Slowly in the process of reopening, California is finding its new normal after being trapped in lockdown. Musicians around the state have been trying to come up with new and creative ways to perform their craft and to create, even in these wild circumstances.
Dustin Burke, based in Sacramento, is a musician who founded the Storytellers project, a band of musicians who are unafraid to sing of love and peace, even in the grungiest bars and late night venues around town.
No matter where you’ve come from, the project meets you where you’re at, spreads hope and peace in their music, and chats with the audience throughout the night about how he himself has overcome darkness.
While this country faces some of the darkest times to date, Dustin and the Storytellers seized the opportunity to spread their message in a show on Saturday, September 25th, in which the tickets sold out in just a couple of hours.
While upholding the state’s lockdown laws and restrictions, the group hosted a night of performances, all while limiting capacity and enforcing social distancing protocols.
It goes to show that even with all the restrictions in place, people are desperate to connect to one another again in the name of music, loving one another where they are at– no matter who they are, where they came from– all while spreading unity and peace in the crazy world we are in right now.
Dustin and the band, including his wife, Jessica, and his son and daughter–as well as some of his closest friends– filled the parking lot with sound, where the audience sat in their designated spots, singing along with arms raised and tears in their eyes as they sang out. While there was trepidation for some, members of the crowd were open in their statements as they stated how they craved this kind of human connection for quite some time.
I chatted with Dustin and his wife, Jessica, before the show. Here’s what they had to say:
What is the goal behind the Storyteller’s project?
Storytellers is a nonprofit, where we bring reckless love to unexpected places. We perform uplifting and Christian music into bars and music venues, where we aren’t afraid of pushing the boundaries. And our mission is not just about love and peace. It’s about being faith forward, but not through the lens of a church.
And while the church is struggling to connect with people and meet people where they are, especially during lockdown, where it’s hard, if not impossible for us to meet, we have this unique opportunity to bridge the gap, and to help others feel loved, valued, and that they matter.
You are not just performing, you’re penetrating the atmosphere and some of the thick, dark energy that’s been plaguing us over the last seven months.
It has been thick! It’s been such a hard year. Not just for us. Everyone has had it rough. And we’ve [Dustin and Jessica] decided that in Storytellers, it’s more important now than ever to meet people where they are, spread hope, healing, and even a smile; and it could make a world of a difference.
There’s something about seeing each other now. We are connecting in a way we haven’t before, where it’s no longer about the building, but the connection and unity, especially in such a divided time. And we want to focus on being that unity. Listening to people who are hurting, and following through and moving toward healing together.
When your beliefs come before loving someone endlessly, then your beliefs are in the wrong place.
I’m not afraid of making people mad for the sake of starting the conversation; can we be a place for people to belong, and feel like they matter. And be loving and share God’s love, together in unity. It’s bigger than songs. It’s bigger than music.
How are you feeling about performing tonight?
In this moment, tonight, we hope everyone is able to enjoy the next couple of hours in a safe way. And hopefully, this can pave the way so that we can end up meeting more regularly in this setting.
God has a way of making a way of what it seems to be. All the venues are shut down. The only places we can sing are in our churches. And here we are. Normally we go to a venue, and it’s set up for us! We had to do the work ourselves, which is why we are so exhausted, but I can’t explain it; we are exhausted but also so energized for the time we get to have to play music.
It’s one thing to play music. But music venues aren’t open right now. And since venues have been so kind taking us under their wing for shows, we want to return the favor while the venues are still closed, to turn Impact into a music venue where people can safely play music, and we can support our music industry, which is struggling the most.
Dustin released a new album a couple of weeks ago; stream it on Spotify now!