Jill Fiore and band spent an hour on Fiore’s fire escape on the Lower East Side’s Essex Street Oct. 28 rocking out to the delight of fans, neighbors and passersby, but it took a whole lot of time and energy to get there.
Fiore, who created the “Fiore Escape” two years ago after recovering from COVID and facing a lockdown of her usual venues, wanted to inspire as well as entertain her fellow New Yorkers. This homemade production was number five and even though she had done it before, putting on the show involved a solid month of planning.
Acting as her own producer, Fiore relied on a team of tech people that included Alex Nizet (lead sound engineer), Mike Scribner (contractor), Mike Weiman (drone operator), Carissa Johnson (video and additional assistance) and Brian Solon (original lighting and sound system creator).
“This event is so special to me that I only use people whose level of commitment and involvement blows me away,” said Fiore. “I put a great team together. It’s my Fiore Escape family .”
“However, there are constantly obstacles that pop up,” she added. Not the least of those roadblocks was the fact that her employment status changed drastically around the time that she decided to do the show.
“It’s not that I lost my job,” Fiore announced between songs, “they lost me.”
While she had previously funded the concerts out of her own pocket, that was no longer an option. She might have cancelled had a friend not suggested a GoFundMe campaign, which met its goal and made it possible for the show to go on.
“It felt strange asking for money,” she admitted, “but I was shocked and moved by how many people wanted to make this happen. I got contributions from people who are not even in the city. I realized how much it meant to people.”
“There’s always fear and anxiety before a show,” Fiore confessed, “but I felt I felt a deeper connection with the audience as a result of the GoFundMe success.”
The neighborhood businesses supported her as well: “My everyday coffee shop, Creme, stayed open late, Delancey car service lent us chairs, the nail salon shut off their awning lights…. I’m very grateful to everyone.”
The band pulled through as well, with two out of the three players having their own problems to deal with.
Derek Cruz was playing guitar with two broken ribs while Hector Lopez had to borrow an electric drum set as his was damaged in a recent flood. Luckily Joan Chew, the bass player, had no complaints and the band rocked as if all that mattered was the music.
“It’s always chaos before one of these shows,” said Fiore. “But the minute I step out there, I don’t want it to end.”
The band played mostly Fiore originals with a few well chosen covers, including a fresh arrangement of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” While most of her tunes are available on all the streaming services, Fiore also included two unrecorded pieces, “All The Time In The World” and “When It Comes To You.”
The audience grew as the show went on, as passersby stopped and stayed. Delphine Le Goff, a new fan, relished not only the music but the whole experience.
“Jill is uber-talented,” she proclaimed, “and it felt like being in a movie. It was magical — something that only happens in New York City. There was a true moment of camaraderie with the crowd.”
Which is exactly what Fiore was up to.
“I always wanted to live in NY because it’s magic,” she explained. “To be one of those people who creates a real New York moment is the most rewarding feeling in the world.”
When Fiore talks about these shows, she mentions themes of inspiration, resilience, patience, determination and passion, all of which are evident in her music and her resolve to continue the Fiore Escape concerts.
Responding to noise complaints — a first, possibly due to the addition of a drummer — the NYPD came by towards the end but let her finish the final tune before having a chat with Fiore.
“I told them that I was doing the show for the people and they let me off with a warning. As he left, one of the cops said, ‘ I really like that last song’,” Fiore added.
Fiore hopes that she’ll be doing it again in a more official way, possibly as a block party that involves more of her community. And she’s not expecting that to be easy.
“Everything worthwhile that you do, there’s going to be obstacles and challenges,” she noted. “But if you believe in it, you have to keep going.”