On Feb. 13, the Fulton Street Collective in Chicago hosted a virtual performance as a tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, led by singer Sally Blandon.
The Valentine’s Day show wasn’t only a tribute to Winehouse, but also dedicated to mental health awareness and to the arts —free for all to attend.
They offered raffles to be won, shirts and hoodies to be bought and suggestions as to what to eat for dinner.
During the pandemic, the FSC art incubator has managed over 125 livestream performances on their official YouTube channel and on eventbite.com for more than a year. The collective has been around for 18 years.
Fulton Street Collective plays host to jazz music the majority of the performances, so when Blandon raised the idea of operating this tribute they hoped people would tune in for the show.
“It’s really Sally’s baby as far as her ideas, her band, her promotion and the way she has chosen to take on these subjects and try to light on them,” FSC event manager Chris Anderson said.
For Blandon, a 36 year-old vocalist and educator and producer, the Amy Winehouse Tribute Livestream was her first project as a producer. She wanted to share Winehouse’s story and be able to paint a different image of her outside how she was portrayed in media after her death, with song about substance abuse and mental illness. Songs like “Back to Black,” “Rehab,” “Stronger Than Me, Mr. Jones” and “Tears Dry On Their Own” were performed by her and a band of talented artists.
Blandon curated the music, hired music director Victor Garcia who’s also the trumpet player, had some branding assistance yet most of the marketing was done by her. She has been doing the Valentine’s Day performance once every year, this show was the third and, she plans on doing it yearly.
The performers were masked and maintained social distancing as much as they could on stage, which they sanitized regularly throughout the night while giving an energized show. As this was an Amy Winehouse tribute, Blandon took on the appearance of the late singer, adding Winehouse’s sass to the show.
Throughout the evening, music originally written by Winehouse was jazzed up to suit the different approach Blandon was trying to make.
“Amy does a really awesome version of ‘There Is No Greater Love,’ but I had envisioned starting out with her version and then morphing into some big band jazz feels,” said Blandon on Friday.
As they do with all of their performances, they had a visual artist Esperanza Salgado, painting or sketching the band that played and portraits of Winehouse to be sold.
Blandon continued to remind the listeners, the audience, “It’s okay not to be okay,” and help was there if anyone needed it. She is a first responder for mental health. “I feel like It’s an ongoing learning process. Acknowledge those feelings.” said Blandon. At 15 years old, she lost a couple of people to mental illness and substance abuse, soithis tribute went straight to the heart.
There was a moment during the show when the drummer couldn’t use his instrument, so they had to change it. While that was happening, to entertain the viewers, Victor Garcia amused everyone with his dad jokes close to the end of the performance.
Garcia narrated the story of a guy who found a penguin walking around one day. He decides to pick him up and drove around with it not knowing what to do. The guy gets pulled over by a cop who questions why he has a penguin in his car, he replies that he found it and the cop tells him to take it to the zoo. Yet when the same officer finds the penguin and the man together, he questions why hasn’t he taken it to the zoo and he answers, “I did, we had a great time. We’re going to the beach today.”