It’s Not That Hard

Not too long ago, I celebrated the anniversary of the stroke I had over a decade ago. I did all the things that bring me joy—eat good food, figure skate, play music, etc—because I am grateful to still exist. The underlying cause of my stroke is that I have a rare genetic disorder. I am fortunate that a daily inexpensive medication keeps it in check and that significant lifestyle changes help keep it that way. It coincides, more or less, with my first anniversary of getting The Jab. Another miracle of science. I mention this because I think a lot about the rarity my genetic disorder and how I don’t know what would happen if I contract COVID. My condition didn’t qualify me for priority vaccine status—it was my BMI, a deeply flawed metric but fuck it, I just went for it.

What can I say? I enjoy being alive, much to the dismay of many.

I don’t ascribe to the idea that the vaccine would bring about a return to “normalcy,” because pandemic or not, there’s so much about my day-to-day that’s no longer normal, nor will it ever be. There wasn’t a normal in the Before Times, either.

So I’ve tried to find enjoyment where I can with minimal risk. This has largely meant being outdoors. I swapped ice skating for inline skates (which I dislike, save for the solitude an outdoor hockey rink offers on a sunny day). Long walks along the Cynwyd Trail. Outdoor shows when the weather was nice. I wrote 2 records. You get the point.

In the fall, with masking and vaccination guidelines in place did I start venturing back into the world of shows. I would space them out every couple of weeks, test weekly, rinse repeat. Then Omicron hit; rather than risking it, I just held off again. More or less, I would say audiences were pretty respectful in observing the guidelines.

As Omicron eased, so did the safety protcols laid out by the city. And with that, promoters followed. And as such, so did crowds. Which brings me to this past weekend.

I wound up seeing Dummy at the UACA last week, where the promoter (4333 Collective), didn’t have any guidelines around masking or vax. Yes, entirely stupid of me to go given how much of a stickler I’ve been for The Rules, but I decided that keeping my mask on, limiting my time indoors, and distancing might be enough.

The UACA staff who checked my ID asked me to pull my mask down so they could verify my age, which I get, but it was still very incredibly alarming. I used to come here for Hollertronix as a young woman, I hope you have mopped up all the Obolon my peers and I spilled by now, I thought to myself.

Inside not much was better. I was one of a handful of people with masks, and no one was mindful of social distancing. I guess it says a lot when the people running the show can’t be bothered to mask. This was enough for me to rethink my plans of returning for Hotline TNT at the same space the following night.

Dummy's Joe Trainor: "Welp, 2 of us got covid, probably thanks to people close talking/yelling in our faces without masks on/not having masks period. Now we will lose atleast 2500$ between 5 canceled shows. is our PayPal if you can help....oh and our van broke down"

Am I shocked to see this tweet? Not at all.

Then I wound up at the First Unitarian Church for Sunday’s lineup featuring 7 Seconds, Negative Approach, and Soul Glo. A last-minute show R5 put together because the original headlining act for this package tour tested positive. I tested negative before the show.

Would you be surprised if I told you that the venue was shoulder-to-shoulder of people without masks? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

I stood as close to the exit as possible because there was decent airflow, but being a woman at a hardcore show means you’re invisible by default (even in 2022), so there were points where unmasked people were basically breathing in my face. (So far, another negative test.)

I thought DIY, to some extent, was about creating a better space than the present reality in which we reside.

Does that sound utterly corny to say out loud? Yes. Utopia, for only a night, or a song, factored into why I starting putting on shows in the first place. For me, particularly in the Plain Parade years, that meant making sure women, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC were represented. (We didn’t have this language or framework for thinking at the time; looking back, I see it now.)

It was important to my business partner and me that our shows were fun, welcoming, and safe. There are many times where I put my own personal safety at risk for others at our shows. When you’re not a white cis dude, there is always an undercurrent of risk to everything. Someday, perhaps if I ever feel comfortable enough, I will share some of those stories in this space.

Had PP existed in this present moment, that concept of safety would have extended to making sure no one contracted a potentially deadly airborne disease that is still largely unknown by science (and whose effects we may not truly understand for years/decades/etc to come!) at a music event.

This should be glaringly obvious. There signs at shows telling me I’m not allowed to bring glass bottles in. It is wild to hear fully grown adults who cut their teeth in this line of work from putting on warehouse shows for punks, more often than not illegally and/or without zero regard for safety, to say it is not possible. What is holding anyone back from having a policy around a mask? I just can’t wrap my brain around the hypocrisy; more specifically, I refuse to do so.

Anyone in an audience should be wearing a mask. I am deeply confused as to why they aren’t. That feels so deeply disrespectful—to the artists we are paying to see, to the people working a show, and to everyone around you. And it’s not like they’ve got one stashed in their pocket. I am seeing people simply NOT carry them at all.

I don’t understand how my musician friends are handling any of this. On top of the pandemic there is the added complexity of the economic crises of the moment—skyrocketing gas prices et al—and to make the choice to head out on the road is astounding. But it speaks to how inequal the playing field is for them (and why we need to collectively advocate for better compensation across the board, etc etc) that they are doing it anyway.

Let me correct the first sentence of the previous paragraph. I know my musician friends aren’t doing well. They’re getting sick, being paid even worse than before the pandemic—on top of all the usual stressors of touring. Some of them have postponed dates, others have scrapped entire tours while out on the road. It is absolutely stressful for them in ways we’ll never comprehend.

If we can’t have a world free of COVID, then we have to do what we can to minimize it. Which means taking every opportunity we have to reduce transmission and to stop treating contracting it as an eventuality. All of us deserve better than that, and we should be more proactive in making this possible. Especially in the realm of live music.

I’ve believed for a while now that one of the true lessons of the pandemic has been to acknowledge our interconnectedness. After all, we all share the same air. I suppose another one is seeing who actually walks the walk, particularly when everything is truly beginning to unravel.

Wear a mask. It’s not that hard.