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New Restrictions Forcing State College Bar Bands To Get Creative Amid Pandemic

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf sent shockwaves through the Commonwealth when he implemented stricter restrictions on the state’s businesses, including bars and restaurants.

The new limitations say bars may now allow up to 50% capacity, but alcohol may not be served after 11 p.m. and every customer must finish their last drink by midnight. This practice is in place with hopes to discourage large crowds at bars, but it has had serious impacts on local bands.

Jason Olcese (better known simply as Jason O), the frontman for beloved bar band and THON staple My Hero Zero, says he’s directly felt the impacts of state restrictions on bars and restaurants.

“There’s only one band member who’s currently preforming at the bars, he’s been doing duos at The Phyrst and at Doggie’s,” Olcese said. “He said that what it’s done is it’s definitely effected the hours and shortened the amount of time and availability at shows.

“Bars have cut back on entertainment again. They’re not hiring full bands at all. I don’t think it’s allowed. My Hero Zero hasn’t performed in a bar since February,” Olcese added.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted musicians immensely, as few concert venues are open and most in-person concerts have all been postponed or canceled. But that hasn’t stopped musicians from using this time to make some new music or start new projects.

“Personally, I have experienced the pandemic a little bit differently. I actually have really appreciated the opportunity to turn my focus to video,” Olcese said. “We had been playing three shows a week for ten years. So overnight, I turned my attention to making original music, and I launched a solo project called JAOH, and now that I’ve got that up and running, I’m gonna be doing an album, and My Hero Zero is actually doing our second album.”

Olcese said the band is using its newfound free time to create new content that’ll be ready to go once things settle down again soon.

“Step one for handling that is I’m opening up a studio called Happy Valley Song Lab, and as soon as that’s up and running, I’m going to be working on JAOH originals and we’re going to be working on My Hero Zero original music — just continuing to move forward, so that when the bars do reopen, we’re much further down the path of creating content,” Olcese said.

Handling the outbreak has challenged a lot of musicians both financially and mentally as well. Olcese explained how he’s handled himself in that regard.

“The pandemic has a much different reality for everybody. Some people are in a financial situation where they have to play and they feel comfortable doing it, and they’re finding any availability to play that they can,” Olcese said. “Some people, because of health risks, don’t want to play at all. In fact, I’d say a lot of musicians in this town are in the ‘don’t want to play’ category.”

With coronavirus cases only rising here in Happy Valley, this seems to be reality for local bar bands for the foreseeable future. Next time you see a band like My Hero Zero take the stage, though, make sure you give them the loudest round of applause you can.

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About the Author

Charles Reinert

Charles Reinert is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. He hails from Norristown, Pennsylvania and is an avid Philadelphia sports fan. He loves playing his guitar, the color blue, and Tetris. If you feel the need to give him any positive or negative feedback, you can follow him on Twitter @charles_rein10 or email him at [email protected]

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