Written by Nick Hopton
“Dearly Beloved….We Are Gathered Here Today To Get Through This Thing Called Life….”
Fuck. What a predicament we have found ourselves in at this time. You thought every year up to now was crazy? Hell no. 2020 is…just…goddamn. I thought 2016 was for sure going to take the cake. Losing David Bowie AND Prince in a matter of a few months followed by the biggest political shakeup we’ll probably ever see. An absolute whirlwind. Nope. Nothing compared to this.
As I write this, we are all doing the same thing (or at least we should be). We’re stuck in our homes trying to stay away from an enemy we can’t even see. A force of nature the likes of which we haven’t seen in over a century. Quite possibly the only thing that can shut down the entire globe past World War III and I don’t even think that would keep everyone confined to their homes by state and federal mandates. This…this is unprecedented. A virus. A microscopic “fuck you” to the human race. Everything other than essential businesses is closed. Work? Gone. Sports? Gone. Literally being around anyone? Forget about it.
But. We have one crutch to the outside world past binging hours of Netflix and the news telling us how bad things are out there. One crutch that has always been there to provide a spark of light even in the seemingly complete eternity of darkness.
Music. The one constant. Not even a pandemic of worldwide proportions can wipe out our music. The feeling you get from listening to your favorite song. Hearing a brand new song for the first time and knowing “this is special.” Seeing your favorite band play (even if it has to be on the internet right now). It’s the single most special thing we have as human beings. It brings us together, it tears us apart…it is inherently…us. People from all different walks of life. All different backgrounds and upbringings creating music to express emotions that are sometimes the hardest thing to get out without help. Love, heartbreak, politics, a walk in the park, shit, just being alone. There’s a song for EVERY emotion and moment in life. It’s really incredible to think. Everyone can find a song to match what they’re going through at any period in time. Sure it might take a while to find, but when you find THAT song? You hold onto it for life. There are songs I have found at a very young age that I still listen to constantly, just because they have had that strong of an effect on me.
My Grandmom (Graba as she was referred to), raised me on Motown and the solid gold oldies. You look at me and the last thing you think I’d listen to would be some Four Tops, The Temptations or Smokey Robinson. But goddamn, if those songs don’t hit me right in the soul and send me back to the best times I’ve ever had. Times when life was just, easy. Fun. Carefree. But just as all things in life tend to do, the good times come to an end. But that’s where the music really comes in. A reminder of the good times, the ones that can always come back again.
And now more than ever, that’s the hope we need. As we look at the outside world from the inside, we need that reminder that it’s always darkest before the dawn. That even though the future is uncertain and bleak, there is always tomorrow. There is always, us.
“War, children, it’s just a shot away…It’s just a shot away”
*Looking into the crowd* “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a concert. You. I know you have. Definitely you. Oh, you and I have been to quite a few together. Oh, that guy in the wayyyy in the back? Him too.” If you are living and breathing, odds are you have seen some kind of live performance in your lifetime. Even so much as a talent show during high school. And if you haven’t? Well, shit…my friend, you are certainly not living.
It’s a religion for a lot of us. A place of worship. That certain comfort that can only be found by being surrounded by dozens, hundreds, hell, even thousands of people you don’t know; all brought together by some ethereal sense of magic for a few hours of our lives. It can’t truly be described in words. It has to be experienced. Felt. And now, lost. We’re not able to go to our houses of worship right now. To let out the love, the emotion, the rage. It’s truly the only free place left on earth in my mind. A place where you can just “be.” As someone who writes and performs on a stage at a fairly decent pace, this makes it even worse. That’s my happy place. That’s where my mind just shuts the fuck up for however long I’m blessed enough to be up there for. Where nothing else matters but drowning in the now. Freedom. No drug can match it. No other type of love (at least from what I’ve found so far in life) can match it. It’s one of a kind. Ask any musician out there; it’s an addiction in its own way. Once you get your first taste of the stage, you want to live there. And now, we can’t get our fix. We can’t open the doors to our cathedrals. We can’t live in that moment.
“Digital witnesses…What’s the point of even sleeping? If I can’t show it if you can’t see me…What’s the point of doing anything?”
However, we can still worship. We can still sing. We can still dance. We can still release. Just not together, we have to, for right now, do it separately. But that’s where the true beauty of the internet shines. Ah yes, believe it or not, there is still beauty in the internet. Past all the bullshit, the memes, the trolling, there’s still proper use for it. Artists and musicians around the world have opened their homes and minds to everyone via live-streams, podcasts, and interviews.
I cannot tell you how many incredible bands, even the Philadelphia area, have embraced these methods of sharing on a totally regular basis now. Low Cut Connie, one of the best bands to come out of in a while, (I watched Elton John shout them out at his Philly gig last year. Elton Fucking John.) runs gigs 2-3 times a week from the comfort of their living room. Bright Kelly from The Great Enough is seemingly on every single day busting his ass to share music and love from that big white chair in his den. LauraLea Taraskus, Bryen O’Boyle, Victoria Watts and Kirby San…the list goes on and on.
These are people that I’ve seen live and nearly die on stage for their art, confined to their homes, still spreading love and entertainment in a time where those two necessities of life are so hard to come by. It’s what we need right now to get through, and it’s what they need right now to keep sane. But it’s not just them. I’m seeing countless individuals who have never graced a stage before turning their cameras on to take part in the magic that we are seeing. Getting on that seemingly invisible stage to let their emotions out to anyone who will listen. Finding an outlet. Finding freedom.
What I’m getting at is we can still do everything we have been doing, just in a different way.
We can still worship. We can still share an experience. We can still live in the moment.
“Guess who just got back today / Them wild-eyed boys that had been away / Haven’t changed that much to say / But man, I still think them cats are crazy.”
Those moments are what I hold on to now. Memories of blurred nights passed, drenched in sweat, cigarette smoke and whiskey. In the middle of a pit, or on a stage. Pure, unadulterated fun. The nights that we took advantage of, always knowing there will be another night to come; until there isn’t.
Now most times, that means either your body has given up, your life has changed significantly, or the worst outcome: you’ve lost the passion for the music. This situation is new. This is uncharted territory. But I believe that this, while dark and unknown, could be the best thing to happen to a lot of us in a long time.
Just picture it. The first show back. The anticipation, the longing, the light drop. Your favorite band is on stage, right in front of you, and you’re surrounded by thousands of friends you never knew you had, all singing in unison and unloading all that emotion that has built up over the months since you last experienced this feeling. It’s bliss. It’s all new again; just like the first time you felt it. Suddenly, everything that we are currently going through now comes out in a primal, dance and filled fury.
We’re all together again.
That’s the moment we have to keep focused on. The moment when togetherness is no longer deemed a risk to public health, but celebrated as a cure for those goddamn quarantine blues that we’re currently enthralled in. Celebrations everywhere. From the small stages of your favorite local bar to the massive arenas and stadiums that can shake the ground for miles. Millions of voices will exclaim in unison that we, as one people, are back.
But let us never again take advantage of what the future holds. Let’s remember to truly live in these moments again. Because now we truly see how fragile life is. How fast everything can change. Some never realize this until it is too late to change, to enjoy life again. This is a rare opportunity for all of us to change. For all of us to reflect. For all of us to build the anticipation, the longing…
Those lights will drop soon. And when they do…
We will sing. We will dance. We will be together….again.
“Keep Me In Your Heart For Awhile” – Warren Zevon