When We Were Done Dying

The website said experimental.
Electronic, pop, psychedelic.

The venue, however? Rows of seats,
still too crowded for your average asthmatic.

Experimental. Oh, yes.

There were butt wiggles, head bobs,
knee slaps, arm waves, mask sweat.
Possessed fools began to shoot up,
forming pits and hurling spit.

The whole of us shuddered each time.

Now we were trapped. By the music,
by the dancing, by the ignorance.

By our foolishness.

Dan Deacon is not sit-down music.


Right before the shutdowns started in the US (but I suppose well into the global pandemic as it was late February), I went to a concert. A Dan Deacon concert. Now if you have no idea who Dan Deacon is, I’ll give you a moment to look him up on Wikipedia…

Did you see the bit about large-scale audience participation and interaction at his concerts? Well it’s really true. That was my first real concert and I’m absolutely sure no other will ever compare. There was an impromptu dance-off, a follow the leader, Simon says… Really, I got the works. To say I worked up a sweat would be such an incredible understatement. I probably couldn’t tell you what my name was by the end of it. I fell at one point and really roughed up my knee, didn’t feel a thing. Got right back up and kept dancing.

But this dream? Complete opposite of that. We got to the venue and there were two sets of fences surrounding the building, a coronavirus screening at each. Not sure why there were two. Maybe the second was just in case some people snuck through the first? But then why have the first at all? Who knows? It was a dream. Inside was much like your current run-of-the-mill grocery store. A little station at the entrance in case you wanted you wipe off your hands, stickers on the floor to remind you to keep your distance, little plastic shields in front of the bartenders. And mask were required. Thank goodness. I mean, of course they were. We wouldn’t have come otherwise.

So my boyfriend and I go past the bar and all the people mingling in the breezeway and find a rather confusing scene. Instead of the wide open area you would expect at a medium-sized concert, there were rows of fold-out chairs thoughtlessly spaced out. And by this I mean, no one, and I mean no one, here actually knows what six feet apart is unless there are stickers on the floor. I guess they had run out. The chairs were spaced three feet apart at best. Combine this with the scofflaw (a fun term I picked up from Christian Cooper) of ‘masks required’ and you just get a bundle full of anxiety.

It is in that anxiety that I could not bring myself to feel comfortable yet I could not bring myself to leave. We had paid money for these tickets. Apparently that was worth risking our lives. For a concert. Maybe it’d be okay. Well, it wouldn’t.

See, Dan. Dan still wanted the audience to participate. And we did, to some extent. We would wiggle in our seats, wave our arms spelling out words, stomp our feet… Just about anything you could imagine a group a people could realistically do together while staying seated and distanced. But it wasn’t long before the music took over some poor souls. One person in the far corner near the stage stood up and began to dance. Seemingly instant, spotted chain reaction. Random people all around followed suit. It was as if they had each agreed before sitting down, before even entering the venue, that they would get up at break out in dance during this very song. The person two chairs to my left, another three seats ahead, and a couple seats to their right. Almost in unison. It was magical. And horrifying.

I wanted to leave immediately. I hadn’t felt safe to begin with. Not with our seating arrangements. Not with the yelling. Not with being stuck indoors with it all. But this? Certainly not this.

What had been a strangely hilarious yet quietly terrifying dream quickly morphed into a nightmare. But that, as if it were my own mind and all, was the last song. We zoomed right out of there, gasping for breath as if we hadn’t already inhaled so so much undoubtedly contaminated air.

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