When the coronavirus pandemic emptied Seaside streets and restricted visits to retirement homes, local pianist and busker Bob Goldstick lost the audiences he loved to entertain.
The veteran of piano bars and busking turned to Twitch, an online streaming platform more synonymous with video gamers, and amassed a global audience until he was recently hacked and went offline.
After a short break, Goldstick plans to start “safe busking” in April from his studio in the Astoria Underground, playing behind a glass window for audiences in the underground mall and on YouTube for everyone else.
Goldstick, 78, hails from Philadelphia, where his parents started him playing piano at 6. He played classical until he was a teenager, when he started seeing acts like Nat King Cole and Liberace on the television.
“I don’t know how much it affected me, but I know that whatever it was, I stayed with it,” he said. “I liked it. I think it was just in my blood.”
Goldstick played for high school musicals and weddings, and in jazz bands while studying chemical engineering at Penn State University. Engineering paid the bills through most of his 20s, allowing him to care for his family and play piano bars around Philadelphia at night.
In his late 20s, Goldstick worked for Mobil in New York City until faced with transferring to New Jersey. Instead, he took a severance package and started driving a cab by day and playing in bars and bands by night.
“There were piano bars all over the place,” he said of 1970s New York City. “And for a piano player, it was the easiest way to make money. And since I already had a family, it was an obvious choice for me. You play in a band, you make $50. You play in a piano bar, and you make $100 or $150.”
Over a half a century of shows, Goldstick has played gigs from Hollywood musicals to elementary schools, and in bars across the U.S. From 1988 to 2001, he played at the actor Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch in Carmel, California. Goldstick relocated from Seattle to Seaside in 2014 and started busking on Broadway and at the Astoria Sunday Market.
“I was shocked to find out how good it was in Seaside,” he said. “I had no idea, as far as busking. I made $20 in my first hour on a Monday night.”
By 1993, Goldstick had found his passion playing for the elderly in nursing homes, including Clatsop Care Center. His last gig was in February 2020 in Portland before everything shut down amid the pandemic.
Goldstick first learned about online gigs through a roommate who played in a band on the virtual world Second Life. Goldstick created a Twitch account and amassed around 1,700 followers from around the world, he said, but quit after being hacked and facing some anti-Semitic remarks.
“It was fun,” he said. “I got people from Turkey and Russia that were watching. It was a trip to have that opportunity, but it’s just not worth it.”
In the coming weeks, Goldstick plans to start playing at 1 p.m. from Monday through Friday on his YouTube channel, “Bob Goldstick — Live Streaming Shows,” and partnering with a local vocalist, Harper Carr. He’ll set up speakers outside the studio for people in the Astoria Underground. But Goldstick’s driving force with the performances is getting his music back into nursing homes, if only online.
“There’s no feeling as a musician … close to what I get when I play at a nursing home,” he said. “And that’s why this year has been so tough in a way. The reaction of the people to the music is just — it’s just amazing.”