I’ve regularly envisioned the first post-pandemic live show over the past one and a half years on a regular basis. Of course, you do when you’ve been a dedicated attendee of concerts in the two decades prior to the global shutdown. My expectations constantly changed. I imagined huge mosh pits with my favourite rock bands, people ripping their shirts off, falling into each other’s arms, throwing drinks, giving each other hugs and kisses (with consent!), etc. … I continued to buy tickets for Foals, IDLES and others, but as Covid continued to spread around the globe everything got postponed again and again and my vision became slightly blurry. Somewhere in the haze between optimism and imagination, I bought tickets for British experimental indie rock sensation Squid only to see this show getting rescheduled as well. So, in the end, it was a mixture of the right circumstances that made me end up at a show of the furious post-punk five-piece from Brighton on a cold October evening in 2021. Berlin has just allowed venues and events to go full-capacity again by only letting in fully vaccinated and recovered people. It’s not mandatory, yet but it is a tool to somehow increase the vaccination rate (which is still quite low in Germany compared to other countries). Well, I think it’s also important to give those who actually took the shot and stuck to the rules for so long a few selected moments of relief in an otherwise often harsh time of uncertainty because you never know what’s next with that virus.
It’s also extremely challenging for concert organizers because every part of Germany and Europe deals differently with concert regulations. Considering all the post-Brexit trouble, it’s actually a miracle to witness the show of a British band on that Monday night at Kreuzberg’s infamous punk venue SO36. I attended great shows at that venue, from the already mentioned IDLES to Editors and even old indie favourites Tiger Lou. Its definition of a sticky, sweaty concert venue made it the perfect place for the comeback, although it can also be a pain in the ass when it’s really packed. After all, it’s been 592 days since my last full-capacity indoor show. I mean, I’ve seen live music; I also experienced full-capacity vibes over the course of the summer. I danced on a club floor (while wearing a mask); I even attended a festival this summer where I was allowed to party without limitations. And I told you about that already legendary Reeperbahn Festival aftershow party at the Molotow Club, right? But still, it’s a different thing when you buy a ticket specifically for a show to see a band of your choice. I was excited, needless to say.
A lesson in social anti distancing
Squid are a fitting band to welcome back sweaty club events. They are quite physical, very intense and their songs have this hypnotic sense of dramaturgy, which made this year’s debut album Bright Green Field extremely captivating. It’s a band that already is a lot of fun on record, but is even better live. Especially the second half of their 60-minute long set had a wonderful and intense drive. Songs like Paddling and the magnificent, monstrous Narrator are the sort of songs that make your body shake in an uncontrollable way. Those are the moments I missed over the past 17 months. It was rewarding for the majority of the audience. A small mosh-pit manifested itself in the front rows of SO36 but everybody appeared to be enjoying it. I honestly can’t remember when I last heard such euphoric “Encore”-shouts. Well, maybe I simply forgot about it.
One thing I was a bit concerned about was the whole social distancing aspect and whether I would end up with a subtle form of claustrophobia. I know people who are struggling to go back into social mode. But I had a bit of training over the past months, slowly embracing bigger post-vaccination gatherings with friends, first outside, then also in rooms and bars. It still takes around five minutes to adjust, accept the situation, shake off the fear of the Delta variant in the back of your mind and embrace the scenery. You can’t control everything. But once you do embrace it it’s a quick return to normal, I have to say, including all the good and bad things that come with it. Of course, the SO36 was quite packed, I bounced into people as I elbowed my way through the crowd. It’s annoying but human. People still talk too much, they light a cigarette when they shouldn’t and, somehow, somebody taller than you always ends up exactly in front of you. But well… isn’t that what you came for? For the physical experience of togetherness?
Because that’s what I also witnessed: smiling faces, affirmative shouting and an overall love for that weird, intense post-punk/math-rock sound of the five lads that came all the way from Brighton to perform for us.
It wasn’t the gigantic ‘everybody goes wild’-moment I romantically envisioned back in 2020. This one might still take a few months and a bit of training. Or maybe it won’t happen after all. Personally, I learned to appreciate these moments and opportunities a bit more and that’s why I am simply happy that they are possible again. The upcoming winter might still be a bit confusing and chaotic as the retreat of Covid-19 still feels like a fragile truce but I’m more than happy to adapt to it and embrace every opportunity that doesn’t involve a laptop screen. And I hope you all experience such moments as well in some form, no matter where you are. Don’t ever take them for granted.