This is so much better than Facebook,” someone near me said. I didn’t catch the context. But did I need it? The room was context. All I had to do was look around at the crowd of strangers. It was Thursday, July 1, and we’d packed Neumos for its reopening after nearly 15 months of closure. Looking around is one of the many things you can’t do in the hermetic solitude of a livestream. Here, my gaze wandered. I saw a vape cloud plume above the moving crowd. I saw a person dancing in sequins, another masked and shimmying in the middle of a dance floor, another up on the balcony doing a sort of punching dance of sheer delight, and many more in an increasingly celebratory mosh pit. Plenty of others in the crowd—this being a rock show at Neumos—merely bobbed gently to the music.
Photographer Chona Kasinger’s gaze wandered, too, and as you’ll see in her photos below, some Covid protocols were still in place. You had to flash a vaccination card with your ID or keep your mask on for the whole show, but inside, those masks often dangled from ears as their wearers sipped a drink. There were anxious undertones, all these strangers packed together, but mostly, strangely, the night felt normal. This was the third concert I went to this year and the first that felt—how else to put it?—real.
Black Ends, Seattle’s wobbly and dissonant rock band, stepped to the stage and left it smoldering. So did Antonioni, with a set of beautiful 1990s-inflected pop rock. “This is so unbelievably different from what life has been like,” lead singer Sarah Pasillas said. “Opposite day.” Spirit Award closed the show with a drum, synth, and bass-heavy set—psychedelic indie pop meets krautrock. Downstairs at Barboza, Chong the Nomad headlined. After almost a year and a half away, what came back most suddenly and readily were the sensory sensations, the sweaty humidity, all that human scent and cheap beer, the floor trembling with bass and drums, the rows of adults (young and old) grinning together in the dark.