Essay: What I’m Missing Without Live Music

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The Birchmere is among the DC-area music venues closed by the covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Dan Reed)

Music provides more to its fans than just entertainment. Live shows provide community. They are places where people who share an interest can come together. Losing live music during this pandemic has stripped away my primary outlet for socialization.

I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. Socializing and relationships do not come easily for me. I struggle to make smalltalk. My affect strikes a lot of people as “off.”

Of the many communities where I’ve dipped my toes, none has proved as supportive and welcome as music and music fandom. I can relate to fellow music fans on the basis of a shared interest, which makes me feel comfortable and confident in that setting. I’m even appreciated and respected for my encyclopedic knowledge.

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Essay: Why I Support #SaveOurStages

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River Whyless perform at DC9 in 2017. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

“Just as we talked about the community, I think it’s one thing to see an artist or a song in a one dimensional way, but what’s really inspiring is when you see an actual human being onstage with an instrument made of wood and wires, and one microphone, do something so moving that it conjures emotion and you fall into like a romantic state of loving life because people do great things.” — Dave Grohl, Alternative Nation, October 2019

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Essay: In Praise of Live Music

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Tim Bray and Karen Jonas (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?” — Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our worlds, collectively and individually, in ways that we are struggling to grasp. For those of us who cherish live music — artists, fans, writers, and photographers — the pandemic has made concerts impossible for the time being and the heartache at what has been lost is becoming a fear (irrational perhaps, but…) that they could be gone forever.

The abrupt, and traumatic, end to live music performances for the foreseeable future has left a sadness in me that I did not anticipate, nor with which I’m prepared to cope. I’m a diehard enthusiast of live music — from the traditional large venue concert experience to the small bars and clubs where local musicians perform for anyone who’ll listen.

But what they all have in common is talent, desire, and an otherworldly drive to share, as Los Angeles Times music critic David Ackert says, “that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart.”

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Essay: Parallels in the Development of Country Music and Genre Fiction

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A peek inside the Country Music Museum (Photo by Adinda Uneputty)

Country music and genre fiction (specifically science-fiction and fantasy, hereafter just “sff”) might not seem like they have much in common. In fact, they have developed along strikingly similar lines. Both are popular art forms subject to a certain devaluation, especially by cultural elites. And in both cases, there is a divide between a more conservative mainstream that appeals to the masses and more political progressive, artistically ambitious element.

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