Are we back? Is this real life?

Last Friday, I met up with 7 friends at the Empire Control Room in downtown Austin, TX and we celebrated a return to “normal”. Matthew Logan Vazquez booked back to back shows that night, playing to tables of 4 and 8 seats, spread out safely in an open air patio. We opted for the 6pm show, which was about half full. I think his 9pm show was sold out. I’ve always been a morning person and find staying up late to be one of the biggest obstacles for me and live music. It doesn’t matter when I go to bed, my brain will wake up at 6am no matter how much sleep I’ve had. With the pandemic, I’ve had a lot of folks tell me that they are used to going to bed at 9pm or 10pm so an early show was just fine with us!

Matthew Logan Vasquez is the lead singer for the band Delta Spirit. He also is one of the collaborators for the Austin super-group, Glorietta. Since I dig his work, I went ahead and made plans to buy a table. Previously, I had purchased a 4-top table when The Deer played Empire Control Room a few weeks ago. It was only about $20 to upgrade to a 8-seat table, with the small sacrafice of sitting a bit further back. So, when I purchased my table (~$150), I was excited to invite 7 friends that I knew had been vaxinated and were missing live music to meet up with me. It was the best decision I’ve made in a long time!

The weather was perfect and it was so nice to have conversations with people face to face! We ordered through an on-line app and masked waitstaff brought our orders to our socially distanced table. Masks were required and enforced when leaving the table but being outside, vaxed, and distanced, I never felt unsafe. It was so great and I give huge props to the Emprie Control Room for figuring it out and making it work, for the musicians and for the fans. I really don’t ever want to go to a zoom concert ever again. However, I really like the idea of buying a table and inviting your friends along to see music they may not have otherwise made an effort to see! I kinda hope that sticks around somehow. I would skip the italian food thing if thats what is offered next time. It was really pricey for mediocre food in small portions. I am really hoping we can ditch the plastic cups soon too and go back to glass. Salt just doesnt stay on a plastic rim the same way and it just feels wrong. I get the idea that it reduces opportuniuties for the virus to spread but I don’t think the science really supports that.

MLV put on a great acoustic, solo show. He didn’t try to hide the fact that it has been a hard year on him. He played a sad, very literal, song about having to move to Oslo with his kids because his wife was loosing her visa while his mom was being diagnosed with cancer. Jeez. I appreciated that he said his crowd in France found the song a bit funny because it was so literal. I found the humor too, not because it is funny, but because it has been an absurdly hard year for musicians and adding this tradgedy is just too much. It’s like that joke about the guys dog dying in a country song after his truck breaks down and his wife leaves him. Dead dogs aren’t funny and neither is our countries shitty immigration policies. It’s just my absurd way of dealing with sad shit. My grandmother was part French so I am going to assume inappropriate humor it is part of my genetics. Sorry, not sorry.

The opener, PR Newman was also fantastic. It seems like he may have even had a full band ready to play with him for the second set but we were good with our all acoustic performance. Folksy and smooth, he managed to play the harmonica, strum the guitar and sing songs, which is kinda like rubbing your belly and patting your head. It takes skillz and he had ’em. I would definitly like to catch one of his shows in the future.

Overall the music was great. It wasn’t a racous night but it was perfect for us. A gentle welcoming back to the new normal. A reminder that music can bring people together and that the community of friends we’ve missed, along with all the bands we’ve been missing, are still there and hungry to get back together again.

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