Brian Strauss always dreamed of running a virtual local music showcase. He just never imagined that such a thing would be necessary.
Strauss came up with the idea in the '90s while studying video production in college. But it never really came to fruition until venues shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly thereafter, Strauss launched PDX Couch Tour, which livestreams sets five days a week by bands you'd normally find at neighborhood watering holes around the city. The upcoming calendar ranges from Laurelthirst Pub co-owner Lewi Longmire and his band the Left Coast Roasters to six-piece soul-jazz mainstays Donna Jones and the Delegation.
Funded entirely by voluntary audience tips, the series is a scrappy effort that looks and sounds entirely professional. The virtual audience can tune in via YouTube, Facebook Twitch or Zoom, and the chat windows and Zoom "audience wall" are displayed for the band on screens around the stage.
The series, however, has been dealing with a problem that's plagued local artists since pre-COVID times: finding a venue. PDX Couch Tour started in March at the Woodstock location of the high-end furniture store the Joinery. When the store was sold, it moved out to Catfish Lou's in Beaverton for two weeks, until the venue reopened for patrons. Now, the showcase will have to move out of its current venue, 24 Fremont, which is going up for lease.
Nonetheless, Strauss says all the moving is worth it.
"The musicians, they're so elated," he says. "A lot of the bands haven't played together, let alone for other people, in a few months. To see them come off the stage after playing together, the energy between the band members is always electric."
Find out more about PDX Couch Tour at pdxcouchtour.com.