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A Lifeline for Live Music

By Meg Walburn Viviano  

What was the first concert you ever saw live? I’m willing to bet you still remember the details of that show. Mine was the 1997 Lilith Fair, a (then-groundbreaking) all-women traveling tour headlined by Sarah McLachlan and Jewel along with the Dixie Chicks. We sat on the lawn at Merriweather Post Pavilion, wearing trash bags as ponchos when it inevitably rained. 

My mother’s first concert was The Beatles, a fact that has caused me supreme envy my entire life. It was the height of Beatlemania, and she was among the horde of teenage girls who sobbed in the stands out of sheer hysteria. 

There’s something about live music that makes for potent memories. Whether it’s a big star’s stadium tour or a local group playing at a restaurant you happened to walk into, being in the same space with instruments, voices, and the songs they create feels deeply personal. 

Now, what was the last live performance you saw before the pandemic began? Mine was in September 2019, when the Icelandic folk/rock band Of Monsters and Men performed in a small venue in Philadelphia. My husband and I took the train to see them for our anniversary. Early in our relationship, we had traveled to Iceland, and we’d listened to the band nonstop before and during that trip. Watching the band play live a decade later immediately transported me back to Reykjavik, with its glacial landscapes, brilliant blue skies and fresh fish harvests. 

During the pandemic, live music has been one of those itches I just can’t scratch—like yearning to travel again. It’s my belief that taking in musical performances feeds the soul. 

For the musicians themselves (as well as music venue employees), these performances feed more than the soul. Live music is their livelihood; their source of income. For people in the music industry and their families, the pandemic is a scary time. 

In this week’s issue of CBM Bay Weekly, we report on efforts to support the local music scene, from just-announced state grant money to homegrown support within the industry. There’s another ally coming to the aid of musicians—restaurants, despite the fact that they, too, are struggling to stay afloat.  

If you’re comfortable dining indoors or outdoors at reduced capacity, why not choose a restaurant offering live music to enjoy from its socially-distanced tables? In our feature (https://bayweekly.com/the-beat-goes-on/) we’re rounding up some spots you can try this weekend and beyond. While major national concert tours may still be a long time coming, there are artists right here in Chesapeake Country just waiting to reach listeners.  

As for me, I’m looking forward to when I get to write a column that asks, “What was the first concert you saw after the pandemic?” Whenever that day comes, I hope you’ll embrace it like a teenage girl seeing the Beatles.