San Francisco Musician Delivers Free Concerts to a Music-Starved City

Andrew St. James has traded clubs and concert halls for doorsteps and driveways

NBC Universal, Inc.

In the language of music, a rest is a moment of silence, often lasting just a few beats.

For Andrew St. James, though, the rest that COVID-19 composed was way too long for him to stay quiet.

"We had sorts of tours going on, different bands, great stuff ... planned," St. James said. "Everything has been put on hold."

It's why St. James and fellow musician Scott Padden have temporarily traded playing San Francisco's clubs and concert halls for its doorsteps and driveways.

With the help of music promoter Ashley Graham, they are traveling around the city playing small, free, socially-distanced concerts to anyone who requests one.

At just 25, St. James was seeing his star grow on the city's music scene, regularly performing and producing shows. 2020 was going to be a very busy year. Until it wasn't.

"I was sitting around doing nothing," St. James said. "Straight up doing nothing. Calling friends and complaining."

It was while commiserating with Graham, though, that the two came up with the idea of "delivering" concerts.

At first, it was just friends, but then St. James started posting about the gigs on his Instagram page and requests started coming in from all over the city. Playing two nights a week, four concerts a night, Graham estimates they have performed close to 50 times since May.

"I think it has become something broader than we expected it would be," St. James said.

He always knew he would enjoy playing music in front of people, but St. James said he didn't know how much it would mean to the audience.

"The first time we did it, the reaction from the people on the street was incredible," he said.

St. James and Graham soon understood they weren't just playing for people who miss live music. They were playing for people who miss, well, people.

"It's a real privilege and it's a real honor to step into people's lives for 25 minutes and have an exchange with a stranger in a safe way but in an emotional way, " Graham said.

It is such a special exchange that Graham believes that introducing money into its would, ironically, cheapen it.

This was, nothing stands in the way of letting music do what it does best: bringing people together.

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