North Center music venue silenced by pandemic holds socially distant concert

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Toe-tapping tunes accompanied by cheers and applause bring life back to a venue that has been silenced by the pandemic.

"When the music is going and a song comes on that you haven't heard live in a long time, that speaks to you," said concert-goer Ben Burton.

The sounds are a familiar and heart-filled moment for music lovers.

"That's why the tears were welling up in my eyes," Burton said.

"It feels good to finally have somebody on stage, especially musicians of this caliber," added Ray Quinn, owner of Martyrs'.

For the first time in exactly 393 days, the North Center small bar and live music venue hosted a Hoyle Brothers concert to a crowd of 50.

"I was here for the soundcheck because I'm kind of a nerd for music," Burton said.

"It sounded great in there and everybody's having a good time," Quinn added. "It's a little step towards normal."

Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, people were seated at socially distanced tables and masks were required when walking around.

"The ways they're doing it here in Martyrs, I feel so safe," Burton said. "They limited the audience and there's tables really far away."

Quinn said the performing arts industry was a hard-hit casualty of the pandemic.

"The music industry, internationally, has pretty much completely bled out. People who don't do this for a living really can't comprehend the complete devastation that it's been," he said.

Last December, Congress approved $15 billion in relief to help shuttered venues survive the pandemic.
An amount advocates call a historic show of federal support for arts and culture.

"They're still working on sorting out the application process and getting that to us, so hopefully there'll be some relief," Quinn said.

Until that aid comes, the sights and sounds offer a different kind of relief.

"The doors are open and life is pouring out," Burton said. "That hasn't happened in a long time."
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