The Ballroom Thieves album “Unlovely.” “Vague à l’âme” painting by Hélène Delmaire , Art design by Charlie Wagers

Maine-based folk rock act The Ballroom Thieves released its third album, “Unlovely,” on Valentine’s Day. A few weeks later, COVID-19 came calling and the album release show scheduled to take place at Port City Music Hall in April was canceled, as was their entire tour.

But on Friday, the band will play together, on stage, for the first time since then, in a show that will be livestreamed from an empty State Theatre.

The band is Martin Earley (guitar, vocals), Calin “Callie” Peters (bass, cello, vocals) and Devin Mauch (percussion, vocals). Earley and Peters, who are engaged, live on the midcoast and Mauch is in Portland. Each has reacted differently to the experience of releasing an album, then a few weeks later, having the world radically change.

Mauch said that the timing was a heartbreaking combination. “We had worked on ‘Unlovely’ for the better part of 18 months and looked forward to what was shaping up to be our best year yet on the touring and festival circuits.” But he also appreciated that they’re all safe and healthy. “This time has been all about growing for me, growing and learning.”

Peters said that there’s really no way to cope with essentially skipping over a piece of work they poured everything into. Her muse, however, won’t be silenced. “It’s easy to throw our hands up on the whole thing, but the songs keep just coming, even when I’m stubbornly avoiding music.”

Peters’ coping mechanisms include activism, crying in her dog Bagel’s arms, growing a garden and writing more songs. “It’s a depressing moment in our lives, on top of the already sad reality of what we are as a species, and the state of human rights in 2020, not to mention the deadly virus we can’t even agree is killing us. ”

Earley finds it strange and unproductive to complain about the band’s hardships. “There’s too much generational suffering and sorrow on display to aptly put our grievances into context.” But feeling that and mourning what’s been lost as a band aren’t mutually exclusive.

“The saddest part about the timing of ‘Unlovely’ is that we’ll never get to hit the reset button on a release campaign that went up in flames before it really even began.” But, in the end, Earley said there are much more pressing matters at hand these days.

The Ballroom Thieves, left to right, Devin Mauch, Martin Earley and Calin Peters. Photo by Anthony Mulcahy

I had planned to write about “Unlovely” soon after it dropped in February, but was thwarted even before the coronavirus had taken hold in Maine, when walking across Casco Bay Bridge on my way to an interview with the band at a local coffee shop, I was badly bit by a dog and ended up at urgent care. But I’ll tell you now that it’s an album rich with compelling songs both lyrically and musically that punch holes in the patriarchy (“Homme Run”), skewer the president (“Vanity Trip”) and celebrate love (“Love Is Easy”) over the course of 11 tracks. “Unlovely” also hops all over the genre map, from folk to rock and even throwback lounge-y on the song “Don’t Wanna Dance.”

Support the band by picking up a copy, along with other items available in their online store (ballroomthieves.com). You can also make donations during the Friday night livestream.

The Ballroom Thieves rely heavily on touring for their income, and Mauch said that it’s been a major adjustment. “Thankfully there were many opportunities for artist relief and of course the government aid to help keep things afloat but it’s still been difficult to navigate and a bit scary to think about the future for bands like us,” he explained. Mauch was also quick to thank his network of friends and family who have offered support.

Peters summed it up in one sentence: “It’s a mess, but we’re privileged people, and our situation is fine, comparatively.”

All three Thieves lamented about not being able to be out on the road, saying they miss even the less savory parts like greasy food and grungy hotel rooms. But they especially miss seeing fans and friends around the country and, of course, playing the shows.

Earley and Peters have done a handful of streaming shows, and Earley said that although they’re thankful for the donations and online connections, livestreams will never replace live shows.

“We didn’t become musicians to sit in front of a screen and sing acoustic tunes into a garbled computer microphone, you know? Livestreams are like non-alcoholic beer: sure, they serve a purpose, but they’ll never be a legitimate replacement for the thing they’re trying to emulate.” Peters also said that virtual shows aren’t ideal. “I’m just a recording artist and a stage performer, and I don’t want to, or maybe can’t, switch my craft to exist online.”

But the fact remains, The Ballroom Thieves have a new album to celebrate, albeit differently, not to mention two previous ones and several EPs and singles. Will watching the livestream be the same as being at the show be in person? Obviously not. But it will have to do, for now.

The Ballroom Thieves livestream
8 p.m. Friday. State Theatre Facebook page.

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