By Barbara McMurray, Special to the Independent
Since arriving in the U.S. from Manchester, England in 2000, Jason Feddy has made a name for himself in South Orange County as a unique hyphenate: a singer-songwriter-cantor-humorist-activist. Before COVID-19, the Leeds native was a staple of the local radio waves, high-spirited fundraisers, and pub stages. Performances at indoor venues have been paused, but the show goes on. For four hours every Sunday afternoon on Facebook Live, Feddy showcases his singing, guitar skills, and witty, stream-of-consciousness banter with his wife, Ava Burton, also from Leeds, seated nearby, cracking wise and acting as production assistant.
The show, is dubbed “Pageant of the Mattress,” a Feddy-esque twist on the absent Laguna Beach summer institution and the musician’s dubious claim that, given the chance, he prefers to lie down for a snooze.
The gigs came about out of pure necessity. As lockdown began, Feddy was reluctant to do online concerts.
“I’m 54, not particularly tech-savvy, and a bit lazy, especially when there’s a bed within sleeping distance,” he joked.
But with both their incomes suddenly dried up – Burton works for Laguna Beach Live!, also thrown into uncertainty – they faced financial peril if they didn’t think fast.
“When physical gigs went away, honestly, we were trying to squeeze as much cash as possible out of each Sunday,” he said. “We have a kind and understanding landlord and our overheads are low, but how to make ends meet?”
In the first few months of taking his busking online, Feddy notes, people were very generous with tips via Venmo and PayPal.
“I don’t know how we would have made it without our ‘Mattress’ viewers and other virtual gigs,” he noted. Feddy and his seven-member Joe Cocker tribute band, Mad Dogs and the Englishman, were hired to get together on a sound stage in Foothill Ranch on a hot July day to film their contribution to the Laguna Art Museum’s Sept. 26 online fundraising bash. The triumphant, 75-minute audience-less show can be viewed on YouTube.
The first shows, when lockdown time passed slowly, were five hours long. They started at noon Pacific time, 8 p.m. in his homeland, with a mix of cover tunes, old songs and new, but the most popular request is for his original songs. They now start at 1 p.m.
Their online show has reconnected Feddy and Burton with friends from across time and across the globe. He is delighted that it has also put viewers in touch with each other in Israel, where he has played extensively, the U.K., and the U.S.
“While I’m playing, people are not only chatting with Ava and making requests, they are also firing jokes and messaging each other. Those conversations can be the most fun of all,” he said. “They make the shows more intimate and immediate than a live audience show.”
The couple is a kind of George Burns and Gracie Allen of the internet, with a musical soundtrack. Burton, he said, “keeps me real. She’s very funny. People love that she’s there. It would be a very different show without her. While I’m playing, pouring my heart out, baring my very soul, Ava is responding to messages and giggling under her breath. This is most distracting and disrespectful,” he said, adding, “people love it and so do I.”
“It’s not a polished performance. Right now, I think that’s what people most enjoy,” he commented. “I’ve watched others fail because, frankly, they’re trying too hard to deliver a perfect performance. You’d think people would want happy songs during lockdown. The U.K. is still on it, for the most part. But I get asked to play a lot of Leonard Cohen.”
Barbara is a writing, communications, and marketing professional. Find her at mcmurraymarketing.com.