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Overtime: Miss Vee And A Badass Band Take The Stage Again

Valyria Lewis, known on stage as "Miss Vee," performs at the Granite State Blues Festival in Mason.
Zoey Knox
"Miss Vee" performs at the Granite State Blues Festival in Mason.

At the Granite State Blues Festival, Valyria Lewis performed with her band, Miss Vee and a Badass Band, for the first time since 2019.

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On stage, Lewis didn’t just sing; she performed. Kicking off her shoes, making jokes, calling her boyfriend out of the audience to dance with her (something they pre-planned), she had members of the audience getting out of their lawn chairs, laughing and dancing.

We met Lewis in June, as the first woman we featured in our Overtime series. Throughout the pandemic, Lewis juggled staying healthy, taking care of her kids and her career. Music sustains her, and she says it’s something she’s been appreciating even more than usual lately. The Sunday before the show at the Blues Festival was the first time she and her band had even practiced together since the pandemic hit.

While she finds her remote job as a union organizer for a hospital in Oregon fulfilling, the Berlin resident says it’s been especially heavy lately.

“A bunch of discrimination cases came up,” Lewis explains. “We realized that the employer had been disparately disciplining people of color, people of a different national origin. So we're looking into that right now," she says.

"So my outlet, when I have that kind of stressful stuff, is to go sing or sit down at the piano and play some music.”

The performance at the Blues festival went well. Lewis expected it would. After all, she laughs, “that’s why they’re a bad ass band.”

Lewis says she’s looking forward to more performances —
but only if the price is right. As the band's leader, Lewis also manages the band's finances.

She’s adamant about good compensation for her band. Sometimes, she supplements pay from the venue with her own funds. She says her dedication to fair pay comes from being a union organizer.

Lately, she says, she’s remained selective about what gigs she accepts. It’s not just because of the pricing, but because of the pandemic.

Although she’s fully vaccinated, she has an autoimmune disorder. She’s lost multiple family members to COVID-19, including her grandmother. She says she’s still nervous because of the spike in coronavirus cases related to the Delta variant.

“I lost another cousin too...23 years old,” Lewis says. “So it is still real and it's still killing people. And I'm trying to not be in that number of people that get killed by Covid.”

It’s all got her thinking about doing some volunteer performances at the local nursing home in Coos County, where one of her sons just took a job during a second year off from school due to the pandemic.

“I could show up with my equipment and then sing for the folks to make sure that they have some entertainment in their lives,” Lewis says. “I'm probably just as immunocompromised as they are. So I think we would do very well together," she says.

"I just think it's something that they would appreciate.”

Vee Lewis is one of six women NHPR will follow as part of Overtime. And we want you to add your voice. How are you managing the needs of caregiving and work during the pandemic? What is changing for you as the pandemic fades?

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