It’s been a long dark 16 months for music fans, and it seemed even longer for those who work in the music industry.
Finally the lights and the bands returned to the stages, and it kicked off Friday, July 1st at Neumos with a packed house and Spirit Award, Antonioni and Black Ends.
The evening, sponsored by KEXP, started at 8 PM with KEXP’s own DJ Morgan welcoming back music lovers with fan favorite tunes. The line for entry was long (as expected for an almost sold out show) but was impressively well managed by Neumos security. Extra attention seemed to be given to the slightly nervous and excited fans from the very patient team working the front doors. As fans moved from the hot summer heat into the cool, blue, smoky venue, they were given instructions on the new covid safety protocols. Attendees who showed proof of full vaccination were given a stamp and allowed to attend the show maskless. Those who did not have their cards or preferred to keep their masks on were given a bracelet for re-entry.
The inside of Neumos was still the same, but the vibe was certainly different. “Can I hug you?” was overheard many times and there was lots and lots of embracing. Maybe it was the smoke that gave a teary haze to the stage by some up front, but it was probably due more than just chemicals in the air.
Black Ends was the first band to hit the stage right at 9, and the trio wasted no time in warming up the crowd. It was exciting to see people dancing to music again. There was a lot of jumping, bumping into each other and laughing after falling to the ground. There were also helping hands to get folks back up, and many made space so others could get a better view of the stage. When lead singer Nicolle Swims told the crowd it was good to see their faces, fans let out a cathartic scream before throwing their hands in the air. After their short opening set, the band took the party over to the merch area, where fans took selfies with the band and friends had long awaited reunions.
Spirit Award wasn’t the only band celebrating a belated album release that evening. Antonioni’s first full length LP S/T was released on Lauren Records in March of 2021. At 9:45, it was Antonioni’s time to return to the stage, and they did so with a hard hitting cover of Lit’s 1999 hit single “My Worst Enemy.” As fans yelled the lyrics “Please tell me why?,” the opening song turned into the first singalong of the evening. Antonioni paused very little during the band’s 30 minute gunk pop set. Their high energy performance left little room on the stage unused, and fans were left to catch their breath as they exited the stage. During the break, fans mingled in the shared hallway between Neumos & The Runaway bar, as downstairs in Barboza, Chong the Nomad was wrapping up a sold-out show.
The members of Spirit Award made their way to the stage to tune instruments as videographers, photographers and members of the press readied their gear. The crowd pushed forward as lead singer Daniel Lyon welcomed everyone back before launching into their first of many songs off their new album, Lunatic House. Released in March of 2021, the album is a true testament of work and showcases the band’s perseverance to stay creative during a worldwide pandemic. Several songs from the album have made frequent rotation on KEXP’s broadcast, even prior to its release date, “Unlock the Door” was featured on “Isolated Tracks” with KEXP Audio Engineer Julian Martlew and producer Trevor Spencer.
Awash in ocean blue lights for most of the evening, members of Spirit Award (including Andrew Bair, Chris Jordan, and Andrew King) romanced an adoring crowd that swayed along to their every beat. The sound was a bit shoegaze at times, but all eyes were on the stage. Daniel Lyon asked the crowd to tip the bartenders well, reminding everyone that many of the staff had been out of work for over a year, which I’m sure hit home for the many industry workers who were in attendance.
Spirit Award’s vision to put together the ultimate welcome back show for Seattle fans was well balanced with an ode to the future as well as its musical past. The night ended with rocking dual drums with William Goldsmith (Assertion, Sunny Day Real Estate) on a second kit and other surprise musical guests Ed Brooks on pedal steel, and Jessica Dobson (Deep Sea Diver) to close things out with an epic return of the mosh pit.
But if everyone is smiling, is it even a mosh pit? Whatever it was, it was beautiful, and a beautiful reminder that music is back and music is life.