Local musicians face uncertain future one year into COVID-19 pandemic


DENVER (KDVR) — The future of live music in Colorado is unclear one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving some musicians battling depression and substance abuse.

Steve Watts of the band ‘Dotsero’ started playing music professionally at age 14 and has relied on it to make a living.

“I didn’t really believe it when I was told this is real — that this is not going to change quickly. I expected to be playing maybe in a couple months maximum and when that didn’t happen, it was quite a shock,” said Watts.

Watts, a recovering alcoholic, says he had to lean heavily on his faith and the recovery community to get through the last year.

“There are a number of musicians out there that struggle with drinking or struggle with substance use disorder. Not getting that chance to play — that’s what they do, that’s how they express themselves and make a living. Many of them are struggling with their substance use disorder,” said Watts.

Members of the local music scene have stepped in to help those who have fallen on hard times. Dazzle, a music venue in downtown Denver, hosts a program called ‘Bread and Jam’ with weekly live streaming events to help local musicians who are struggling. They also offer a food pantry for artists and musicians Friday through Sunday.

“Some of the musicians who’ve stopped by are so thankful we’re able to do something like this for them because the goal is to offset some of their other expenses,” said Matt Ruff, general manager and part-owner at Dazzle.

As more restrictions are lifted, Dazzle is still dealing with the effects of COVID-19. The venue hosts regular shows with limited capacity. Recently, they were forced to cancel a Friday night show last-minute due to a COVID-19 scare with one of the band members.

Watts says the idea that shows can get canceled on short notice makes it difficult to stay optimistic moving forward.

“There are people who are musicians and entertainers, creative people out there that are hurting. Some of them do give up and some of them get into a very serious depression. They need help and they need support,” said Watts.

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