A RIFF editor recently asked me to cover an upcoming drive-in concert by Sublime with Rome at a local fairground, drive-in lot, or giant field of wheat in the middle of … somewhere. I was informed it’s one of the first local concerts from a name act since COVID-19 decided to ignite the United States’ second Civil War six months ago.
I declined. If I didn’t like Sublime 25 years ago–when both the band and I each had a much better chance at being relevant–why would I bother now? Not that a real professional like myself must enjoy a band as a condition of seeing them, or I wouldn’t have sat through Limp Bizkit at least twice (I was young; I needed the money).
But I would need tremendous compensation to choose a band I never really liked over the option of dozing off early in front of bad television.
Let’s not bandy particulars—I respected the style, they just never did it for me. I might need an actual sublime trip to Rome to get me to Sublime with Rome.
When I suggested one of the other three people at RIFF actually alive when Sublime was popular should go to this drive-in concert, I was told the other middle-aged person already declined, stating he wasn’t about to risk his life for Sublime with Rome.
But my comrade’s decision got me thinking: Even with special distancing, masks, vats of hand sanitizer and spacesuits, if need be, is there an act worth trying to see live in the middle of this comedic manure show that is America’s response to a pandemic?
Can we bring back dead people yet?
Some acts are already playing places where such things are allowed. I recently saw something on social media–from which all real knowledge flows–showing former 1980s Sunset Strip band Dokken playing sans masks to a crowd that was most definitely not socially distant.
Well… maybe “crowd” isn’t the right word.
If science can’t bring back half the Beatles–and science has its hands full right now, so I’m guessing it can’t–than no one immediately comes to mind. Not that I haven’t seen.
I seriously thought I could come up with one. I’m adventurous. I laugh in the face of death. Just an hour ago, I even went grocery shopping with an 18-year-old who melted another teen girl’s face with her laser heat vision in the parking lot because the poor girl dared look at her. That’s how brave I am.
Nope. Nothing. Not even Led Zeppelin who, to be fair, wouldn’t be touring anyway because they’re 110 years old.
So, the question becomes … why? Yes, I’ve seen thousands of concerts, and if you saw Prince on the Purple Rain tour, you can probably call it a career.
I realize artists are being screwed by COVID-19. I realize some bands don’t have a lot of transferable skills. I understand the lure of going back to the comfort of what you know when things are bad. I don’t blame them … entirely.
Public officials are letting the country down by burying their heads in the dirt and allowing bands to start playing again. I don’t mean drive-in shows, about which I joke and which some people I know are playing. It sounds like they’re taking the correct precautions, even if people like me won’t even take a one-in-one-hundred chance of giving this to a 70-something parent.
But how long do you want to wait to feel safe at concerts again? Because every time we pretend everything is OK makes it more likely it will be years until anyone in the concert industry achieves “normal” again. I wish more people respected and missed normal too much to go to shows anytime soon.
Follow music critic Tony Hicks at Twitter.com/TonyBaloney1967.