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Tonight, local singer-songwriter John Gilbride has teamed up with over a half dozen friends and collaborators for a livestream concert he hopes will shine much-needed light on a community arts space in Camden, New Jersey.

Gilbride and his band — Emily Drinker Rob Tait of Hambone Relay, Eric Cooper and Ethan Cain of The Funky T, John Bickel of The Bickel Brothers — performed a set at Waterfront South Theatre that airs on Facebook tonight at 7 p.m., captured live by local videographer Bob Sweeney and sound engineer Marcus Cohen. It’s a fluid set of upbeat, uplifting and loosely funky jams, and while the livestream is free to watch, the band will be using the time and space to advocate for donations to the theater, and South Camden Theatre Company at large.

Gilbride tells us over email that the collaboration was a long time coming; after connecting with SCTC vice president Jordan Feld through City Year, which his band played fundraising events for, the two kicked around ideas for collaboration. And then “after one of the most difficult years in the entertainment industry, it felt like it was about time to put on a damn show.”

As COVID vaccines began to disseminate and in-person collaboration became easier, Gilbride reached out again with an idea: “I wanted the worlds of live music and theatrical production to collide, and to collaborate with the creative team to bring our stage show to their incredible venue. The team there welcomed us with open arms, and executed our vision with such grace and passion.”

Gilbride particularly shouts out Josh Samors who worked on lighting design for the livestream and Robert Bingaman who was responsible for the scenic design, as well as Chris Zurzolo of Medicine Man Studios who gave the production its final mix.

The nine-song set the band will play tonight is also an opportunity to virtually road-test new material — five of the songs are unreleased new compositions, with fans hearing them for the first time at this show. After the livestream, the show will be available for rental here, with a portion of proceeds going to SCTC and Waterfront South, with a live album to follow.

Gilbride spoke about the importance of supporting the space, saying “Camden is our neighbor. It is a community that is underserved and in many ways underappreciated.  Just a short drive across the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Waterfront South Theatre is an incredible place for productions of any kind. The space is gorgeous, the team is amazing, and they do incredible work for the arts and for the community at large in Camden.”

Live music and performing arts venues are hurting after a year and a half in a global pandemic — independent venues in particular — and while this live film is a way to directly support Waterfront South, Gilbride says the collateral damage of COVID is something fans and musicians alike should keep in mind as they return to the concert scene this summer.

“It’s our responsibility as artists who love this industry and love the unparalleled and collaborative artistic community in the Philadelphia area, to do everything we can to help sustain the people and places that allow us to do the things we love,” he says. 

Watch a trailer for John Gilbride and Friends Live at the Waterfront South Theatre below, get information on the livestream here, and find out how to watch the video after its premiere here.

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