I recently stumbled across a video from last New Year’s Eve. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I felt like I was watching something from another planet. My wife, Grace, and I were DJ’ing along with lighting designer Rafe Sanger at the Landfall in Woods Hole. We’d turned the famed seafood restaurant into a neon dreamland. People danced, sang at the top of their lungs, shared champagne bottles and a few first kisses went down when the clock struck midnight. Did we really used to do things like that?
It’s been a tough and strange year for everyone. Live music and events were one of the first industries to stop and will be one of the last to kick back into gear. Writing music columns is one of the auxiliary businesses that’s also taken a hit. What do baseball columnists cover in the off-season?
I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what the last year has been like as a musician who performed well over 100 nights a year leading up to the pandemic.
I really miss concerts. The feeling of playing in a band that is firing on all cylinders is incredible. You become something bigger than yourself. When the crowd is hyped, you can just ride the wave of energy.
One of the last shows Crooked Coast played was at the Strand Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island. We were the opening band. I remember saying, “I hope people get here early and catch our set,” as one of my bandmates ushered me over to peek through the curtain. There were a thousand people there, most of whom had never seen us. Stepping onto a stage to play for an ambivalent crowd is its own kind of thrill. We took a deep breath, introduced ourselves and kicked into a lean, tight half-hour set. All killer, no filler. Two songs in, we all looked at each other and smiled like “we got ‘em.” We could feel the room rocking with us. Afterward we made sure as many people as possible left with a promo CD. Once you get them, you need them to remember your name in the morning.
The shutdown on concerts originally looked like it would be a couple of weeks. Now, who knows—but like all things it eventually will pass. We knew we had to use the time to come out of this a stronger band than we went in. There is a ton of work that can go to the wayside when playing live all the time. We wrote and recorded new music, got great marketing assets like photos and press kits, made our website streamlined, designed new merchandise and even remodeled the studio we work out of.
We played a handful of live shows, on a mobile trailer, a float in the harbor, two drive-ins and a couple livestreams. They were all great but, to be totally honest, it’s not the same as having the crowd front and center, singing along and hugging after the show at the merch booth.
I don’t miss eating at gas stations and sleeping on an air mattress when on a tour. Lots of family time and putting my daughter to sleep almost every night have been really special.
We released a string of singles experimenting with new sounds. We will debut our first Christmas song this year. It’s something we’d talked about in the past but never found the time to do.
Hopefully, this time next year I’ll be writing a column about live music back in full swing and chilling the champagne for another over-the-top New Year’s Eve party. Until then, I hope everyone stays happy and healthy.