Adam Hand, Annie Hoffman and Sonia Sturino of Weakened Friends at the end of their digital concert on April 4. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

On a recent Saturday night, I got ready to see some live music, but the prep didn’t involve donning a sharp outfit, making sure my ticket was in my wallet or on my phone and ensuring I had sufficient funds to purchase my usual single Jameson on the rocks. There was also no fretting about a parking space or long lines to get through security. All I had to do was plop down on my couch and click a few keys on my laptop.

But skipping these rituals actually made me feel quite sad, considering the uncertainty about when we’ll be able to assemble again for live concerts. That sadness, however, evaporated at the strike of 7 p.m. that night – April 4 – when I logged onto Facebook and live-streamed a digital concert by Portland band Weakened Friends, presented by the State Theatre and 98.9 WCLZ.

 

Sonia Sturino of Weakened Friends TV photo by Aimsel Ponti

The show was called Where the Heart Is, because the musicians were playing in the home of two its members. Weakened Friends is singer/guitarist Sonia Sturino, bassist/singer Annie Hoffman and drummer Adam Hand. Sturino and Hoffman, who are married, share a home in Portland, and Hand, who lives in Boston, has been taking refuge there for the past few weeks, while the band works on its next album.

Weakened Friends played a dozen songs, including four new ones. They opened with “Peel” from 2018’s “Common Blah,” and I was instantly astounded by how stellar the sound was, which I later learned is likely because Hoffman and Hand are both audio engineers. Four cameras were used, with Hoffman in the kitchen, Hand in the living room and Sturino set up in a bedroom to prevent audio bleed from the drums. The fourth camera was called the Cat Cam, and it would occasionally pan to felines Sid and Babs, who were sequestered in their own room for the duration of the show.

Sturino said that the logistics of pulling off the show took a tremendous amount of practice and preparation, especially during the three days leading up to it. Mic lines were run all over the house, even through the floors to guitar amps in the basement. They recorded rehearsal runs of the show with music software Pro Tools to get the mix just right and used an audio console to remotely control things from an iPad.

Annie Hoffman of Weakened Friends TV photo by Aimsel Ponti TV photo by Aimsel Ponti

The forethought paid off in spades. The show may have even sounded better than when I’ve seen the band at an actual venue. Plus I didn’t have to worry about having someone tall blocking my view or getting elbowed as I jumped off the couch several times to rock out in front of the TV (where I was casting the show).

Sturino said that she and her bandmates were thrilled with the amount of donations and merchandise sales that happened over the course of the performance. “We’re all out of work right now, and Annie and I have absolutely no income other than what the band can pull in.”

At one point there were more than 450 fans streaming the show and several people commented during it, which the band loved seeing. “It made us all feel super warm inside,” said Sturino.

When the show ended I felt the kind of satisfaction usually felt when I’m leaving a venue. Turns out, so did the band. “Honestly, it was the first thing in a long time that made us feel normal. I truly felt like all our friends were there with us and it really was so special,” said Sturino. She added that, for the rest of the evening, she and Hoffman shared that “weird excited feeling that keeps you up at night after you play a really big show.”

Weakened Friends is working on a new album and will soon be releasing an acoustic EP. Keep an eye on their Instagram stories (@weakenedfriends) for studio footage. The band is locally based but has toured nationally and in Europe and played the prestigious Boston Calling music festival in 2018.

I’ll end with this reminder: If you’re able, please support the local bands you love in any way you can including tips during live streams and buying their merchandise. I look forward to high-fiving you at a show down the road.

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