I haven’t updated my daily local music blog, Lazy-i.com, in over two weeks, which is long enough for people to question whether it’s still “alive.” I’ve been writing the blog for (my god!) 23 years. I haven’t given up. There’s just so little to write about music-wise right now.
Omaha’s two major clubs for indie music — The Waiting Room and Slowdown — both have reopened. But with few bands touring yet, their offerings are (how to put this) somewhat lacking: cover bands, live professional wrestling, comedians, local productions of bad musicals. There are a few exceptions, but nothing on the indie music radar or that piques my interest.
It’s the way it’s going to be for a while. All the quality local bands simply haven’t played together in a year out of caution and responsibility, and musicians are just now getting vaccinated. It could be a month or two until they start practicing again, and who knows what has changed in these musicians’ lives over the past year of crippling isolation?
Staying in touch with one another via Facebook is a far cry from the up-close-and-personal relationships one forges by living in a pot-smoke-filled van for two months on the road. “Jamming together” by recording tracks alone on an iPhone and then sending them around to bandmates to add their parts just isn’t the same as having to breathe in each other’s vicious BO during a hot, cramped band practice in the bass player’s basement.
When these bands finally do reunite for the first time since spring 2020, there could be camaraderie and rejoicing, or picking up right where they left off, or the worst case scenario — a new realization of just how much they actually hated each other and how they should never have played together in the first place.
And then there are those bands that won’t get back together at all because one of the musicians had to figure out a way to make money after losing his or her job and now is stuck in a new career they never had to deal with before all this happened.
Some will have new relationships, maybe new family members, certainly new responsibilities; and suddenly the idea of making music will seem frivolous.
And a sad few may finally have convinced themselves they’re too old for this rock and roll lifestyle, which is something that even in my 50s has never crossed my mind.
Sometimes it’s the little things that keep you going.
I was pushing my shopping cart through the crowded parking lot of the Saddle Creek Baker’s after my usual Sunday-morning grocery haul, dodging dirty SUVs across the bumpy tarmac, still wearing my mask.
As I approached my VW, I looked up across the lot and there was a guy I recognized from one of the local rock bands — a tall dude in his 30s with long brown hair who plays a mean guitar and has been a staple in the Nebraska underground music scene for the past decade or more. He had just stepped out of his car with his wife or girlfriend or whomever. Also wearing a mask, he looked up across the lot and saw me loading my car and did a little head nod and wave. I did the same in return.
As I returned my cart to the corral I thought, “Huh, he remembers me,” as if I was a prisoner who that morning had been released after 20 years in the state penitentiary. I hadn’t been forgotten … by someone I’d never formally met and who likely was mistaking me for someone’s dad.
One of the biggest questions about life after the real passing of the Pandemic of 2020 (because that’s what they’ll call it 100 years from now after we’re all long dead) is whether people will go back to the same lives they lived before. It has to be a question gnawing on the minds of owners of movie theaters, restaurants and music venues.
Restaurants I’m not so worried about. People already are returning to their favorite places, even if they have to wear a mask to go to the bathroom. If we never questioned the food we bought as take out during the pandemic (and why we didn’t, I still don’t understand — what made us think the cooks back in the kitchen were wearing masks and diligently washing their hands like surgeons?), we’re sure not going to question it afterward.
Movie theaters are another matter. People have become so used to watching streamed content from their home theaters or on their iPads they might balk at paying $10 to sit in an auditorium with a bunch of filthy patrons to watch the same thing they can watch in their underwear on Disney+.
And then there are music venues. Rock and roll or whatever you want to call popular music continues to reinvent itself from generation to generation. Kids will continue to go to clubs to see their favorite bands just like people are returning to sports facilities as quickly as the local ordinances will let them.
Still, there are those few who are getting a little older, those who were always looking for an excuse to stay home on a Friday or Saturday (or weekday) night. They’ll be the last to return if they do at all.
I used to see bands three or four nights a week when the scene was more “indie-music friendly.” Five hours of sleep was plenty. But right before the pandemic struck, I’d limited myself to weekends or “can’t miss” shows. Now I wonder if I’ll be able to once again stand elbow-to-elbow at, say, O’Leaver’s, next to people young enough to be my grandchildren.
Fact is, I can’t wait. I miss my extended family — the club owners, the bartenders, the punk rock regulars and that guy in the Baker’s parking lot who I don’t really know. And besides, I’m going to need something to blog about.
Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.