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Lessons to be learned from the year without live music

Credit: Rukes Photo (www.rukes.com)

“5..4..3..2..1…Happy New Year!” The melody to Language by Porter Robinson lit up the crowd of thousands, and confetti rained down through the entire NOS Events Center. I turned around bawling to my two friends with me and thought of everything that changed in 2019. I remember thinking how mind-boggling beautiful the experience was. There’s a few things I’ll have on a loop in my mind for the rest of my life, and the memory of that set will be one of them.

I wish we talked more about the loss of having joy this year. Beyond the health, safety, economic losses that floored the U.S. this year, nearly every person is also dealing with the loss of enjoyment. Live music is such a beacon of energy and hope for so many people, it feels impossible to navigate life’s hardships without it.

Even though I’m still hanging onto the glory days of my last live show, its return is beginning to feel foggy. But, there’s still a lot that I’ve learned from the past months without it. For each time I catch myself wanting to turn back time to the last time I walked through the doors at 45 East in March, I know there’s better to come.

A refocus of priorities

There was a time a few years ago that missing concerts for 10 months wouldn’t have me up in arms. But after my first electronic music show in college something just made sense that hadn’t before. The crowd, the energy, the loudness of it all was breathtaking. In the year prior, I was struggling to tread water and it wasn’t until my first show that I saw the hand out of the water.

Music permeates every aspect of my life now. From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep it runs through my head, amplifying and silencing my thoughts. If grief and loss are a person, music holds a hand to it and listens. Witnessing that happen in real life, and seeing it for other people in a crowd, is profoundly magical to me.

Much of my time in the pandemic has forced me to shift perspective in order to find that same feeling elsewhere. If live music doesn’t exist, I move on to another coping mechanism: being outside. That same feeling of calm in chaos is everywhere outside, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Whether hiking, being on the water, or just going on a walk in the woods, I can clear my mind the same way as experiencing live music.

I believe everyone has those kinds of experiences in their lives, and often we just don’t know what they are yet. But being forced to step away from live music has granted me opportunities to dial in other hobbies that are fulfilling in other ways.

Lessons of appreciation and time

There’s a lot that we don’t realize we could be grateful for until it’s gone. It’s odd, but one of the memories I think about the most this year has been leaving the Tacoma Dome from Excision’s tour in February.

My friends and I broke into a full sprint through the torrential downpour to find cover and enough service to order an Uber, settling for a dimly lit storefront littered with garbage and a plastic water bottle of urine. We stood in the cold for the better part of (a damn miserable) half hour with insufficient clothes but more than enough laughs and conversation. It is without a doubt one of my favorite memories with friends after a concert.

Beyond treasuring those memories I’m also more grateful for people than I was. Crowds tend to make me pretty nervous, but at shows it feels completely different. Even being swallowed into a jumping, sweaty mass of people I’ve always felt safe and cared for. Even though mass gatherings and crowds will likely look altered even after the return of live music, the sense of love and caring for each other may be heightened.

As a self-described neurotic planner, the way I appreciate time has also changed a lot. Being busy feels good, and sitting still often does not. Transitioning to slowing down has been important this year. I told someone back in January that my goal for this year was to go to at least three shows a week, to get my hands on live music wherever I could. Obviously that wasn’t an attainable goal, but it did make me reconsider why I thought I needed to be so constantly busy.

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