As I blearily write this, I am up too late, thinking about a last-minute camping trip I'm sneaking away on in the hopes of removing some of the crude nanoparticles that the year's nonsense has disgorged into my psyche. I had hoped that last week would be the last time I would have to write about this lousy pandemic for a while, that I could go back to entertaining you with cultural bon mots, choice shows and my occasionally annoying candor. However, a few recent events have made it all too clear that is not the case. And so I am hoping to open up a dialogue with you, dear reader.
Last Friday, we hit a new county record: 69 new confirmed cases in one day, which is the highest single day of recorded infections since this thing started creeping around in early 2020. I now know people who have gotten the virus in spite of being vaccinated and, while their struggles with the disease seem diminished in severity compared to what this bug is capable of, it's still a cold comfort and a frankly frustrating setback. I have no doubt that the bozos who have turned this entire situation into another frontier for the Great American Culture War will happily grab onto this information and use it in bad faith. It's all that some people are capable of doing anymore, apparently.
One of my vaccinated friends who got hit with it lives in New Orleans and thinks she got the bug at a show there during a mini punk fest, where a lot of people reportedly contracted the disease. And while she seems to have speedrun the symptoms and now has her smell and taste back, it didn't sound very fun. At that same show was a fella I had known for many years, a bright and beloved beacon in the New Orleans underground punk and metal scene I used to call home. He died suddenly last Thursday and people in the know have told me it was COVID. He was 36. I don't know his vaccination status. I can't imagine asking his grieving loved ones about it. In my own grief, I don't even care.
On that milestone Friday of last week, I was at an outdoor show, standing back from the main crowd, watching a bunch of great bands do their thing. For a moment, it almost seemed right, truly awesome and just what we all missed and needed. But then I started thinking about my mourning friends back in NOLA and something started creeping into my thoughts, haunting the edges of their aperture. I am blessed with many friends here, many of whom work service industry jobs or other positions that force daily interactions with the public. Our public is not particularly vaccinated and currently carrying a deadly disease. I don't want any more of my friends to get sick and suffer, but I also don't want the music to go away again. We need it. It helps us buttress the tottering colossus of our emotional center and provides a primal therapy unlike anything else in this world. Otherwise, how could I even justify going to an outdoor show less than 12 hours after hearing that a former compadre had been felled, likely by exposure during another gig? Am I crazy? Am I asking for the impossible?
I could use some feedback. Not from the cranks who want to draw my attention to conspiracies or who have no desire to opt into the vaccine gambit in the interest of public health and doing the bare minimum to uphold the social contract. Any regular reader of this column knows my politics and certainly knows that I have no love for our government, its intractable corporate collusion and endless capitalist death trip. So, the fact that I am happily Pfizer-vaccinated in spite of all that should tell you something about how seriously I take this. No, the people I want to hear from are those who enjoy live music and reading what I write about live music, and who believe that there is, in fact, a pandemic happening, the effects of which can be mitigated by the tools of public caution and medical science. I don't have it in me to argue about this anymore. If you share the consensus reality that what is happening is indeed actually happening, then I want you to tell me what you think I should do. Should I still report on our struggling music scene in the interest of its revitalization? Or should I hit "pause" again, let the heat die down and hope that maybe a few more people — and our Balkanized government — will treat this thing with the severity it deserves?
Right now I'm looking at the numbers and, as tempting as it may be, I am really having a tough time prescribing a mosh pit or dance floor to ease your troubles. Drop me a message, please. My compass is truly bashed in right now by a mixture of weariness, grief, and whatever dark force compelled the medieval plague dance mania. I'm restless and exhausted, desiring a St. Vitus' dance almost as much as I am wishing to avoid over-capacity ICU rooms and parking lot triages. My mental constitution is still intact but it's cooking in the forge a bit presently. Best not to strike too hard. For now, if you want to know about shows, look at our calendar and the Music & More grid. I hope to have a little more clarity soon.
Collin Yeo (he/him) is tired. He lives in Arcata.