The luckiest people have had their family with them (for better or worse) over the past six months of the coronavirus pandemic. But Josh Allen, head of the Josh Allen Band, has felt he’s been disconnected from his extended family — otherwise known as his fans. The congenial leading man adores the people who become a part of each of his performances, and he looks forward to bringing back some of that normalcy at a show at JV’s Restaurant this Saturday.
“Some of my other musician friends pushback on me calling my performances ‘shows’ instead of ‘gigs,’” Allen said. “To me, a gig is you go, play some music, collect your check and go home. I want to have fun and interact with fans and sing in the audience.”
Present circumstances make that a bit harder now. Allen is friendly to a fault, but he’s had to resist his instinct to get close to fans. As he put it, he doesn’t want to impose his beliefs on them and make them uncomfortable, even if some of them ask him for a hug here and there despite social distancing protocols. And that’s all the more difficult considering his propensity to play every band’s crowd favorite, you-all-know-the-words hits.
That could be Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lodi” or The Kooks’ “Runaway,” Allen shows off his roots as a karaoke singer-turned-artist in each of his sets.
Toe-tapping tunes are also what endeared him to JV’s owner Lorraine Campbell seven years ago when he was still cobbling together a band.
While auditioning a drummer for his group, Allen said Campbell overheard them and asked why more people don’t play these songs. The two got to talking and Allen suggested he could play them at her bar. He had already been warned by another musician friend that it was near impossible to play a destination set at JV’s, and Campbell politely reminded him of how booked up her schedule was for that year.
“So I said, ‘I hear you can pick anyone you want, and that if you play at JV’s, you’ve made it, so I can wait until next year to make it,’” Allen said, recollecting their first interaction in 2013. Campbell chuckled at the quip and agreed to add him to a Saturday show on short notice.
“And then I thought, ‘Damn, now I gotta get a band together.’ And I did and we’ve been there ever since,” Allen added.
Campbell’s favor of giving Allen his start was returned in kind this spring. When the pandemic broke out, he was concerned about how his favorite venue was going to fare. So he started a GoFundMe.com campaign, thinking he’d raise a few hundred, maybe even a $1,000 to help take some of the sting out of the fiscal losses. The campaign wound up raising over $20,000.
The giving didn’t stop there. During the early days of the reopening in the summer, Allen’s band would play Facebook Live shows at JV’s. When people came in to pick up to-go food and tipped his band, he would later give the money to bartenders.
Allen was doing this despite being a casualty of layoffs at his day job. But that’s been compensated by the frequent shows he plays with his band. What was maybe two or three shows a weekend has become a nonstop local touring schedule, particularly because Allen’s group is one of the few that will play indoors.
His extended family seems to be on the same sheet of music as him.
“At first nobody had any idea what was going on, but people are starting to look at the data more and are saying ‘You know what, I’m just gonna start going out,” Allen said. “I hear more and more people who say ‘I’m over this, I just wanna get out here and live my life.’”
The Josh Allen Band will be performing at JV’s Restaurant on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 8:30 p.m.