During 2020’s lockdown, Dream Syndicate bandleader Steve Wynn conquered the art of streaming concerts online from his living room. But after uploading over 30 shows, mostly via Facebook, he and his percussionist wife Linda Pitmon grew weary of filming themselves on a tripod-mounted iPad, sitting on their couch, often next to piles of dirty laundry, even though as many as 5,000 people were watching. This week, the couple is changing the game via the online platform StageIt, webcasting their 13-show Impossible Tour featuring hour-long performances staged at their Chimp Factory rehearsal space in Queens to approximate their favorite worldwide clubs. It opens Jan. 17, virtually, at Germi in Milan, Italy, and closes Feb. 28 at New York’s Mercury Lounge.
How did you come up with this smoke-and-mirrors Impossible Tour concept?
Whenever I talk about this stuff, I feel kind of sheepish to complain that I can’t tour, because people have much bigger problems, and I know that. But it is a hard thing when you’ve spent your entire life doing exactly that. There’s a joy in connecting with people in real time, traveling from place to place — just the randomness and the adventure of the whole thing. I’ve done this for 40 years now, and Linda and I tour a lot — she tours on her own, I tour on my own, and we tour together. We’re kind of road monsters. But we never got a rehearsal space before because we tour so much.
You finally found one in your New York neighborhood last spring?
Yes. We started renting this place March 1, and we moved in all full of piss and vinegar, got all of our gear in, set things up, and 10 days later, everything went belly up, especially here in Queens. Out of everywhere in the country, Queens got hit the hardest, immediately. So we suddenly had this room that we couldn’t go to for three months. But now I can walk here, and it’s a couple of miles from home, and it’s a nice refuge for the two of us. And now we have it for these shows, which is great. And Linda really threw herself into decorating. And because we can’t go to clubs and see things we love, we just created our favorite nightclub here.
For each upcoming show, you’re going to turn the Chimp Factory into a different venue, with specific songs and stage banter streamlined for each audience?
And it’s going to turn into a cocktail lounge and a snack bar, too, all in one 14-foot by 20-foot space. These shows will be almost like hosting a party, even though they’re live from Queens. So at five o’clock in New York this Sunday, we’ll be in Milan, as far as we’re concerned, playing Germi, this cultural center, cocktail bar, and bookstore all in one that’s run by the biggest rock band in Italy called The Afterhours, who are friends of mine. And at six o’clock we’ll stop and have a snack, and then at eight o’clock we’ll be in Cleveland, virtually playing the Beachland Ballroom. And we’ll be trying to create the feeling — between the stories that we tell and maybe a cover song that we do — that we’re actually in these places.
You have a new single, as well, “Strummer and Jones,” recorded at a shack-sized studio in Jamaica?
That track sat around for seven years, but I kept thinking I should put it out as a B-side or something. But now seemed like a really good time, so I put it out on Bandcamp, [which] has just been a godsend for musicians. They’ve made it easy to put things up spontaneously, so you can write a song on Thursday night and put it up on Friday morning. But when the pandemic hit, I saw some musicians just stop and do nothing, while others recorded a lot of stuff and put it up on Bandcamp. And I paint, so I did a lot of paintings and sold some of those. But I actually released four records last year, solo and Dream Syndicate, and that — plus the 30 shows we played from our apartment — gave me the feeling that I was still doing stuff.
So far, 2021 is starting off fairly busy with the Impossible Tour.
It was just a crazy idea. But you try to find things to do to keep the ideas, creativity, and whimsical notions flowing, until you can actually go out on the road again.