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Joe LaDore created the Virtual Concert Series supporting Local Businesses Facebook page to not only entertain people during social distancing but support restaurants and other small shops during this time. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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As a part-time musician for more than 20 years, Joe LaDore has spent his fair share of time performing gigs in restaurants and bars. Through his music, he has made many friends in the industry from restaurant owners to bartenders and waitresses to customers and fans.
“When they announced the closing of the bars and restaurants, I knew it would be hard for a lot of friends in the industry,” says Joe, who works full-time as an insurance agent. “I knew I’d lose a little from not playing out, but a lot of good friends are restaurant owners, bartenders, and waitresses were being hit hard.”
After seeing that John Legend decided to stream a virtual concert that was forced to be physically canceled, Joe thought he could try the same thing at a local level. He contacted the owner of Café Amici about performing a livestream gig while promoting the restaurant.
Joe created a Facebook page, Virtual Concert Series Supporting Local Businesses, and reached out to other musicians and other restaurants. With each live-streamed concert, which is then available to watch later on the page, a different business is featured.
“We dedicate our gigs to different restaurants and they might have specials that day,” says Joe. “Takeout is their bread-and-butter now, so we’re trying to encourage people to do that. We’ve expanded to other local businesses, too. I’ve also had new musicians reach out who want to be a part of it.”
Joe grew up in Port Chester, New York, before going to high school in Milford and college at Southern Connecticut State University. It was there that Joe found his passion for music after his freshman year roommate taught him to play guitar.
In 1994, the group Mean Carlene was formed and for the next 20 years, Joe was part of a band that was a regular on the local scene.
“I always loved music but didn’t start playing guitar until I was 18 and with Mean Carlene, it became a big part of my whole life,” says Joe. “I actually met my wife [Kara] at a Mean Carlene gig.”
Mean Carlene also inspired Joe on another project: creating a pilot for a TV show called Cover Band that was loosely based on his experiences of working in an office during the day and performing with a band at night.
While the pilot was created, the bigger project that was born out of it was a documentary, Cover Band: The Making of an Independent Pilot, under Mean Carlene Productions. There was a private premier in December 2018 with a New York City premiere set for this summer.
“Obviously that has been squashed, but we’re talking about doing a virtual world premier,” says Joe. “This will be the first time it’s released to public. Ten years ago, it started as a little independent project where I was going to shoot a TV show pilot and now it’s a 90-minute documentary. There’s a buzz and people want to see it. We’re hoping to get some good feedback and a good response.”
Joe and Kara have been married for nearly 19 years and have two children, Maddie and Dinny. They have lived in North Haven since 2004.
“I’ve now lived here longer than anywhere else I’ve ever lived,” says Joe. “There are so many things I like about this town—our low taxes, our first selectman, and the Whitney Ridge area,” says Joe. “I love the people and the schools system. It’s a great town to live in.”
Not only do Joe’s children attend North Haven schools, but he has a special connection with the principal of the high school, Russ Dallai. While Joe has been playing acoustically for the past six years, he recently teamed up with Dallai, who built and plays a cajón, a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru.
When Dallai isn’t available, Joe has a backup percussionist close to him: his son Dinny. Joe has enjoyed being able to do different gigs with his son. They most recently performed an acoustic set as background meeting for a virtual happy hour fundraiser for HOPE Family Justice Center of Greater New Haven, a group that advocates for victims of domestic violence.
“One of my friends is a coordinator and she asked me to help out. With quarantine there are more calls than ever with domestic violence,” says Joe. “My son and I did five songs. You’ve got to have some sort of camaraderie with your percussionist no matter what kind of band you have and we always seem to be in sync.”
Despite social distancing, Joe is keeping busy between his full-time job as an insurance agent for Safe Harbor Insurance Professionals, an independent agency servicing all of Connecticut, the work on his documentary, and coordinating virtual gigs to benefit local businesses. As the weather has turned nicer, Joe has moved his performances to the front steps of his house and neighbors have gathered at a responsible social distance to enjoy the show.
“It seems like this might be the new norm with outdoor concerts in the neighborhood and something you’ll see more of,” says Joe. “Creating these little outdoor happy hours keeps me sane and it’s a little bit of normalcy to be able to play for a couple hours.”
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