THE MARSHALL PLAN: A welcome return of baseball

Culpeper Times columnist Marshall Conner

The stage lights cut ribbons of red, green, and blue light through the creeping stage fog and my anticipation grew. A couple months back I rolled the dice and bought a pair of tickets to see this concert.

I received both my vaccines, so did my wife, and we were now hellbent and determined to breakout and see a live show. This year of masks, guidelines, and virtual school made us all crazier than a caged ferret. I am sure even our pets would like a break from people hanging around at home.

One of the things I have deeply missed is live music. I just needed the right show and a bit of immunity.

Recently, the desire to see a musician I had grown to appreciate the last few years made this decision easier. It seems silly to call it rebellious--but it felt a bit like my youth. It was a sold-out, two-show concert—yet it did not feel like the packed shows I attended before the pandemic. The venue was limited to 40% capacity, people were masked (until seated), temperature checked and socially distanced.

It was live music, but with all the Huxley-like oddities of pandemic life.

We drove to the Birchmere, in Alexandria to see Samantha Fish, a rising star of the blues rock scene. She is soulful, charismatic, and talented. She can pick up any one of her dozens of guitars and make it wail with emotion. Beneath her platinum blonde locks there are eyes that can melt the heart and a devilish smile that says let me take you on a musical joyride down a sketchy road. She is equal parts blues, soul, New Orleans cool, Kansas City gritty, a couple shots of rockabilly--- all finished with a dash of metal.

Professionally, Fish has earned at least 10 Independent Blues Awards, including an Artist of the Year Award, according to her bio. She is seven albums deep and she just breaking into her thirties. She plays a list of her creations and occasionally covers a Townes Van Zandt, Gladys Knight, or Black Sabbath song when the mood serves her.

In fewer words, she was the perfect choice for my return to live music.

Between a blazing song list, she recounted the many obstacles of the past year as she tuned her guitar.

“I played lots of songs and a few mini-shows to my computer. It is funny, you are never sure about the reactions. I would look at the camera and say I hope you liked it. It has been a weird time for musicians,” Fish told the audience. “It’s been messed up for all of us. I’m glad to see you all.”

The merchandise manager at the Birchmere’s store told me people are just starting to return to shows. The availability of vaccines appears to have inspired a renewed willingness to venture out to favorite venues. Many conversations were noted. I heard at least a dozen people say, “I’m so glad to be back” or “this is my first show since the pandemic.” It is encouraging to see people trying to get back to something that resembles normalcy. In one way it felt like air-travel following the 9-11 attacks.

I think there is a real desire to return to what we cherish. Live music is the perfect foil against the information anxiety. Great music lifts our spirits and fills the long silences.

“Works of art make rules: rules do not make works of art,” wrote French composer Claude Debussy.

Many of us lean on the power of music to fortify ourselves in tough times. We all have our pandemic playlists that get us through the day.

Thanks to Samantha Fish I can listen to “Chills and Fever” rather than check for symptoms.

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