135 days. That’s how many days I have gone without a concert. Although my house has never been cleaner and my cats have never been happier, my mental health has never been worse. 135 days of adapting to a new life where I actually got a normal amount of sleep every night (or at least normal for me) and have been eating things other than the “quick frozen pizza”. 135 days of not knowing what the heck I’m doing or what the heck to do but getting through. 135 days of dreaming of the shows I was supposed to be at only to be rudely awaken by the thought of cleaning the house, again. 135 days of a new normal that will never feel normal to me. 135 days. I hope that count never gets that high again and, thanks to some amazing friends and an amazing venue embracing the change and figuring out how to pull off shows in this day and age, I can now say that it has been less than 24 hours since my last show and I haven’t felt this good in, well, 135 days.
I saw the giant white tent as my friend, her mom and I drove up to Crooners Supper Club just up the street from my house. It almost felt like a first date. I had butterflies in my stomach and my eyes must have been so wide by the time we finally parked and I hopped out of the car. We spent some time socializing with a group of friends and family we were meeting there and as nice as the human interaction was, I just wanted the show to start. Our conversations were interrupted by the sound check and with each thump of the bass drum, those butterflies seemed to take off in my stomach.
Tables were scattered throughout under the tent and the stage was set. More and more people came up, sat at their tables and the normal chatter around us ensued. People kept their distance and some had masks on while others did not (again, this was outside so all social distancing rules were being followed). Although the scene looked different, the feeling was the feeling I had been craving for 135 days. People of all ages, all colors, all mentalities, all just sitting around waiting for the show to start while they chit chatted with a cold drink in hand. Sure, there was a storm looming that was sure to nail us at some point but that didn’t seem to be a thought in anyone’s mind.
Just past five, Cory Wong and The Hornheads took the stage and jumped into a set that instantly had me feeling all of the feels. My attention instantly went from the conversations around me and the drink sitting in front of me to the stage. Although it didn’t feel like my typically kind of concert due to the whole sitting thing and not being constantly bumped by strangers as they made their way to the bar or bathrooms, the music and feeling the thump of the bass in my chest was what I needed. I knew I missed live music but I don’t think I understood the magnitude of how much I missed it until the first note was played.
Cory Wong is an extraordinary guitarist. He also happens to be a success story from the college I went to (McNally Smith College of Music). So not only was I grappling with the emotion that came with my first show in months, I was trying to level out the feeling of optimism that seeing Cory and some other kids I went to college with still doing this music thing. Although it was a music school, the amount of people who gave up on music altogether after school breaks my heart. So here I was watching some of the few people who really stuck with it and it gave me so much hope, so much pride and, of course, that’s when the tears became almost too much to hold back.
Dramatic? Absolutely but I excused myself to get up and walk around the parking lot before I completely lost it in front of everyone around me. I stalked the back of the parking lot by myself as the rain started to come down and couldn’t help but just have a major freaking breakdown. It had been 135 days of not feeling like myself and here I was, finally getting the chance to feel like myself. It was just too much for me to handle.
I was finally able to compose myself and get back to my seat just before the rain started to drench the parking lot. The rain didn’t stop anything, if anything it just added a whole new element of love and community to the night. People shifted under the tent so the people who had been tailgating in the parking lot could fit under the safety of the tent while still keeping distance from strangers. It was a beautiful moment that Cory’s funky and fun music only magnified.
Crap! I just realized I am paragraphs into this and haven’t even said a word about Cory’s music. It’s great. It truly is. He’s a stellar guitarist and his band is just as stellar. That being said, last night was not about the music for me. Last night was an emotional and religious experience for me because of the music but it wasn’t about the music. I do highly suggest checking Cory out though along with his various music endeavors and the endeavors of his amazing bandmates.
Throughout the night, Cory made it clear just how thankful he was for the people that came out last night. He was supposed to be doing a European tour, he was supposed to be playing giant festivals. Instead, he was literally within eyesight of his first job as a teenage (he actually grew up in Fridley, MN where Crooners is). Even though some would see that as one of the most depressing things ever, Cory looked at it like a glass half full explaining that it has been fun to play for friends and family and be so close to home (he had a total of four shows at Crooners this weekend).
He also made it clear that he understands that every time you go out in public these days, that’s a conscious choice and he couldn’t thank the audience members enough for choosing to come to this show. As someone who has such bad anxiety about everything and hasn’t even been grocery shopping (thank goodness for online grocery shopping), I appreciate the acknowledgement of just how much energy it takes to go out and do something these days. Statements like these made it clear that we were all just watching some musicians trying their best to not go under water right now. Like the rest of us, we were all thrown into this odd and strange situation and we are all just trying our best to stay afloat. I think hearing that from someone that I truly look up to as both a musician and a person (again, since he’s a success story from my college, he is absolutely someone I look up to) was just the icing on the cake of a spectacular night.
This is not one of my normal reviews but the past 135 days have not been normal days for me. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and renewed. I finally feel a bit more like myself and am ready to take on the day and whatever the day brings with it. 135 days. I pray that I never hit that high of a number again unless it’s the number of days in a row that I’m at a concert.
Thank you Cory Wong. Thank you everyone else who was on stage. Thank you Zach, the amazing soundman. Thank you to my server who never let my beer go empty. Thank you so the friends and family that invited me to this event and even paid my tab as a happy early birthday gift. Thank you to everyone at Crooners for making sure that the music doesn’t stop right now. 135 days and I finally feel like I can breathe again.
Come find me at Crooners. They are doing shows almost every night and I plan on being a permanent fixture in their audience for the forseeable future.