Musicians return to the Gabe’s stage for crowdless concert series No Touching Sessions

No Touching Sessions 05: Kane Edwards + Tomato Boy

Threshold Apprehension Sound (@Threshold.Apprehension.Sound, -- Thursday, June 18 at 8 p.m.

No Touching Sessions 06: In the Mouth of Radness

Threshold Apprehension Sound (@Threshold.Apprehension.Sound, -- Thursday, June 25 at 8 p.m.

Kane Edwards performs during the 2019 Grey Area Festival at Flat Black Studios. Edwards will headline his own “crowdless concert” on Thursday, June 18. — Jason Smith/Little Village

There have been some major quarantines in history brought on by plagues — yellow fever, Ebola, infectious tuberculosis and now, COVID-19. There has also been a lot of innovation to come from all that time alone. I was today years old when I found out on that Issac Newton developed his theory of gravity during 18 months of quarantine when the bubonic plague hit. It’s even rumored that William Shakespeare wrote King Lear during that same plague.

These past examples show that today’s artists navigating COVID-19 are, to quote Pope John the XVI, “not new to this, they are true to this.” It’s no surprise that the artists in Iowa City are finding creative ways to build community and keep the music scene alive.

Crystal Sherman of Threshold Apprehension Sound, organizer of the No Touching Sessions, and Kane Edwards, who takes the stage for the June 18 edition of the series, had some amazing insights on community-building during quarantine.

No Touching Sessions was born from a desire to keep the music scene alive, Sherman said. Since the series kicked off on May 21 with Jim Swim (all of the shows are archived at, the goals have been evolving beyond her initial effort to share a virtual concert experience.

“The No Touching Sessions was a direct effect of COVID-19 shutting down local live venues,” Sherman said. “The ‘crowdless concert’ series didn’t exist before the pandemic and social distancing. I’m an audio engineer, not a promoter, but the conditions were right for me to take on this project.”

Sherman conceived of the project as “a CDC-compliant alternative to livestreaming from your phone in your bedroom,” she said. She and her co-producer, Dan Miller, had the equipment, access to space at Gabe’s in Iowa City — and, with the pandemic closing all the venues, time to spare.

“We both work production for live events full-time, and those events have gone away indefinitely,” Sherman said. “We’ve been focusing on solo/duo acts to minimize load-in/load-out time, and we can quickly record the set and do the bulk of the audio/video editing and broadcasting remotely at home. We use condenser mics so the musicians don’t have to touch anything except their own gear.”

Due to the pandemic, many of us are going stir crazy, missing our daily connections, missing community. These stressors, along with the many unknowns during a pandemic, can cause us to crave normalcy and escape. One thing Sherman knows is that community is essential.

“The sudden unknown has thrust most everyone into a new headspace,” she said. “New ideas are one of the positive effects of the current unknowns. Community seems to simply be taking shape rather than being built. It’s amazing and necessary.”

We have all heard the axiom that teamwork makes the dream work. Community, after all, is a group of people with a common goal. Sherman makes sure to note that, in bringing this project together, she was not alone; there was a lot of support along the way.

“This is a group effort — bouncing ideas off each other, brainstorming in the backyard. Gabe’s has been awesome letting us use the space. Working with all of the artists again is wonderful, and the response from the community has been fantastic. People just want to be involved and contribute to a cool thing.”

Sherman and her team are encouraged to continue the series as long as the audiences and artists are still interested in it.

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“It’s still really fun,” she said. “It just came together organically out of a need to keep doing music when we couldn’t mass-gather to do it.”

One of those interested artists is Kane Edwards, who has been playing guitar for 19 years, ever since he saw Courtney Love perform in Hole as a child. He kept that same fun-loving energy in his own music, writing songs that live in the spaces between rock and pop punk.

“I’m not actually sure what powerpop is, but maybe it’s that?” Edwards said. “Most of the songs are pretty lighthearted and silly, and then there’s a few that are more personal, emotional-type of songs.”
Edwards says he is stretching his performative wings with the No Touching Sessions.

“It’s weird to be performing at all. This is really the only event I’ve actually done in months,” he said. “I get kind of nervous knowing I’m being filmed, and it’s weird to not have an in-person audience. Still, I’m very excited to be doing the No Touching Sessions. It’s been a fun thing to practice for and to look forward to.”

In the Mouth of Radness performs at Public Space One on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The band will participate in the sixth No Touching Sessions on Thursday, June 25, 2020. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Edwards offered an endearing answer to the question of who he would like to reach with these performances.

“I’d like to reach … cool people that I would want to hang out with,” Edwards said. “I guess my audience is really just my few handfuls of friends, which is pretty sicknasty. I do really want to go on tours again, someday when it’s safe to travel and play shows, and get to meet more awesome people and bands out of state.”

Edwards agrees with Sherman that building community during such strange times is essential.

“I think it’s definitely important to be staying in touch with everyone and supporting each other in whatever way is possible. Although it’s not quite the same, I am really thankful that people are still trying to do these online-type of shows, just to keep the music community up and running in some way.”

Creativity, innovation, building community and facing unknowns can all seem daunting. Sherman and Edwards have found ways not only to stay motivated, but also to stay positive, all while walking in the purpose of bringing people together for something positive. Music is a balm for the soul, and Iowa City is lucky to have such dedicated creatives committed to sharing their gifts with the lot of us.

Diviin Huff is an actress, poet and clothing store co-manager in Iowa City. She supports local art and local artists, and encourages positive energy. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter @Diviin. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 283.