First Live Music Performance Since the Pandemic

We had quite an adventure on Friday with our first gig back since COVID!
The gig was at a lovely community in north Scottsdale whom we play for several times each year. We normally play in their beautiful sitting room off the lobby. It has a piano, “piano bar”, couches and lounge chairs. It’s really beautiful, and we love playing there. The residents get to sit up close eating hors d’oeuvres and drinking wine for happy hour, and we chat with them throughout the performance, with no microphones. The residents are so appreciative and tend to have a lot of knowledge about music, so it’s really fun interacting with them.
Last year we also played a special event for them around Valentine’s Day – a Red Dress fundraiser for the American Heart Association in the courtyard with catering and everyone all dressed up. It was at sunset and they had those big stand-up heaters to keep everyone comfortable. It was such a beautiful event. We had people making requests and dancing right in front of us even! It was so sweet.
Anyway, in the beginning of the pandemic, the activities director at this community got promoted so when I tried to contact her to confirm our upcoming performance, she said we needed to talk to someone new after she got settled in. When we did hear from her, she said what we expected – no outsiders in the community because of COVID restrictions. She did make an interesting suggestion; she asked if we would be willing to play outside and put our amp inside where the audience could sit. We hadn’t considered it before, but it seemed worth trying, especially given that our options were NO gigs. We figured by the end of September it shouldn’t be too hot.
Two weeks before the concert, we contacted the activities director to confirm again. By then, we figured the whole thing was off, like every one of our other performances have been in the last few months due to the pandemic. The activities director actually agreed she COULD have us come on Friday if we still wanted to play outside with the residents inside.
We talked it over, and we decided, what the heck?  We were quite concerned about the heat. It had been around 103 every day and was supposed to be the same on Friday. It’s very difficult to play the flute if you’re sweating at all because either the flute slips off your lip to the wrong place so the air stream doesn’t hit the edge of the embouchure hole to make a sound, or the flute gets kind of stuck on your lip so you can’t move it to the correct position. Plus the wood on the guitar gets quite hot and the instrument is difficult to keep in tune. On top of that, there were the audio challenges with the amp in a different room than us.
So, we packed up all the equipment we owned, lots of water and headed over. When we got there, we were greeted outside by staff members working a desk. We had to fill out a COVID symptoms form and they took our temperatures. We both passed and were cleared to go inside.
We dragged our chairs, stands, equipment, amp, etc. through the main building into the large dining room where we were told to speak with the manager about where to set up. The greeter said we would be in the big room, so we were hopeful that maybe we’d be inside after all! When we spoke to the manager, he said he actually didn’t know where we’d be, but said we’d be outside for sure. We asked if we could play in the courtyard in the shade rather than on the west side of the building in the sun. He said he didn’t see why not, so we were in luck! We began setting up in the shade and he opened the large sliding doors. The cool air was rushing out on us and it was really quite nice! What a relief!
Then the activities director showed up and said we would have to set up on the west side, in the sun, after because of COVID restrictions. So, we packed up our equipment again and hauled it across the building to set up on the other side. She gave us 2 umbrellas and a small fan to try to help.
With the audience indoors watching through the glass doors and no separate PA system for a mic, we wouldn’t be able to speak with the audience. That meant probably twice the playing as usual and no breaks between the songs, but we had expected that. So, we dove in. The first half hour went okay. We could hear audience members hooting and clapping in appreciation after each song, but it was very odd because we could barely see people inside with the window glare. After about 30 minutes, it started getting more uncomfortable with the heat. The sun was getting lower in the sky and it was directly on our backs. It was 105.
Eeking out every bit of focus we could, we actually both played shockingly well. The hour came to close finally, not a second too soon. We packed up as quickly as we could and as we were about to walk inside to leave the way we came in, she told us, no, we were to walk along the “path” outside to exit. The “path” turned out to actually be a long skinny planter box with bushes every few feet.  We were pretty shocked, but just wanted to get to our air conditioned cars ASAP. We dragged all our stuff through the planter, back to our cars, and finally with the AC cranked and bottles of water, the ordeal was over.
That was our memorable first gig since the pandemic. It was a difficult day, but seeing how much the audience members appreciated having live music after so many months of loneliness and silence made it all worth it!