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Cleveland's Mourning [A] BLKstar Drops New Album 'The Cycle'

Cleveland funk and R&B band Mourning [A] BLKstar was to perform at a Bernie Sanders' rally back in March in front of thousands, but it was canceled due to early Covid-19 concerns.

Members of Mourning [A] BLKstar pose onstage at the Bernie Sanders rally on March 12, which was canceled just hours before beginning due to COVID-19 concerns. [Mourning [A] BLKstar]

The gig was to begin a series of major events for this local act already on its way to national recognition.

The month of May was going to be a busy one for Mourning [A] BLKstar as its fifth album, "The Cycle," was set to release, accompanied by an international tour, album release party and new music video.

Mourning [A] BLKstar [Odin Blak]

Plans changed.

"We had about 18 shows on the books that all were canceled," said drummer and guitarist Pete Saudek. He's in charge of the band's tour gigs, which involved traveling the East Coast and Midwest and then on into Canada.

"We have to work with the fact that there's going to be no in-person experience for this release. There are not going to be any shows around it. That's really tough for us. We love playing live," Saudek said.

James Longs [Mourning [A] BLKstar]

As one of the band's three lead singers, James Longs arranges vocals for Mourning [A] BLKstar. He says before the pandemic, the band was establishing itself nationally.

"To go from playing in the basement of Mahall's to touring with all these bands that have a huge following and have a good reputation. Then after doing South by Southwest, and being put on the list of one of the top 100 bands, it's skyrocketing pretty quickly, " Longs said.

Kyle Kidd [Mourning [A] BLKstar]

However, since the cancellation of the March 12th Sanders rally, the eight members of the band have sheltered at home, unable to rehearse let alone perform.

LaToya Kent [Mourning [A] BLKstar]

"Our weekly practices, they're a ritual at this point, it's like church for all of us. We're a big band, so being eight, it really doesn't allow us to gather," Saudek said.

And as the gig cancellations came in for the band members, their day jobs changed drastically as well.

Dante Foley [Mourning [A] BLKstar]

Saudek works at the Beck Center for the Arts where he's the community engagement manager.

"What can I say? There's not nearly as much for me to do. So some of my hours have been reduced just because of the nature of my position," Saudek said.

Saudek had recently left a full-time job and taken the part-time position at the Beck to give him more time to concentrate on Mourning [A] BLKstar.

Pete Saudek [Mourning [A] BLKstar]

"Personally, it's a huge adjustment to think about what this coming year looks like for me when I just made some major changes in my life. I'm definitely really bummed about it," Saudek said.

Like Saudek, most of the band members have had hours at their day jobs significantly reduced.

The one exception is singer James Longs, who began picking up hours at his flexible, part-time job at the Cleveland Clinic as a patient transporter.

James Longs outside of the Cleveland Clinic's Marymount Hospital in Garfield Heights where he works. [James Longs]

"The patients that we have, a lot of them are tested positive for COVID-19. So I find myself on the front lines, taking patients, helping them move from section to section, go to their tests, etc." Longs said.

One day a patient asked Longs to wheel her past her husband on the way back to her room. Both were positive for COVID-19.

"I rolled her down, and in that other bay was her husband. He's a big strong elderly man, and he's completely unconscious. He's got the tubes down his throat, assisting him in breathing. She gets out of the chair, and she walks into the room, steps over all these cords, walks up next to him and just touches his forehead and touches his hand. She whispers in his ear, and you can just see the lifetime they'd spent together," Longs said.

Given Longs' experiences at the Clinic, the members of Mourning [A] BLKstar have put their music into perspective.

William Washington [Mourning [A] BLKstar]

"Of course I'm bummed not to do exactly what I want to do right now, but I'm still here, I'm breathing, I'm healthy and I'm really grateful for that too," Saudek said.

So for now, the members of Mourning [A] BLKstar keep their creative muscles moving.

Theresa May [Mourning [A] BLKstar]

"I'm just suggesting that everybody in the band take this time to recoup, be energetic, embrace the fact that you miss performing and you miss creating the work, so that when the time comes we'll be ready to go and do whatever it takes to get back to the success that we've had," Longs said.

Mourning [A] BLKstar "If I Can If I May" music video produced in partnership with ideastream's Applause Performances team [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

Despite no tour, Mourning [A] BLKstar dropped its new album, "The Cycle," from Don Giovanni records this month.

"The Cycle" album cover [Mourning [A] BLKstar]




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