After experiencing some of the standard hijinks at the pharmacy yesterday (We don't have your prescription! We have it but at the other location! We only have three pills, so you'll have to come back!), I decided to flip around on my MP3s on the ride home. Somehow, I landed on this song:
Way back when, I used to be the guitarist for Black Swamp Rats, and we were fairly regular fixtures of the local scene. We played repeatedly with a few bands, and one of them was Mennonite Death Race from Mansfield, Ohio. I don't know how we hooked up with them. They must've been friends of someone in the band.
First gig we played together, I (and the rest of my band) were blown away. They sounded so unlike anything I had ever heard, and the performances were overflowing with passion. I went to say hi to them after their set and ended up sitting with them for the rest of the time I wasn't actually on stage. In fact, I think they had to kick us out when the bar closed.
After that first gig, we played many shows together. We hit a number of places in our area, traveled out to Mansfield for a show on their turf, and played a Columbus gig later on. The bands, in other words, really bonded. One of my biggest sorrows of Black Swamp Rats breaking up was that I never got to hang out with Mennonite Death Race again.
Flash forward 8-9 years, and I haven't played a show in so long, it's not funny...certainly not since the COVID lockdown started. Some of my local venues are booking bands again, but as much as I need to play again, I have not submitted my name as a possible artist to anyone.
Why not? Well, I know everyone wants a return to normal, but that just is not wise right now. COVID, rather than going away, seems to be picking up steam. Infection rates are rising. Do I really want to lock myself in a room with strangers for several hours? I haven't even seen most of my friends in over three months. I'm certainly not going to risk my health or anyone else's for a show. And there's no way I can do a set while wearing a mask and face shield. My horrible voice is muffled enough as it is.
The problem, though, is that I miss it. I miss being on stage. I miss performing. I miss having people hear my songs. Most of all? I miss the hang. I miss talking to the bar staff, chatting with my bandmates, meeting the other bands, turning acquaintances into comrades.
The thing is, I don't know if any of it is ever coming back. Will the venues be able to survive if there's another shutdown? Will we ever be free of pandemics again? If things get bad, will we ever want to sit in a crowded bar again?
I don't know. I wish this was something I didn't have to think about, but I can't help wonder if I'm ever going to see my name on a flyer again. I can't help wondering, if life ever does return to normal, if I will have aged out of our music scene.
Right now, there's a hole in my life where shows used to be...and I know I'm not the only one.
Please find a way to support local musicians. Buy our music. Listen to our songs. Hell, at this point, I would be happy with a hug.