Dustin' Off My Dancing Shoes

Matt and I watched a live Greensky Bluegrass recording last week.  They performed in an empty venue but complete with the traditional stage theatrics such as a light show and a smoke machine.  It was an excellent concert.  Go check it out.  Talk about symbolism, I thought though, with that empty venue.   For me, that’s a poignant image from my pandemic experience.  

I miss live music.  A lot.  A lot-a lot. 
Screenshot from a Clinton Fearon livestream from the Nectar Lounge in Seattle.
In addition to the entertainment it brings us, live music is one of the primary drivers of the social scene for Matt and me—the place where we can be assured to meet up with a wide assortment of our friends without even planning ahead.  They’ll just be there.  Often we’ll expand it by having a little dinner party beforehand or carpooling with friends to the show.  I put a concert on my calendar with relish and its a sorry month that doesn't have a show on the horizon.
Backpacking at Capitol Rock National Landmark...which has to be one of the most middle-of-nowhere landmarks I've ever seen.
Live musical performances--big and small--are where I recharge my batteries, refill my soul cup.  It is one of my most cherished ways to play.  It can be entertainment, community, a sacred connection, physical activity, a nature experience, and so many wonderful things wrapped up in one package.  It frequently comes with travel as a bonus. 
Watching a storm building in the Custer National Forest.
As I’ve said before:  Live music is one of the suns that my life orbits around.  

Last year we saw more than 60 live performances.  The Rolling Stones in PhoenixGreensky and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead at Kettlehouse.  Xavier Rudd at the Pub Station.  John Roberts y Pan Blanco and Sol Seed at Yellowstone Valley.    Pattern Addicts, Grant Jones, and the Hillbillings at Craft Local.  Melvin Seals at both Deadwood and The Psychedelic Ripple in Denver.  A three day bluegrass bender in Arkansas at the Hillberry Music Festival.  And so much more.  It was an especially epic musical year for us.  The complete opposite of this year, pretty much.
Strumming and singing in the woods near Zortman.
See, I don’t pass my time shopping.  I actually prefer to avoid it as much as I can.  I basically never eat at restaurants.  I don’t typically go out to bars or breweries…unless there is live music.  I know plenty of places to get out in nature that are far from other people.  I can get my fitness other places than the gym.   I don’t go to coffee shops or movie theaters.  I don’t get my hair or nails done.  Aside from public swimming pools, there is basically no business or service that I have really missed with any significance or regularity these past few months except live music venues.
Skipping stones on the Yellowstone.
The last show I saw in the flesh was back on March 7th.  139 days ago.  It was a solo performance by Wes Urbaniak that wasn’t tremendously well attended, in retrospect.  
A shot from that March 7th show.
I remember hugging Wes on impulse after the show (as I did my routine fangirl gush about how brilliant I think his songs are)—this was a week before I’d be sent home from work, days before our governor declared a state of emergency… I wasn’t conditioned to physical distancing and the whole pandemic madness yet.  I guess it was more of me keeping my head in the sand.  I remember commenting on it though.  After it was already too late and I was mid-hug I gave a sort of…”Ooops, sorry.  I probably shouldn’t have done that without asking, right?”  And we both laughed it off.  Ah…those were early days.  It feels long ago.
Ginger "helping" me process the new magazines for the library.
Matt and I had intended to break our involuntary musical fast a last week with a Wes Urbaniak and the Mountain Folk show.  But, after talking it through the night before, we opted to stay home instead. Which is lame.  The music has restarted, but I don't feel good about going yet.  Our county is the current hottest COVID19 hot spot in Montana and Matt works for our county health department.  It seemed the more prudent course to stay home, no matter how hard we ached to go…for the music, for the friends...  We listened to Urbaniak's newly released album together instead.  Check it out, too.  Obviously the recording is not the same as watching Wes work his magic live.  On the other hand, going to the show wouldn’t really be the experience I am really missing the same either, it wouldn't be the same.  Seated shows.  Masks.  Restricted capacity.  Physically distant.  Highly regulated fun.
I'm making a shrinkeedink mobile based on photos from the 10.000 Lakes Festival that we used to go to every summer.  Summer hardly feels like summer without festival season.
Nothing is the same though, least of all concerts, and it doesn’t seem like it is going back to "normal" any time soon.  I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this.  I guess that was part of me just living day-by-day.  I wasn’t thinking about it.  Now, I am.  We’re in this for the longhaul, like it or lump it.  I can't believe how much time has already passed...  time really is fluid.  Sometimes it races, sometimes it drags. 
Reading during my week of solitude in the Custer National Forest.
My spirit yearns for the good ol’ days of bouncing around the dancefloor with my pals in a joyful, sweaty mob in front of the stage.  Arm in arm as we boogie together.  Touching.  Laughing.  Singing.  Without a care about whose germs are getting where.  Sharing in that dynamic feedback loop that flows between audience and performer and vice versa, filling the room with the power of us.  I know we’ll get there again.  Someday.  I can’t even hazard a guess when, but someday.  
Photo from a Kitchen Dwellers show of bygone days.  Photo credit to Neaubauer Media.
Until then, I will have to adapt.  I will have to join in the movement to figure out more ways to make the most of it.  Drive-in concerts, live streams, small-and-seated venues, masked shows and all.  I feel like I need to support all these things, even if they don't fully scratch my itch, in the interest of keeping them around later for mellower days.  

I can't imagine what this has been like for the musicians...
A fun live music event where the Sol Seed folks did some vocal and instrumental improv based on suggestions and topics from those of us tuning in.
I’ve gone swimming a few times now—Sleeping Buffalo, Rose Park, Daley Lake.  I’ve gotten to meet that desire in a way that was both satisfying and relatively safe.  Concerts will come for me next, in due time.  Maybe this Saturday for the Dusty Pockets, who knows?
Sushi-Thai Fusion picnic in the park.
We put in an order for tie-dye facemasks from Matt’s mom last weekend.  If reality dictates that I’m going to have to rock a mask through a concert it might as well be a really groovy one.
Sitting on Top of the World at the Beartooth Pass.
I will close by saying that I've been tremendously impressed by how much music has been a unifying force and source of peace and comfort amidst all the global uncertainty.  From socially distant street dances to balcony singers to solo performances and livestreamed concerts where fans can engage with each other in real time...it has been affirming for my spirit.


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