Kicking Off Spring ’21 with Lots of Outdoor Gigs — and Hope for Indoor Ones, Too

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Every April, as greenery unfolds into cherry blossoms and daffodils burst from the cool ground, I start to get excited for summer. The weather will warm, and I’ll shed my 8,000 layers of fleece, ready for rock and roll gigging season to kick into high gear. Sadly, last spring’s excitement was tempered by COVID, while this year’s is tempered with a bit of cautious optimism. 

Is it right, to make like a Dionysian maenad, frolicking at a Beltaine-inspired musical gathering? Or do I have to pare back my dancing, even though I’m vaccinated? 

These questions rotated in my mind on April 24, when I ventured 20 miles north from my home with my friend Steph, and headed toward Woodbridge, Conn., a town just off the Merritt Parkway not far from New Haven. My destination: a space called 10Selden, where the outside concrete blacktop had been transformed into a socially distanced, DIY music enclave.

Of course, masks and social distancing were in order, as expected. But it was 100 percent worth it. As much as I love Facebook Live-streaming, nothing beats the real deal — pure rock n’ roll in the flesh. 

Shame Penguin kicked off the evening with an hour-long set of indie-punk/bluesy jams, saturated with atmospheric, delay-pedal guitar riffs, catchy bass lines, and poetic, powerful vocals which, at times, took me back to the late ’90s. As the daylight faded into sunset, Shame Penguin played its new single “Pretzel Time,” an ode to “the songbird,” as singer Dustin Sclafani (aka “EZ Bluez”) shared with me later on. If you haven’t streamed this track on Spotify, do it now

Shame Penguin rocks 10Selden (Photo credit: DeFilippo Foto)

[SEE RELATED: Shame Penguin’s ‘Fall of the Mountain King’ Mixes Catchy Riffs with Complex Daddy Issues]

Local band Fiction’s set kept the energy high with a sound I initially described as “a cross between Blink 182 and Blues Traveler” to my friends — fun and powerful. Fiction’s cover of Sublime’s “Garden Grove” was possibly the best one I’ve heard. For a full review of the show, check out AMP’s myampmusic.co) writeup here. 

Fiction rocks 10Selden (Photo: DeFilippo Foto)

My favorite takeaway from the night was the sense of community, the spirit of gratitude and happiness that radiated from every song — which is why I’ m so excited 10Selden’s series is extending into summer. 

My band Trashing Violet will be playing there on May 22nd with the local punk-pop trio Zombii.

It’s been forever since my band played together for people other than our spouses, kids, or close friends. Most of my solo shows were broadcast from my living room in ’20 — or, once, from our drummer Nick’s driveway — via Facebook Live. The upcoming show will be the first time my punk-pop/grunge band has gigged IRL since last February, before the carefree music-mom life I knew skidded to a halt.

Trashing Violet
Trashing Violet (2020)

This summer, we have gigs scheduled for 6/21 (for Make Music New York, in NYC’s Tomkins Square Park); 8/21, and 9/3 (so far). We’re also hoping to plan a safe, indoor live music show at a venue in our state. Admittedly, there are a lot of unknowns, such as how many music fans will get vaccinated, whether clubs in Connecticut will make like New York City with some version of the Excelsior pass, and how strong the new COVID variants are in triggering “breakthrough” cases. 

But while everyone will have to adjust to a “new normal” in live music this summer, the privilege of playing live music is no longer one I take for granted.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Should I Stay or Should I Go (Out)?

After a year of being shuttered mostly indoors with my family, I’m feeling a mad kind of spring fever. I want to go out in a big way. Not outdoors, to the beach, or the fire pit, but out out — like I did in 2019. I want my band to play in a bar. I want to sip drinks idly, as I watch live music.

Who doesn’t want all the things?

The author, mulling whether to go out

The problem is, I’m not vaccinated. Not yet.

A few weeks ago, I was informed of a fun, relatively “safe” event — a lip-sync mask “battle” at the Cellar, a cool, indie music bar in Hamden, Connecticut. My fellow musician friend (and parent) Dustin posted a flier and invited everyone to compete safely. Masks are required (except when you’re eating). Performers will wear a clear one. Sanitizer and precautions will abound from every corner of the indoor space.

[RELATED: Is it safe to sing in front of an audience?]

I was “in” the moment I saw the announcement, and began crafting my burlesque-without-the-stripping lip-sync choreography for “Wrecking Ball” in earnest — it’s taking shape, and after weeks of rehearsal, it’s awesome. I’m stoked to perform it later. I’m stoked to be out, with creative people, doing creative things. I feel alive just thinking about it.

But the venue’s event is in its indoor space. My partner is not OK with that.

It’s an indoor bar, Marisa, he reminds me. People at their tables won’t be wearing masks. Once people start drinking, they’ll be mingling. If one person in that room has Covid, you’e f*cked.

coffeehouse vibes

See, as I’m writing this I’m sitting in an indoor space — Candlewood Market in Fairfield. It’s a beautiful, ample coffeehouse with an industrial warehouse vibe, succulents and weathered wooden signage. Photography and botany and sunshine. I love it here. I go once a week, while my sons are in ninja class next door (masked up, of course). The guy at the table next to mine isn’t wearing his mask, so I only pull mine down when I need a sip of coffee.

I always need coffee.

But anyways, it’s hard to be excited about a fun night that really isn’t any more risky than my time at this coffeehouse (sitting exactly six feet away from the unmasked patron, only because I moved my chair) when my partner thinks that I’m taking a gigantic risk.

Which brings me to the dilemma: I’m one week away from my first vaccine. I’ve spent a year working hard to avoid Covid. Is it really worth it for me to go out now and take any risk? Like The Clash sings in its infamous song, ‘if I go there will be trouble, but if I stay there will be double.” (Double, because I’ll regret not doing something really fun that I’ve been excited about, while disappointing my friends who want to come out with me).

Decisions, decisions! What would you do?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.