September 2021 - COVER STORY - Resilience in a changing landscape - Launchpad


By Winter Elise


In the ever-changing landscape that Covid-19 has created, live music venues have taken a huge hit. Bands are not touring out of caution. Different rules that vary state-to-state have large crowds not gathering. In many places, restriction levels are constantly changing, and employees are hard to find simply because of the unreliable income and the capacity restrictions that make what used to be a coveted job far less desirable. Across the country, from New York To Chicago to Los Angeles, independent venues are at risk of closing. Albuquerque’s Launchpad and Sunshine Theater are no different. The independent music scene that once thrived across our country is trying to revive itself with fewer fans and more demands.


Here in New Mexico, Launchpad is a staple in the local music scene. Normally, busting at the seams on the weekends and shows up to seven nights a week. It sat quietly on Central for most of 2020, except for the benefit shows. During the lockdowns throughout 2020, Launchpad hosted fundraisers that allowed local bands to play and fans to listen over YouTube and donate what they could to help support the venue. Although the shows did not bring in much, they kept a few partially employed​ and the fans entertained during what some would call the quietest year of our lives. We saw these types of shows reverberate around the country as bands tried to help support indie venues and give a needed morale boost to people in general. Now with the world trying to open up again while still navigating an ever-changing scene with the Delta variant causing new and different issues, you may wonder how you can help. Follow whatever policy the venue has posted about masking, vaccine proof, or drink limits without complaining to the staff. They are following rules, too.


Barney Lopez, an employee of Launchpad and bassist for Red Light Cameras, says the venues need to be flexible​ and patient​, as do the fans. He credits understanding landlords and government funding with helping to keep Launchpad afloat but warns the club cannot survive another shutdown. "It is hard to be a venue currently," shared Lopez. "They are getting different requests from traveling bands, government officials, and crowds. Some bands are asking for vaccine proof, while others do not care at all. Think about this before coming to a show. The venue is in the middle of a tug-of-war, and it is a difficult place to be having to enforce wishes that might not be their own." He says it can take three or four months for indie bands that play venues the size of Launchpad to put together a tour. Local bands have been playing Launchpad in the last month. That will be changing in October, assuming we can keep everything open across the country.


Lopez has worked in event planning and concerts for fifteen-plus years. He has never seen so many obstacles to navigate but firmly believes that if everyone pulls together and respects each other, we can help keep the indie music venues alive and well. Learn more about the Launchpad at launchpadrocks.com.