Vermont Rocker Lends Voice to ‘Save Our Stages' Push

Grace Potter said she worries live music venues will close as the pandemic stretches on, so she hopes to see federal aid for independent performance spaces

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A well-known Vermont musician lent her voice to a push to deliver federal relief money to independent concert venues hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If we don't have stages to go back to, things don't go back to business as usual," warned Grace Potter.

The Vermont-born musician was in the early performances of an album release tour this spring when the coronavirus suddenly cut it short, she told reporters Monday.

Potter is now lending her voice to the campaign to "Save Our Stages," the name of an act introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Potter's home state congressman and a Republican from Texas.

"We've got to save our communities," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, who partnered with Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, on the Save Our Stages push.

Welch and Williams have since recruited a large number of cosponsors, Welch said Monday.

The proposal calls for the creation of a pot of billions of federal dollars. Independent live performance venues could apply for grants, which would be calculated based on the venues' previous earnings.

The funds would serve as a lifeline to help cover rent, utilities, or other costs during a time ticket windows are closed and stage lights are off, Welch said, though the money would not restore all revenues lost during the pandemic.

The performing arts provisions were included in an updated version of the Heroes Act in the U.S. House.

A version of the Save Our Stages bill was also introduced in the U.S. Senate, by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, Rep. Welch noted.

"The entire performing arts sector is in an existential crisis," observed Alex Crothers, who co-owns the South Burlington live music venue Higher Ground.

Crothers said small businesses like his and nonprofits alike deserve government attention, arguing they're critical to the communities where they're located.

The venues drive sales for suppliers, nearby restaurants, and area hotels, among other benefits to communities, Crothers and Welch said.

"Most predictions aren't going to put full-capacity shows back in business until this time next year," Crothers added.

Welch said even with bipartisan backing, aid packages will take a lot of hard negotiating work, as well as support from Senate leadership and the president.

A Vermont man is on a journey to document peak fall foliage in the state.

However, the Democrat said he's optimistic the push will gain traction now that the election's over.

"It doesn't matter whether you voted for Trump or you voted for Biden—it literally doesn't matter," Welch said in response to a question from NECN and NBC10 Boston about the urgency of the effort. "We've got to help everybody because everybody is threatened by COVID."

Potter is encouraging Congress and the president to imagine what would be lost in downtowns everywhere if live performance venues were to disappear.

"I think we're going to see a very different world if the support doesn't come—and soon," the musician said.

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