Note: This column is part one of a three-part series of commentaries by islander and man-about-town Jeff Hoyt, about a return to a new normal, post-COVID.
In the year 1 B.C. (Before Covid), a typical Beachcomber would be flush with upcoming weekend activities. Live music all over town! Art galleries open for browsing! Plays at the high school theater! Burlesque at Open Space! Lectures at VCA!
Here at Hoyt Acres, we always had good intentions to get out and mix it up, but it was easy to take our abundant options for granted and fall prey to the gravitational pull of the couch. One of us would moan, “Wow. Long week. You tired? I’m tired. How ‘bout we head uptown next week?”
Once again, the couch would win the day.
A year later, Joni Mitchell’s words are coursing through my brain: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
We’ve all experienced Arts Loss in different ways. I had no idea how important live music was in my life until it was surgically removed by the pandemic. Despite the heroic efforts of Vashon Live and all the other streaming options, the intimacy and excitement of being “in the room where it happens” is pretty hard to beat.
The irony is not lost on me that the last live show I saw on Vashon featured a band I’d traveled off-island to see at least six or seven times previously. A few weeks before lockdown the Colorado group Devotchka played at VCA. It was a pinch-me moment. “What? I get to see one of my favorite bands without sitting in a ferry line for the 1 a.m. boat?” I told everybody I knew to trust me and buy a ticket. It was magical to look around and see so many friends there that night.
Just before Gov. Inslee put the kibosh on live performances, I was grateful to catch a few small, socially distanced shows produced by friend and island promoter Debra Heesch. A couple of times, I didn’t even know who I was coming to see! Didn’t matter. It was live music. All I needed was a time and a place. The looming threat of scarcity had made me a thirsty man in the desert, and the music was cold, clear water.
Now, with the pace of vaccinations picking up and restaurants and bars creeping toward Stage 2, the end of Arts Loss is a distant but twinkling beacon of hope. I can’t wait to dine with friends again in the restaurants that make it through the pandemic. And I so look forward to seeing concerts, indoors and out, jostling the elbows of friends and neighbors. I even look forward to spilling my first beer on myself.
My hope for “when we get back” is that we never take a packed weekend of entertainment options on Vashon for granted again. The artists and performers who live and play on our island fill us up on so many levels and our collective reservoir has been empty for far too long. Whatever “normal” looks like down the road, those artists, and the venues that host them will need us to recognize that they are part of what makes island life rich and full.
As for our couch, we look forward to when it files for divorce on grounds of abandonment.
Jeff Hoyt is a writer, audiobook narrator and the long-time Program Director for Voice of Vashon.