When the pandemic hit, the first priority for Cherrity Bar owners David Malley and Ernie Bradley was taking care of their employees. When they were able to ensure their staff was taken care of, other priorities became apparent.

By last November, according to Bradley, Cherrity Bar was able to open on a large enough scale to start donating money to causes again and began looking for other ways to help their community.

“My immediate feeling was that the live music part of our community just had nowhere to go,” Bradley said. 

That sparked the idea for a spring concert series, a live, in-person showcase for local music to reemerge after a year of shuttered venues and quiet stages. The weekly Thursday night series kicked off April 1 with the Foreign Arm and has sold out every show since. The success of the series allowed it to extend into the summer, with concerts moving to Saturdays starting in June.

Bradley, 46, said that having spent his “entire life going to concerts” and traveling to see live music has given him a special sense of the value it has in our lives.

“But we don’t know how to book live music or put on a show,” Bradley said. 

That’s when Libby Day came into the picture. Day, founder of local production and media company SATX Music 2010, has vast experience with booking shows, local and otherwise. Most recently, Day worked as marketing manager for the Aztec Theatre.

Day was furloughed from her role at the Aztec last May and laid off in December.

“It was a difficult thing for me to accept and be OK with, but fortunately the community in San Antonio reached out … and Ernie was a part of that,” she said.

Libby Day (right) greets guests at the door and gives them wristbands. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

At the beginning of 2021, Cherrity Bar brought Day in to work on planning events. Given her experience and love for local music, Day and Bradley quickly began discussing possibilities for “COVID-safe” live music. The goal was to produce “something where people could have fun and enjoy live music, but also to be able to breathe and relax,” Bradley said.

For Day, the only way to responsibly produce a show was to utilize an outdoor space, which made the Cherrity Bar an ideal place for her to get back to doing what she does best. With Cherrity Bar’s ample outdoor area, the prospect was not as daunting as it remains for indoor venues.

The team ultimately decided to shut down the back half of the restaurant for the shows and sell tickets for socially distanced tables. Attendees are required to wear masks and there are temperature checks on entry. All of the ticket sale money goes to the bands.

“People are just happy to go see somebody play again,” Bradley said.

The fact that every show thus far has sold out, with a capacity of between 60 and 65 tickets, seems to suggest that he’s right.

“Life can get really humdrum and meaningless when you can’t express yourself,” Bradley said of the predicament of musicians without a stage.

A server at the Cherrity Bar brings an order of burgers to a guest sitting on the outdoor deck. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Day echoed this sentiment, noting a sense of togetherness and appreciation palpable at all of the shows so far.

Michael Carrillo, who played the series on April 8 with his alt-country act Michael J and the Foxes, said that the lead-up to the concert, his first full-band gig in over a year, “felt like playing my first show again.”

“It was kind of a fun feeling to feel,” Carrillo said of the pre-show jitters that he, a veteran of the local music scene, had not experienced in a long time.

He praised the Cherrity Bar team for a well-curated series and careful setup.

“[Day has] done a lot of cool things for a long time, doing the work as a promoter who … has a lot of care towards what she does and wants it to go as well as possible for everyone,” he said.

He added that there is a heightened sense of “how special” it is to be able to perform and experience live music that has resulted in a sort of sharpened attention to “making sure everything is right.”

He said that everyone on his end felt safe with the show and he appreciated the fact that individual seats are being sold for these shows. Carrillo feels like this aspect creates a sort of mutual sense of buy-in between audience and performers.

“After all this time, people are maybe a little more aware of how important it is to support musicians” and just how much value the experience of live music adds to our lives, he said.

The series rolls on Thursday, May 13, with cumbia-funk band, Bombasta. Check out the Cherrity Bar Facebook page for future events.

James Courtney is a freelance arts and culture journalist in San Antonio. He also is a poet, a high school English teacher and debate coach, and a proud girl dad.