Photo courtesy of C'mon Everybody

By Erik Thompson

On Monday it was the one year anniversary of the last live show I attended.

On February 15, 2020, I went to a celebration of life benefit concert at First Avenue in Minneapolis for my friend Ed Ackerson, who died from pancreatic cancer the previous October.

At the time I had no idea it would be my last show for a long, long time. None of us there that night knew just how bad it was going to get. I have trouble even now believing just how bad this was and continues to be. 

But even though we all were gathered at First Ave that night under tragic circumstances, the show was ultimately a joyous celebration of a talented musician and a dear friend. It was also an evening honoring the impact and importance of music itself. All of us in the club that night were brought together by the unifying, uplifting power of music and one man’s remarkable ability to write and record great songs. 

It was a special night. And as far as last shows go, this one was worthy of that grim but meaningful distinction.

Then things got really quiet, really fast. Clubs were quickly closed and all concerts were cancelled. And it has now been one year since I’ve seen a live show. And that makes me incredibly sad and lonely. 

I miss everything about the concert experience and all that goes with it. The sense of electric anticipation before a big gig. The pre-show drinks with good friends. Waiting in line and hearing the loud music filter out through the doors. Working your way into the crowded room to find a good spot to see the show. Smiling or crying when a performance of a song truly moves you. Slowly filtering out of the club after a great gig, feeling like you are walking on clouds. Reminiscing with friends about your favorite parts of the show on the way home. Trying to capture the emotions and intensity of the show in my review immediately afterwards.

I miss it all so damn much.  

Since I first arrived in Minneapolis in 1992 to attend the University of Minnesota, I have probably averaged two or three shows in a typical week. In 2006, I first started writing about music, and my average number of shows increased substantially. Whether I was there covering them for work, or just attending for pleasure, live shows were my social outlet of choice. As an introvert who has always enjoyed spending quality time with myself, live shows snapped me out of my forced isolation and connected me with a wonderful group of friends and a terrific music scene.

Live shows provided me with the types of interactions I was most comfortable with. Talking with music loving friends who already had a shared common interest was easy and enjoyable for me, and once you got into the show the music was the centerpiece and any discussion came in quick shouted bursts between songs. For an awkward man with social anxiety, concerts are an ideal scenario. And the irresistible lure of the live show coaxed me out of my solitary shell and forced me to connect with my friends and surround myself with people when the easier option would always be to just stay home. 

Going to shows over all these years has helped soothe my anxiety and made dealing with other social situations easier for me. And now I’ve been stuck at home for the past year, retreating further into my head and growing more reclusive by the day. I’ve lost that treasured connection of seeing shows with my friends, as well as the transformative thrill of seeing a fantastic performance that keeps you buzzing long after the music stops. 

And my heart hurts for all those involved in the entertainment industry who have been out of work this entire time. Hell, the shutdown even cost me the best job I ever had. 

Just when we all truly need the uplifting power and potency of a live show the most, the clubs remain eerily silent and dark. But hopefully not for much longer.

This pandemic has been cruel and unforgiving to so many, and I’m fortunate that my loved ones who were struck with the coronavirus have thankfully all survived. But this experience has still taken something intensely personal from me, and from all of us. I’m not the same person I was when I left First Ave that cold winter night one year ago. The pandemic has changed everything.  

I just long for the day when I’m in a queue for a club once again, seeing familiar faces in the line and sharing laughs and stories as we wait to see one of our favorite bands. And stepping through those doors for the very first time will be like entering the land of Oz, and the world will finally switch back to vivid technicolor and magic will return to the air.

And I’ll be there, waiting for my life to be forever changed by music all over again.