So I've already put this joke on Facebook, but after LanaLou's last night, I have the perfect name for a punk band: Superspreader. It's edgy, vaguely obscene, and probably prophetic, because if I'm ever gonna catch COVID, last night is the night that's gonna do it.
Allow me to explain.
Having worn my mask on the bus, the Skytrain, and shopping for records (cheap Guadalcanal Diary stuff at Audiopile - I realized recently that I didn't have Jamboree, and I've never owned Flip Flop, and took care of both for around $5 each), I found myself somewhat daunted, as I walked up Powell, by the dozen or so smokers standing around outside LanaLou's, not one of whom was wearing a mask or practicing anything like social distancing. Is this a preview of what's inside? I wondered. Am I ready for this? The thought occurred to me turn around and go home, but I'd told Bob Hanham I would see him there, and packed some gift vids for him and for Betty Bathory, whose birthday bash it was (I gave Bob two great neo-noirs from the London Drugs sale bins, Small Town Crime and Galveston, a copy of that too-ugly-for-me Lars von Trier serial killer film, and brought Maudie, Revenge, and A Vigilante for Betty - all of which you can probably still find on the cheap at a London Drugs near you, selling for 3/$5 as part of a Mongrel/ Saban video dump). Weighing my options, I straightened up and arrived at resolve: fuckit, let's go inside... I think I mighta flirted with putting on a mask at the door, but quickly realized it would have been complete folly, because no one I could see had one on, and there were plenty of people inside. So there it is: How much do I believe that these vaccines will really work?
Might as well find out. I mean, by the current plan, I'm going back to work face-to-face with the public five days a week in September, without masks or barriers or social distancing, and only a smidgen of extra cleaning. In terms of restrictions, the province seems, in general, to have fallen flat on its back, spread its legs, and told COVID to give us its best shot - so I might as well, too. It seems pretty obvious that we're going to be going back into lockdown mode at some point, that the vaccines will only ever be partially effective, and that the variants of concern out there are not exactly going away, but it also seems pretty clear that WE ARE NEVER GOING TO ARRIVE AT ZERO COVID, not with the two-step "Open and Close" dance we keep doing. If we were ever going to beat this, we would have by now. Trying to keep myself safe when the majority of the general public and the province are trying to "return to normal" is going to get tired soon, and I don't want to become some reclusive shut-in afraid to go out because there are diseases out there... So what the hell, let's take these vaccines out for a test drive, see what they can do. I'm just flat-out bored of trying to be cautious. I'm bored of being in the minority of people who is wearing a mask on public transit - bored of protecting the people who are NOT wearing masks and thus not trying to protect me; where's the sanity in that? Going back to full on punk gigs might not be safe, but like Tesco Vee says, the best punk shows always have an element of danger in them, anyhow; so once through the door, I stuffed my mask in my pocket, and there it remained until I hadda take transit home.
And y'know - ask me again if it was worth it when I've lost my sense of smell and taste, had a drop in IQ, got the COVID toes, and been on a ventilator - but from where I sit now, I gotta say, it was a great night. Saw a TON of people I have not seen in well over a year. Sat with Gord McCaw and Bob Hanham, whose photographs of the night are obviously gonna put my shitty cellphone snaps to shame (but I still kept trying). Ate poutine, guzzled three Guinness, and bought Clay Holmes a beer and chatted briefly about plans for the WISE Hall and about his new band, Digression, who have a pretty fuckin' clever album title, but no physical album. (Fun music - I would see this live!).
There were many other people I saw last night, most of whom I have not seen for a year - Hey, Dave! Hey, Talesha! Hey, Nick! Hey, Pete! Hey, Norah! It almost felt like community, again, and the social element would alone have made it a successful night. But it didn't hurt that there were three kickass sets of music - which I don't actually have that much to say about, really (I mean, I'm not tryin' to be insightful here). Steady Teddy was great, with a welcome pinch of rockabilly in their mix and a standup bass. Daddy Issues was great, and Betty is a hell of a performer - I sadly could not get any "chicks with dicks" shots (friends with dildos joined the band onstage), and I missed her later lapdance (Talesha tells me) from a pro stripper and whatever songs she joined the Gnar Gnars for. Orchard Pinkish, in Betty's band, was one of the only people actually in a mask last night, but it was a Plague Doctor one, and their set included some totally fun covers of "Be My Baby" and "Love Gun" (though I *think* the two songs I recorded were originals...?). The Gnar Gnars, whom I'd never seen previously, had a bit of a Dayglos vibe to their music and their rude-as-fuck lyrics, including a song about fucking vacuum cleaners (not a real thing, please tell me?). A great punk band, it seems - and if they'd been a visible presence at their merch table (if they even had one?) I would have bought (speaking of clever titles) The Gnarnicles of Chronia for sure (and maybe a t-shirt, because holy shit it was hot in there - it was a fuckin' terrarium - and I could have used a change of clothes at the end of the night).
Alas, my wife had to work early today, so as I often do, I ducked out before the end of the evening. It was kind of a welcome and necessary relief from a year of near-giglessness, and the only two questions that remain for me is a) whether I am going to go see Crummy on Saturday (or would that count as "pushing my luck?"), and whether Betty is gonna come visit me in the hospital next month, when the COVID has me on a ventilator...
...Actually, given how many people hugged her last night, she'll probably be there too! Happy birthday, Betty!
Tellin' ya, folks - Superspreader. Yours to take, free!
(Photos by Allan MacInnis, in reverse order, except for the last two, from the end of the night).