to have back that Java love that for some of us makes St. Lawrence, St. Lawrence.
After mandating masks and social distancing of various family units, disinfecting instruments, and capping the number of students to meet state safety guidelines, Java and student attendees alike deemed the show a success. Through the process of adapting to change, it challenged me personally to reconsider my definition of Java. To those who hold it dear to their hearts, Java is about a feeling that's created at the intersection of live music and personal interaction.
For the time being, Java may not be able to host shows in the manner it once did, but I find comfort in the feeling that the spirit of Java is alive. Java love continues to radiate through hearts on campus even in the most dividing of times.