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Reflections On A Pandemic: What A Virus Stole From Me.

It is just past midnight and I am half standing half crouched on a bar stool in the balcony of the House of Blues Orlando with my trusty camera in hand with confetti raining down on me. I just got the money shot; confetti shooting out of the cannons  along with Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke, arms raised at center stage welcoming us all into a new year and a new decade. As I am no longer in photographer mode, I just sit back and revel in the moment. All I can think is what a perfect way to end the year and begin a new one. In those few fleeting moments all I could think about is how this is going to a banner year for me. Definitely a better one than the previous year, where I was fighting for my life and ultimately was on a slab with doctors hands up to their wrists in my chest fixing my heart. I had so many incredible shows on tap. As January and February found their way into my rear view mirror, March arrived with an absolutely stacked schedule. I was not even sure if I could pull off all the shows that I had lined up, but I was sure going to try!  There was no way I could pass up the all these fantastic concerts and the opportunities each presented.

Meanwhile on the news, I kept hearing about some bug that originated in Wuhan, China. I didn’t think too much of it as it sounded like they had things under control with minimal chance we would ever encounter it stateside. Leave it to an authoritarian government to know how to lock down a populace and not particularly care about freedom and such. As my first festival had arrived, I was excited to have an opportunity to capture one of my favorite bands. But all weekend long there was an undercurrent of concern throughout the crowd about this nasty virus that somehow found its way to our shores. People were buzzing about how this may cause us all to be quarantined. That ‘Q’ word horrified me. As someone that lives for each moment of a concert, not being able to go to a show was something I couldn’t fathom.

Not long after the festival, I was approved to cover one of my all time guitar hero’s. As the day’s approached the news became more serious. Talks of shutting everything down were in high gear. Then the dominoes started to fall with tour after tour being put on hiatus. All I needed was one more day to catch my last show. Sadly, my luck ran out and just like every other gig, it was stopped for the safety of everyone. Sure, I completely understand and agree with the actions taken, but dammit would one more day have been a bad thing? In retrospect possibly so, no one ever said life was fair.

As the days blended into weeks, more tours were back burnered. Then the gut shots started to hit and Danny Wimmer Enterprises did what they had to do, cancelled all the spring festivals including my local one Welcome To Rockville. After that the entire industry went into free fall, and frankly so did I. As an introvert, concerts were my way of keeping a toe in society and what better way to hide in plain sight than to hold a camera to your face. Of course, it also helps that I am deeply passionate about music along with photography too. I’ve never had much of a problem going it alone and have always felt fine. But without those nights hanging in the pit with my photographer family laughing and enjoying a great show I’ve really understood how lonely life can be without good friends.

Without live shows or the prospect of any live shows for the foreseeable future I was feeling like I lost a part of who I am. I thank god for having two awesome kids that mean the world to me, and good job that has kept me remarkably busy through all of this. As I have settled into the situation at hand, I know the concert scene will come back and I am not alone in how I feel. There are tons of musicians that are itching to get back on the road, as well as all their fans longing to see them in person again. Until that happens, I will try and find ways to stay relevant in the music world. When shows finally come back, I will see you all at the rail, while I am in the pit camera in hand doing what I love.

All Photos © Mark Matson
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