With many people 16+ in the United States having gained access to COVID-19 vaccines in April, May brought us bucket-loads of tour and show announcements. Live music has begun to trickle back in.
This past Saturday night in Harrisburg, PA, two rock bands let us remember what it felt like to let loose in a way only live music fans crave — in a way that we haven’t been able to in over a year. Going into it, I wondered how the venue would be set up and how safe it would feel. However, I felt pretty comfortable already being fully vaccinated.
The show was held at XL Live, central Pennsylvania’s premier live music venue and event centre where acts from All Time Low to The Struts have performed. All attendees were required to be masked, and to prevent a large crowd from gathering, spaced-out tables covered about two-thirds of the floor. This way, show-goers could choose to sit for the show in a more socially distanced manner or choose to move up to the remaining one-third of the floor right in front of the stage to get a more traditional concert experience.
When I arrived, stepping into the dimly lit room, there were about 50-75 people there. Some seemed to have been there since the doors opened, pre-gaming with drinks and laughs. Hearing the laughs and seeing the stage dusted off a feeling of freedom now almost foreign to me, yet a warmth started to build underneath my pandemic-ridden caution.
Tables and the floor filled up as drinks emptied and the first band began: three-member psychedelic rock group Medusa’s Disco — from Lancaster, PA — dove right in with high-energy songs that grooved in and out of a variety of genres. Guitarist and lead vocalist, Hunter Root, and bassist, Justin Wohlfeil, jammed around barefoot showcasing their hippie vibe as their drummer, Alex Aument, ferociously kept time to their feel-good tunes.
Medusa’s Disco has been around since before 2013 when they were going by the name Seeds. They’ve undergone several member changes and created five albums; it’s clear they’ve solidified a new kind of sound that fuses sounds of psychedelic, progressive, and surf rock. During their set, some older fan favorites were played, along with their newer single, “Hazy from the Maze,” which came out this year.
As Medusa’s set continued, Root invited Darrion Washington, of Stonewall Vessels, up on stage to perform a song with them, showcasing the closeness of the two Lancaster bands. If it wasn’t evident before now that both bands missed performing over the last year, their smiles and cohesion oozed, confirming it.
By the time the second band, indie/alternative group, Stonewall Vessels came out, there were was about 100-125 people in the venue and more people had left their table to move up to the front where a decent-sized crowd was formed. Members Darrion Washington (lead vocals/guitar), (lead vocals/guitar), Josh McNamee (guitar/vocals), Luke Krizner (guitar), Ian Cornele (drums), and Jake Salinger (bass) effortlessly continued the positive vibes that Medusa kicked off.
In a reflective moment, Washington paused to address the crowd about how this year has messed with us all. It was almost surreal. We are all moving forward though cannot do so fully quite yet…we’re letting go of all that festered in us over the year, looking at the world of yesterday for reference of where we should go in a world that isn’t quite the same as before.
What can we do? We can sing together, dance together, and be part of that crowd connected by a shared experience.
Stonewall Vessels set included with newest song, “Hallmaze,” which they release this year. As well, at some point, a few sets of shots were brought to the band on stage, where they proceeded to cheers to Krizner’s mother, who recently passed away, other members’ mothers, and everyone’s mothers in honor of Sunday being Mother’s Day. They addressed the audience like friends, creating an exciting and intimate experience that definitely carried the same amusement as pre-COVID shows, if not more.
Music, love, and letting-loose filled the air, and towards the end of the Stonewall Vessel’s set a crowd-surfer even emerged. This might be different now, but as we inch towards a safer world live music is awakening, in some ways a zombie of what it once was, in other ways reenergized by all of our longings to feel and connect with others once again.