By Shane McLaughlin
Musician, Buffalo Rose
I think most creatives always think in the back of their mind, “if only I had some more time, uninterrupted and alone, I would spend it working on my creative practice.”
None of us could have fore-seen the abundance of time we would have in the last year, nor what it would cost.
Every musician lost their night job; many lost their day job too. It was like someone took away your dopamine, your ability to exercise, your cathartic release.
Playing a live show, or see-ing one, is a massive exchange of energy. It puts people at the top of their dynamic range, shouting into microphones and blasting instruments through massive sound systems, and puts people at the top of their emotional range too, being in a crowd of hundreds or thou-sands or even ten people is magic, lost in the present and part of something bigger than yourself. Many of us have switched gears out of necessity. Some began teaching on-line, some dove into creating, some moved on to other fields.
And while the world has been changed forever by this — livestreams aren’t going away to say the least — I think a great many of us are waiting for that moment where it feels safe to be back out in the sun, swaying to the sweet sounds of something among a socially distanced crowd.
We live in a mostly live-streamed world now. Thank the bat that this whole thing for not starting it 20 years ago, before the ubiquity of smartphones and video conferenc-ing apps (Zoom, I both hate and love you). There are a few in-person gigs still happening, or people to playing to empty venues. But without a doubt, it all still feels like it is better than nothing. The digital community of musicians and listen-ers supporting each other is is still here. It sort of feels like we had the rug pulled out from under us, and we’re going to be stitching it back together for the next five years or so, figuring out how to find a new normal. But despite the pain and loss of so many lives and memories, we still hold on to the core ele-ments of what make us human, the community, the creativity, and the resilience of the human spirit. We still sing, with joy and with sorrow. It is all we can do.
It is strange now to still be here a year later. It seems like so many artists are now releasing their “quarantine records.” Many of these records are being released by the pros, people who have already “made it” playing music and can create full time.
I have been pretty astounded at the resiliency of the Pitts-burgh musical community time after time. Incredible music is always coming out of this city.
Whether it is the creation of new records soon to be shared, or a simple offering of hope into a camera from a mostly empty room, the essentiality of music and art has shone through, despite how the government may classify us.
Many a home away from home has also been lost in the past year. Venues including Hambones, The Park House, The Rex, and thousands more across the nation. We all grieve for those places, and honor them forever in our memories for the beautiful moments they have given us in our lives, just as we must do for all of those who were taken from this world too soon by COVID-19.
There has been a lot of grief within the musical communi-ty, venues. Careers, creative relationships have all been put on hold.
But there is still hope. Hope for a resurgence, and a strength drawn from the resil-iency of the power of the arts. It’s that feeling that wells up inside each of us and longs to exist in the world again.