Now that the world seems to be slowly creeping back to some form of "normal" in these so-called "post pandemic" days, I've begun to venture out and experience live music again. I started off slow, first going exclusively to outdoor shows. Luckily, in my part of the Greater Philadelphia area, there are a lot of outdoor shows throughout the summer. The best thing about these outdoor shows — besides being outside — is they are free. I like free. My wife and I saw quite a few free show this past summer. The performances touched on all sorts of diverse genres — R & B, hip-hop, Tex-Mex, folk, jazzy cabaret and even a little bit of surf guitar. Oh, and they were free.
In June, I attended my first indoor show since 2020. I had some initial hesitation about going, but it was a show in a 1300-seat venue with reserved seating. I figured if I kept my mask on and people stayed in their seats, I could enjoy myself and not worry that some drunk hippie would twirl in front of me and cough his COVID-infused droplets all over my face. (No, it was not a Grateful Dead-related band and there was little-to-no twirling.) I left that show unscathed and — better yet — uninfected.
In September, I went to my first general admission, stake-out-your-spot-on-the-floor show since the week before COVID-19 shut down every public performance venue across the globe. I wore a mask and did my best to steer away from close contact with my fellow concert-goers... even this guy.
Last Sunday, I went out to another show at a very small venue to see a band I had seen before. The headliner was supported by two opening acts, with neither of which I was familiar. After a quick dinner, my son and I went over to the venue and took our place at his favorite spot — a seat by the rail on the balcony, offering an unobstructed panoramic view of the stage, albeit an aerial view. Around 8 PM, the lights dimmed and the first band took to the tiny stage.
Now, I have been to a lot of concerts in my life and I have seen a lot of bands. Some good, some very good and some bad. Some very bad. I've seen some opening acts that I really enjoyed. I've also seen some that had me checking the time throughout their entire performance and trying to figure out how many more songs they would play in their allotted time. When the venue darkened last Sunday, from the opening guitar chords, I knew I'd be checking the time very soon.
"Yeah... um.... so, this.... uh... next... um, like song.... is a new song and... like.... um.... its not on like an album or anything... and um... so... yeah... "
Every other song from the 30-minute repertoire was introduced in this fashion. One time, the stage banter was altered slightly to include a plug for the band's merchandise that was available for sale near the venue entrance.
"Um... yeah... so, like we have, like merch for sale. Like over there. We don't have no stickers though. We have t-shirts and... um, yeah... so we have merch and stuff. So, um... yeah... here's like... um... a... um.... song."
The sparse crowd — considerably younger that yours truly — seemed to be okay with this band. This led me to believe that the musical opinion of a 62-year old man is pretty much irrelevant. So, I sat quietly, fiddled with my phone, looked around and waited for the first band to leave the stage. They eventually did, departing with a message as eloquent as anything they previously said.
"So... um... that's our, like.... last song. Thanks for having... um.... us. We have merch. and... um.... so, yeah..."
After a brief rearranging of the stage, the next band came on. They were fronted by a particularly-flexible young lady with dyed periwinkle hair and a short, leopard skin skirt. They delivered a good old-fashioned punk rock show, possibly showing their predecessors "just how its done."