My First Post-Pandemic Gig Got Cancelled and It Wasn't Even Covid
Gigging Through the Apocalypse
When I was a child my parents took me to gigs. Maybe not the coolest ones because they had parent taste, but real shows. Asleep at the Wheel, Patty Loveless, the Chieftains. Later on they even drove me and my sister to other states to see certain boy bands that I’m not ready to name. We curled our hair, we waved, we shrieked. It was freaking glorious.
I didn’t know that not every kid goes to shows. I thought everyone did, just like I thought all parents left their kids at summer camp and went to see Zoo TV tour on their own. I definitely didn’t know that some people don’t even like going to gigs. When finally someone broke the news, I couldn’t get my head around it. What do you mean, you don’t want to be on the rail??
Music was fundamental to my life in college and early adulthood, too. I lived in the sticks but I was lucky and married to a musician; Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Damien Rice, Ryan Adams. One of the most profound musical experiences of my life was James McMurtry in a packed theater in a tiny mill town, with the roof about to lift. It was the most hypermasculine environment I’ve ever been in. I was carrying a new baby in my arms, and I was genuinely frightened.
My older kids grew up as the children of a touring musician. Long days at festivals and sitting around in the green room was part of their life. It was part of their birthright.
Then something broke along the way. My husband split for the west coast and I was on my own. Suddenly I had an education to get, a living to make. For a long while there was no money and our live music experience was the local summer-in-the-park series.
Music in the park can be brilliant, don’t get me wrong. Few things can beat the bliss of discovering a band who are so good they have no mortal right to be playing in that park, while you sit there thinking, is anyone else even seeing this?? Often those were the brightest flashes of joy in years of impoverished single parenting.
Gradually I made my way through college and started working. Slowly things got better, and I started to reclaim my life. Part of that, inevitably, was the gigs. I needed it.
My first big milestone gig was U2 in 2015. No one ever told me that going to shows by yourself is brilliant, but it is. I had just spent eighteen months in a disgusting divorce and to be out by myself, looking after no one but me, was incredible.
As it turns out, one person alone can work their way through a massive crowd pretty easily. In the end I was so close to the stage I could have tucked a twenty in Edge’s back pocket. If I’d had a twenty I might have done it. The whole thing was exactly what I needed. The roar of the crowd, and the surreal glow of red lights when Where The Streets Have No Name begins… for the first time in forever I felt like myself.
By January of 2020 I was making some money and my kids were older; the chaos of reestablishing my life was over and I had room to dream a little. I began to make list and buy tickets for the spring; Gerry Cinnamon, Wilco, Liam Gallagher. Then came the the pandemic and the shutdown. Overnight, the plans to celebrate my success in building a new life evaporated. Poof.
Time passed. All things considered, my life was great. My kids were safe. My region had no community transmission for almost a year, and we could see friends outdoors. I worked from home and started writing seriously. In a year I completed short fiction that totaled a hundred thousand words. The taste of deep concentration was amazing.
The only thing that ached was the lack of music. I needed to be baptized with the sweat of rock stars.
When things started to open up I began making a list and buying tickets again, mostly in Europe, because when I say I need a change of scene, I really mean a total change of scene. But I also realized that my kids have been missing an experience that I deeply want them to have, and I began to craft a trip for each of them.
In April, then, I decided. It would be me, my ten year old, a bus to the nearest major city, and the front row. Travis, a band of sweet-faced rockers from Glasgow, was the first band that was both available and really memorable. Their gorgeous melodies, Fran Healy’s unreal voice, and the band’s irrepressible sweetness would make a perfect first big show for my little one. It was going to happen.
Then yesterday I got a sudden email. “Travis has cancelled their event.” It was as though I had been cheated on and dumped by Ticketmaster. What the hell, guys? I know you’re playing in Brixton tonight, why can’t you come to Boston?
It wasn’t the pandemic. And it wasn’t anyone’s fault, or not a person, at least. Fran Healy was mauled by a sausage dog so badly that he needs reconstructive surgery on his hand. The band is doing a short run of promotional appearances for an album reissue, then he’s scheduled for surgery and rehab. I get it, it’s just that my little heart is broken, both for me and for my kid who has no idea what she hasn’t seen yet.
Listen, I don’t need life to go back to normal. I don’t need it to be like it was before. All I need is this: the flash of lights, and the thump of bass in your chest, the euphoria of a crowd shouting in ecstasy, and the moment when that guy with a guitar smiles and you know he’s seen you, and the roof begins to lift.
That’s all I want, world. Just give me that.