My first published concert review was a reminiscence of the 1993 Lollapalooza show at Molson Park in Barrie, Ont.
In the nearly 30 years since, I’ve spent a good portion of my writing time – first in various local alternative weeklies and a few national periodicals, and since 2002, here at The Buffalo News – urging readers to gather in large groups to celebrate the communal and, when the magic is in full attendance, transformative powers of live music.
It feels nothing short of surreal, then, to sit here at home in self-quarantine, urging you to do the exact opposite.
Not to gather in large groups to celebrate a shared passion.
Not to hug complete strangers when, so taken by the beauty of the moment, you forget stiff social niceties and reach across the aisle, overcome by an emotion that feels an awful lot like love.
Not to support your local music scene and the musicians comprising it and the venues that provide it a forum.
Today, I’m writing to urge you to stay home. Doing so goes against core personal beliefs formed from every fiber of my being.
Soon, you won’t have much choice in the matter, as venues close their doors for a self-imposed period of dormancy meant not to end the effects of COVID-19, but simply to control them, to slow their movement by reducing the risk of communal transmission.
But today, as I ruminate on news coverage of revelers celebrating St. Patrick’s Day last weekend, I’m aware that a certain stubbornness persists. Though there is something in that stubbornness that speaks of the indomitability of the human spirit, there’s also more than a little of the selfish point of view that posits one’s ability to proceed as if “normal life” is their birthright above the greater good.
Going out and partying in public right now does not make you a hero. Quite the opposite, in fact.
This is tough news, a bitter pill to swallow for so many musicians, who don’t get paid sick days, and who count on their live gigs – many of them working six and seven days a week – in order to pay bills, make the rent, buy food and take care of their families. The same goes for the venues, from the talent bookers to the bartenders to the people working in the kitchen.
What we’re staring down is an enforced destruction of our economy that, by even the most optimistic of forecasts, is likely to last at least a month. What we need to do now is, as a friend who also runs one of the prominent music venues in town put it in a text message, “Look for the bright side and lay low for a while.”
People are losing work, losing money and losing opportunity. But others are facing the real prospect of losing their health or the lives of loved ones. There’s a hierarchy here that is no longer simply implied, but is being made explicit.
A few alternatives to gathering in public are already available.
Follow a favorite local musician or band online. Many are performing live from their homes. You can pay them for their time via Venmo.
Check out the Band Together Buffalo Online Concert Series, which is generating a piggybank to pay local performers for streamed concerts.
Get to know your record collection again.
If you’re a musician, use the enforced time at home to write some music, practice, work on new musical projects.
But for the good of us all – stay home.