In this “new normal” of social distancing when gatherings of no more than 10 people are requested, it makes it very difficult to promote a concert with a telephone interview, especially when the concert has been either canceled or postponed. Such is the case with the octet of bluesmen known as Roomful of Blues.

The band has been performing for more than 50 years now and was scheduled to appear at One Longfellow Square on Friday, April 10, needless to say, that’s not happening but I was curious to discover what a touring band does when they can’t tour. With the help of the group’s label — Alligator Records — I was able to connect with Chris Vachon, who joined the band in 1990 and has been leading it since 1998.

Reached at his office in Rhode Island on the 17th of this month, I asked the guitarist and songwriter how he was doing.
Vachon: Pretty good, pretty good — just sitting in the office doing things and wishing that (sad chuckle) things weren’t the way they are right now.

Q: Tell me about it! The interviews that I set up to do lately haven’t happened because the concerts have been called off for the time being — in fact, that’s the main reason for me calling: to get your take on this situation.
Vachon: Yeah, we’ve been going through this for a couple of weeks now. Luckily everything’s getting rescheduled so people that bought tickets are going to be able to have an opportunity to use them when it’s rescheduled, so that’s a positive thing. The not-positive thing is that the shows are getting canceled and we’re trying to get this record out, but what are you gonna do? (another sad chuckle)

Q: Well, speaking of that “In A Roomful Of Blues” album, I would like to ask you some questions about that CD because it really kicks.
Vachon: Oh, thank you very much — I appreciate that. About a year ago, I started to collect material for it. A good friend and old bandmate of mine, who lives in Florida, and I started writing together, he’s kind of the one that got me trying to do original music years ago. Anyhow, I flew down there with a makeshift studio in a piece of luggage and set it up on a card table at his house, and we just worked every day and ended up with about seven songs, I guess; and then a couple of guys in the band had songs — which was great. I just kept working at it and we finally finished it up and got it out on Friday the 13th of this month (laughter).

Q: I wonder if that’s a sign.
Vachon: Well, I guess — what do you think? I mean, I don’t know, I’m not superstitious, but yeah!

Q: Hey, with a name like “Lucky” I kind of have to lean that way, you know?
Vachon: Right, exactly (laughter)! The whole thing nowadays kind of puts a damper on it, but everybody’s in the same boat so I’m not saying, “Woe is me!” but it took us by surprise. We had a nice couple of months lined up of big shows that we were going to be able to promote the record and sell merchandise, the new CD and all that, and the carpet just got pulled from under us just like that.

Q: Is there anything you can do to recoup a little?
Vachon: Well, what we did yesterday was I got a guy to video us doing “Phone Zombies,” which is a funny song, so I’m trying to put a little thing together for that and get it on YouTube or something. And Sirius XM is going to air a show that we taped a couple of weeks ago when we were in D.C. and it’s coming out tomorrow — they’re gonna play that a few times. We’re also thinking about doing an online concert because that seems to be something we could do where people, even if they’re stuck in a house they can watch it, so I just called the bigger studio that we use and they were interested in doing that with us. So, I’m just trying to come up with things that, in the absence of us being able to actually be playing live in front of people (which is what we like to do the most) is trying to keep the ball rolling.

Q: At least you’re going to be able to keep the band visible in the public eye.
Vachon: Right — out of sight, out of mind! You’ve got to let people know that you’ve got something. So, that’s the way it is. That’s about what I can think of to try to do now, and just hope that it doesn’t last for too long.

Q: Have you heard if they are going to be rescheduling your One Longfellow Square gig?
Vachon: I haven’t heard anything about that one yet. The cancelations have been coming a couple of days before it actually happens.

Q: Have you ever performed at that venue before?
Vachon: Oh, yeah, we’ve done it a bunch of times over the years. It’s a good place, we always have a good time there.

Q: One of the things I like about your band is that fat, rich sound of the horn section — it’s been the trademark of the group for years.
Vachon: Oh, sure — absolutely! Everybody calls it a horn band. I mean (chuckle) there’s been times when people have said, “Well, can’t you guys just come with like four or five of you?” That’s not the band — that’s a closetful not a roomful (laughter on both sides of the call)!

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the readers of this article?
Vachon: Well, just our apologies for not being able to play live lately, but everyone’s in the same boat so I don’t know if that’s worth saying. Maybe just keep the faith and hopefully this will blow over and we’ll get back to normal and hope to see people again because that’s what we do. We’re a live band and we’ve always been, that’s how we get our ya-yas out — getting on a stage and trying to get a reaction from the people. But it is what it is, we’ve got to keep moving forward, that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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