As a full-time musician, Mike Lynch is used to playing anywhere as many as eight gigs every week.
But the coronavirus pandemic changed all of that.
With every event canceled, the Baldwin Park musician hasn’t been able to play in front of a crowd. However, he’s found a different way to play music, share his talents and give back to the community — through livestreams.
Lynch, who grew up in New Jersey and moved in 2005 to Florida, began playing guitar when he was 13. Three years ago, he quit his job as a restaurant server and began playing music full-time.
“I work now at Disney and Universal,” he says. “My main gigs are House of Blues, Margaritaville, Tin Roof and Splitsville. I’ve done some private stuff for Universal and NBC and still have my bar gigs, but that’s my main thing. I do love what I do; I’m super grateful.”
With the theme parks and concert venues — as well as restaurants — shut down for the time being, he needed to find some outlet for his love of music. It wasn’t until his girlfriend, Marie Gilmore, pushed him to play some music out on their balcony that he discovered just what that was.
Lynch has lived in Baldwin Park — above CVS Pharmacy in the Village Center — for two years, and his balcony recently has become his stage. The first time he performed a livestreamed balcony gig, he was playing music with a friend. Ever since the stay-at-home order was enacted, he’s been the solo act.
“We went out here, some people showed up, and then I just started doing it by myself,” he says. “I did like four or five by myself, and there was a good amount of people out there. I kind of give (Marie) credit for it, because I would’ve been just as fine doing it inside, but we have this beautiful sunset on our balcony — we face west and the sun sets right behind it, so it’s a beautiful setting and good-looking backdrop.”
Word spread through his Facebook and Instagram pages, but Lynch says it really took off in Baldwin Park thanks to the NextDoor app.
Currently, Lynch is abiding social-distancing advice and is streaming his gigs from inside his home. For any sunset gigs on the balcony, he encourages people to watch through Facebook Live for the time being.
Those who tune into his streams can chat and make song requests. They also can show their appreciation by donating via Venmo, or at the very least by sharing the video. Lynch donates 10% of his proceeds to Front Line Appreciation Group, also known as FLAG.
“What FLAG basically does is they’re helping the mom-and-pop places out — and the big restaurants, too,” he says. “They go buy, say, 100 plates of spaghetti and meatballs and they bring it to a hospital. Those nurses and doctors, the janitors, everybody that’s working there gets a meal. It’s helping the restaurants, but the main goal is to help the people on the front lines.”
Aside from his own streams, Lynch has been participating in Tin Roof’s 50/50 project. He’s played a few gigs there recently — sans the crowds — and half of what he makes is donated to the Tin Roof staff to help them through these tough times. He can’t wait until the day that empty room can once again be filled with people.
“We’re supposed to be playing in front of crowds,” he says. “That’s what we do. I think what it comes down to is everybody got dealt a bad set of cards. We’ve just got to get out of it and figure it out. Everybody’s doing the best they can.”
When it comes to his opportunity to do these livestreams, he is grateful for the opportunity to play music, bring people together and, most importantly, make a difference.
“The best word I would use would be unexpected,” he says of the balcony gigs in particular. “I did it because I wanted to play music, and I have a beautiful balcony so I wanted to play.
“I feel blessed that I’m able to help someone by singing a song on my balcony and getting requests,” he says. “I think it’s cool to bring people together and forget about how bad everything is right now.”