When you watch singer-songwriter Nancy Atlas and her band play live — with the guest performers, the jokes, the personal touches, the fun, and oh my God, that voice — half of you wonders why the hell she isn’t one of the biggest stars in the world.
And the other half hopes she never is. Because then we would have to share.
Known for her connection to her Montauk home, her Pirate Queen badass persona, and heartfelt yet catchy original songs sprinkled with a touch of the sea, Atlas, like many other professional performers on the East End, is looking across a vast ocean of canceled show dates.
But Atlas isn’t fazed by that: “It is in the nature of every professional artist to be a shark, to always be moving and to always be creating. So, on some level, this doesn’t knock us so far off, because we’ve always done that. It’s almost like ‘Welcome to our pool,’” she said.
“Within these guidelines, we’ve had to take something that was intangible, and now put it into a tangible form. We’re all in the same boat,” she continued.
And that won’t stop her from having a little raunchy Friday night fun.
Atlas has launched “Friday Night Hustle,” her popular brand, as a free YouTube event, featuring her band, along with a bevy of cameos.
Taking a course in understanding YouTube was one of the highlights of the past two months, she said with a smile. “Six weeks ago, I didn’t even know what I’m doing, I’ve never done a live broadcast before.”
The hardest part of the online stuff, she professed, is that “with 25 years of live shows under my belt, you pretty much know everything that can go wrong. So many of us, we’re aware that you have to learn through the mire and thorns of it all — and at this point, you walk out on stage, and there’s very little that can ruffle you. Because you’ve had it happen. You’ve had your fake hairpiece fall off and clip itself to the back of your pants so it looks like you have a literal horse tail,” she said, laughing. “You’re prepared for anything in a live show, because it’s happened to you or someone you know.”
But now, with the internet, “I feel like I’m thrown back into an amateur status. That is absolutely, without a doubt, the most frustrating part. I hate it, and I refuse to sit in it. That’s why I’m trying to learn at Mach speed.”
Still every Friday night at 8, visitors to her YouTube channel can participate in part concert/part ’70s variety show as Atlas brings in snippets of locals like Richard Holub, who offers a hilarious segment about hair during the time of coronavirus, and fellow performer Inda Eaton, baking bread in her kitchen with “godless heathen flour,” instead of her usual choice of “tree hugger flour.”
Food is always a part of the evening, which is for adults only.
And don’t even get me started on “Nipple Man.”
It’s a roller-coaster ride to watch, with Atlas and her band singing, performing skits and music, reading, taking live questions, and offering shout-outs through the YouTube comments section, which has all the camaraderie and comfort factor of being in the audience at a real Atlas concert.
“There are so many factors that will try to beat you down doing your art on a good day,” she said. “I just refused for a virus to come along and stop me from putting on a show. What propelled me to do this was the people who have supported me.”
As far as these weird times we’re living in, Atlas and her husband, Thomas Muse, are home most of the time, with their three children, and Atlas is homeschooling, just like all the other local parents. “We’re maybe a little luckier than others,” she said, since it’s been a standing date for the family to go away for a month or so in the dead of winter. “We’re used to being together.”
Still, “It’s hard to wrap your head around the totality of this,” Atlas said of the pandemic. “I mean, a week, a month — we can take it. But it seems like every time you watch or listen, it’s extended for another year. It’s like when you go on the internet to look up your symptoms if you’re sick — you have six weeks to live.”
But back to the YouTube live shows, which can be seen on Atlas’s YouTube channel, natlas27. Past themes have been Jazzfest, a Western Grill Birthday Bonanza (for Atlas’s birthday in April), Mexican Fiesta night, and a Soul Food Special. As many as 200 people or more will gather to watch each event, sending notes of encouragement, not only to Atlas, but to each other.
“I feel like it’s very community driven, and it’s morphing into what it will become. I feel humbled,” she said. “You’re not even seeing the messages I’m getting on my phone —” she stopped for a minute, as the badass Pirate Queen took a break, and Nancy Atlas was overcome with emotion.
We paused together.
“You’re not seeing the person who’s home alone, who hasn’t left their house in six weeks, who says, ‘I’ve forgotten how to laugh,’” she continued.
“Do I need to be putting on a bright pink wig and throwing clams in front of my house? No. But I think absurd times call for absurd measures, and if we can cast a lifeline or a buoy for people to hold onto right now, that’s what it’s about,” she said.
For more information, visit www.nancyatlas.com.