Live Music in a Virtual World

Last weekend I watched five livestream music events on my laptop. I was out of town but didn’t feel too lonely until the last livestream guy looked right into the camera and sang Blackbird (Beatles) to me.  I had requested it in the chat feed.

“This one is for you, Susan.”

The next thing I knew I was crying. That was the most human interaction I’d had all weekend.

I miss going out to hear music, filling up my Prius with friends who shouldn’t be driving, fighting for a parking spot (using my girlfriend’s handicapped parking permit), lugging chairs and coolers to a spot midway back from the stage, getting settled in, and then waiting for the magic.

What else besides music could unite a motley bunch of park goers – young families, old people, singles looking for love, guys with wife beater shirts and tattoos on their necks, conservative white ladies in designer sun hats?

No one cares who is sitting next to them when the guitar player stirkes the first chord. Applause builds as stragglers hurry back to their seats from the porta potties and concession booths.

It’s another summer evening in California. I kept my lawn chair and a blanket in my car 24/7 every summer through 2019. But then . . .

As others predicted that the summer concerts would resume sometime last year, I knew that would not be the case. I’m a news junkie, watching news on network TV and reading eight newspapers a week, plus a weekly news magazine (Time). My scientist offspring and future son in law confirmed it. We would not be gathering in 2020.

A wedding reception was postponed. A child of mine deferred going to grad school, since it would be on line only.  I slowly found Zoom events to keep me company – a weekly ski club TGIF, a drop-in exercise class (Zoom Zumba), and many livestream Facebook events as local musicians figured out how to earn tips by singing from their living rooms.

Somehow other musicians ended up in my Facebook feed, and then I was listening to and supporting musicians in New York, Ohio, and Nevada, as well. It was a life saver for a woman with only dogs to keep her company.

My chorus had disbanded for the duration of the pandemic, so to keep up my voice, I sang along when I knew the words. I tried harmonzing with John the Beatle while I sang the Paul part.  It was easy except for Norwegian Wood. I had trouble finding the first harmonizing note on the chorus.

Then I found out my neck muscles were so tight that it was affecting my tongue. The physical therapist gave me exercises to do. Who knew that sitting at home alone could cause such physical distress, with a long list of side effects?  Ringing in my ears?  Difficulty breathing? Sleep apnea?

It made sense – my stress-release activities were gone – singing, dancing, hiking with a group.

On a two-hour drive to my beach town, I did the neck massage exercise with one hand while I drove with the other. By the time I got there, my tongue had calmed down.

Who knew?  Now I know what to watch for in the mirror. 14 months of a pandemic had taken a toll on my body, stuff that I never could have figured out on my own.

Thanks, Arlen, physical therapist extraordinaire. I know you are 74, but please don’t retire just yet. This pandemic isn’t offically over, and I might need your help again.

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