Arts DEVO: Unpause

My mask!
Jason Cassidy

Press play … now?

Dude, Arts DEVO’s band has a show! It has been more than two years since Viking Skate Country has played out. I am so stoked to be rehearsing. And I finally get to make a freakin’ flyer again! What time do we have to load-in? The show starts at 9pm? Oh damn, wait … there’s going to be people there? In the same room? In a public place?

Dude, is anyone else feeling anxious about all this?

The masks are coming off in California. COVID-19 vaccination rates have risen, case rates have dropped and, just like that, for better or worse, most folks are attempting to go back to normal. Putting aside for a moment my lingering public-health concerns over a disease that remains with us, my current anxiety comes from the realization that, in a couple of weeks I will be around many others— socializing, reacquainting, singing(!)—with an uncovered face. I mean, who the hell is the guy under my mask? Everything that filled my life pre-pandemic—playing live music; attending arts/music events; throwing parties; barbecuing with friends; working in an office filled with co-workers—has been on pause. I’ve worked from home, socialized in just a handful of bubbles and steered clear of nearly all public gatherings. I’ve even avoided using this column to encourage attending local events in person, urging caution as often as appreciation, as the pandemic persisted. How do I just unpause and jump back into it all?

Last week, Mrs. DEVO shared that many of the students at the elementary school where she teaches have been hiding behind their masks; hiding from participating in class and from interacting with their peers. I don’t want to equate my individual issues during COVID with the social/developmental impact of the pandemic on an entire generation of schoolchildren, but damn if that notion of “hiding” doesn’t hit home. My life has been hidden from most folks—both the triumphs (reunions with old friends, home improvements, the new dog Rosie) and the tragedies (losing my dad in December, my grandpa and my dog Honey both around the holidays the previous year and my cousin Jacob in the spring of 2020)—and everything feels insufficiently processed as a result.

With the state’s mandate on face coverings in schools expiring this week, Mrs. DEVO is wondering how teachers will go about reintegrating kids into normalcy once their faces are out in the open again, and I’m wondering the same about myself and this arts community I’ve been so intimately involved with for decades, now that we’re coming out to play.

Personally, I know I’ll be partly leaning on that kind and empathetic kindergarten teacher with whom I’ve sheltered. I’ll also just try to lean into the weirdness. I’m sure there are plenty of others with pent-up, well, everything. “Weird” will just be the new baseline as we drink a little too much and overshare our guts with anyone we recognize.

The one certainty is that the live-music therapy will do wonders for my overall mental health. So, if you see my naked mug in the wild, all pale and sweaty, I am not sick. That’s just my rock face in all its contorted ecstatic glory.


• Back to the lab again: What’s this? Idea Fabrication Labs is coming back online! After two years of COVID-induced hibernation, the makers of fun and art are hosting a Grand Re-opening March 12, at 1-4 p.m.

• Images from behind the wall: The new exhibit at the 1078 Gallery is a group show curated by Greenhouse Studio titled Arts in Corrections, featuring “artwork created by currently and formerly incarcerated individuals.” Shows through March 27; reception March 25, 6-8 p.m.

“Untitled” (detail), by Rene Richard, at 1078 Gallery

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