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.
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.
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.
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.
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.