AUTHOR: Half Access Board of Directors
Luciano Ferrara is a singer-songwriter from Albany, NY, who, after several years as a solo artist, recently made the transition to full-band supported act, performing as Luciano Ferrara and the Ensuing Disaster. Also a creative writing student at SUNY Albany, he just finished his undergrad thesis on a book he is writing about lumberjack folklore. In this Access Interview, Ferrara talks to us about the unpredictability of type 1 diabetes and his experience with accessibility as a performer.
Luciano Ferrara, second from left, and the Ensuing Disaster
Photograph by Jess Ascone
When did you start going to shows and getting more connected to the music scene?
I would say I was like 14 or 15 when I started going to shows. I remember going to a ton of With the Punches gigs at The Loft in Poughkeepsie, and that allowed me to meet other people who were interested in the same kind of music. We linked up and started jamming together, so that just opened things up for me creatively. The sense of community that comes from gigs/events/galleries/etc. is what new bands should really be focusing on when they’re breaking in, especially at a young age.
When did you start playing live music?
I think I was 16 or 17 when I played my first shows. I had a friend who passed away in high school, and I wrote a song about it. That kind of kicked me into high gear, and I started jumping on every show I could get as a solo act before I joined some bands here and there.
How does your disability affect your experience playing and attending shows?
As a type 1 diabetic, everything can be very unpredictable, and sometimes you’ve got little time to react. I definitely wouldn’t say that I face a bunch of discrimination as a diabetic when it comes to booking shows; it mostly affects my ability to tour and travel. Despite being well prepared, we could get robbed and lose my medicine, or my insulin pump can malfunction and I’d have no way to get it replaced. Pharmacies aren’t going to carry the kind of supplies I need, and to go without a delivery system for more than a day is almost an automatic hospitalization. It’s easy to hit a wall that can cancel the whole tour.
Do you feel like most venues are prepared to host performers who are disabled?
I think that lately, people are becoming more considerate to others’ safety at shows. Maybe we’re just evolving or maturing, and at least we’re looking out for one another, but it really falls on the venue’s management and operation. I get that it can be hard to set your place up to accommodate a wide variety of disabled people, but you start small—no strobes, ramp access, hook a diabetic up with a Coke when they’re crashing. Venues could definitely be doing more, but it all starts with that first step, which I think the community is collectively taking.
When it comes to the bringing food/drinks/medicine that you need, are venues lenient about letting it in?
I’ve been stopped a few times with some of my medicine. A lot of my stuff is in individual carry cases, so if I’m being thoroughly searched, they’ll open them up, which makes me uncomfortable. There’s sensitive equipment I can’t afford to replace, so it makes me anxious when people who don’t know what it is start pawing it. On the whole, I think most places I’ve been to haven’t made a huge deal out of me bringing what I need inside.
What have been your experiences at venues with having a disability that isn’t visibly apparent? Have they ever asked you to prove your disability?
Once, actually, a bartender thought I was like a junkie because I had bad tremors from a low blood glucose. I had to take my pump out of my pocket and explain to him that I wasn’t high on something, I was shaking from low blood glucose and was trying to get a soda. People often don’t believe I’m a diabetic because I’m sort of a small, lanky guy, and it gets frustrating to have to explain that, yes, overweight people often have diabetes, but they have type 2, and it’s different for a multitude of reasons. On the other hand, though, I guess it is my responsibility to inform people who don’t know so that they can be educated on the subject.
What’s been your best experience with accessibility?
I remember one time, a venue staff member saw me like fading out a bit by the merch table, but I was young and super nervous to try to ask the bar for anything. She came over and brought me juice and said that her son was also a diabetic, so that was a cool moment. Sometimes, accessibility happens on an individual level, and those interactions with caring staff are what make those places notable for hospitality.
What’s been your worst experience with accessibility?
Definitely that thing with the bartender thinking I was a junkie. That was super disrespectful, and it made me feel bad for having diabetes. Like I was causing this guy a problem by having an emergency.
How can folks—especially venues—be more accommodating of artists with disabilities?
I would say it starts with the artists being open and vocal about their disability first, and then finding a way in collaboration with the venue to make sure their basic needs are met.
Is there anything else disability/accessibility related that you’d like to talk about?
Be open to learning about disabilities, ask your friends to inform you if you don’t know, and listen intently when they explain to you in their own way how it affects them. If you see someone being mistreated because of their disability (or really any reason!) at a show, stand up and say something. Remember, it’s all down to us, on an individual level!
Who have been your go-to artists to listen to lately?
Well, that new PDaddy came out so I’ve been messing around with that, but Lucas Nelson and Promise of the Real’s new album is also cool. Microwave and The Hundred Acre Woods are always in constant rotation. Oh, and I recently started listening to a really dope band from the early/mid-2010s called The Most Americans.
What’s your dream show lineup for you also to perform on?
Wow, tough question! PUP, definitely. Losing Streak is one of the most fun live sets I’ve ever seen, and the same with Just Friends, so maybe all of those guys. And, just to throw some variety, give me some MF Doom. Crazy show right there, basically a block party.
Follow Luciano Ferrara and the Ensuing Disaster at ...
- Facebook: Luciano Ferrara and the Ensuing Disaster
- Twitter: @ensuingdisaster
- Instagram: @ensuingdisaster
- Spotify: Luciano Ferrara and the Ensuing Disaster
- Bandcamp: Luciano Ferrara and the Ensuing Disaster
You can watch Luciano Ferrara and the Ensuing Disaster perform during Access Live, our upcoming fundraiser and awareness event, on July 14th at 11:00 a.m. PST on their Instagram.
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The Half Access mission is to make live music more accessible, and in most of our recent work we’ve focused on the experience of disabled fans attending shows. There’s another huge part of venue accessibility, which is making sure that disabled musicians can access venues. But, before playing shows comes learning an instrument, which can often look different for disabled musicians. I got the chance to interview a few disabled musicians to share their experiences with adapting how they learn and play their instruments in a way that works with their disabilities.
Josh Rosenberg, 24, graduated from UMass Lowell in spring 2017 with a bachelor’s of music in music business. This year marks the first year he has been able to work only in the festival and live music industry, specializing in accessibility, without any side jobs. He’s worked at about 20 different festivals, some just once and some each year over the past four years.