This summer the gig's in the driveway

Many concerts cancelled, but music goes on in Hollywood

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By Henry Weldon

Contributing Reporter

Music is one way to bring people closer together and yet remain six feet apart.

In Brookfield, one musical couple who gigged regularly at bars and weddings across the Chicago area, now just go as far as their front driveway. Kara Kesselring and Patrick Williams, residents of the village's Hollywood section, have been hosting driveway concerts when the weather has cooperated since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"We've been doing these driveway concerts to connect with everyone in the community," Kesselring said. "We're even working on building a stage in our yard for social distancing concerts. It's nice to perform where our gear and equipment and house are."

Kesselring and Williams are both professional musicians who perform for a living. They're accompanied by their 12-year-old daughter, Iris Williams, who also plays instruments and sings backup during the concerts.

With music venues and bars closed around the area, times couldn't be tougher for musicians. But in Brookfield, their driveway is the new stage.

"The concerts feel very organic," Kesselring said. "People are incredibly appreciative of it. This is the least amount of driving we have ever had to do."

While the couple doesn't ask for any money, they do appreciate donations from those who enjoy their music.

The couple used to perform live at many different bars and restaurants across the area, but since the spread of COVID-19 they have been pretty much limited to their new venue.

"The gathering restrictions will cripple any live music," Williams said. "Musicians always live gig to gig. It's not weird to not know what will happen in the next six weeks, but it is weird to know that there won't be much opportunity for live performances."

The nice weather has allowed the concerts to be a success. Williams hopes the weather lasts, but he's not sure what he and other musicians will do once winter arrives.

"A lot of bars that offer outdoor entertainment are trying to figure out what to do once it gets cold," Williams said. "The nice weather has allowed us to perform at least 10 times [at venues away from home] so far."

The couple also teaches private music lessons, but since the pandemic began they have shifted to Zoom. 

"We did a fundraiser for a school and were able to raise some money for them during these hard times," Kesselring said. "We've been trying to figure out creative ways to keep the music coming."

The two have made music their career and continue to pursue it despite the challenges they're currently facing. Williams was touring when the pandemic struck and had to fly home from Canada with little notice.

Kesselring said she had plans to play at some weddings, but those have all been cancelled through the remainder of the year.

The couple has played together since the '90s and they're just glad they can play live music again, even if it requires a little more ingenuity.

"As much as you can go on Facebook Live and perform, when you don't have the reaction of the audience, it's just not the same," Kesselring said.

With the couple taking the saying "the show must go on" to a whole different level, they've seen people from across Brookfield come to Hollywood to enjoy some live music.

"People bring their lawn chairs with them and have a good time," Kesselring said. 

If you can't catch Kesselring at a driveway gig, you may be able to listen while dining at La Barra in Riverside, where she sometimes plays outdoors on Thursday evenings. Last weekend, Kesselring and Williams performed outdoors at a block party in Oak Park.

In the meantime, Kesselring and Williams plan on continuing the driveway concerts until it's safe to perform indoors elsewhere again.

They said while it might not be a usual setting for a concert, it's better than nothing.

"It's just not in our human nature to be isolated," Kesselring said.

Kara Kesselring can be found on YouTube under the profile "Playing Singing Mama" and on her website onthedancefloor.com.

Patrick Williams and his music can be found at underthestreetlamp.com.

Their next driveway concert is set for Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. at 8512 Rockefeller Ave. in Brookfield. They'll be joined by Dan Peters on guitar and vocals and Dan Leali on percussion.

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