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It was once I who would be the guardian of a venue. The one with the honour of trading those paper tickets for a stamp that would stain your skin for the next week. As I fed off of your energy, you would feed off of mine.

Your excitement would sustain me until my next fix. Your eagerness to enter another dimension, one that exists solely in the present, unaffected by the woes of before and stress of what is to come. A place where sweat drips from the ceiling and bodies collide in unison, dancing to a familiar beat.

It was my home for three years. My roots digging deeper with every hit I got, nourished by the community that formed around me. And one day I awoke to see the rug, usually firmly planted under my feet, had disappeared, and my lifeline with it.

No honourable dismission or grand leaving party. Just the unfamiliar unease of unsteady ground. My roots began to rot and my connection to those I once held dear was severed. My portal to the home plains had gone.

The world sat off-kilter as we were starved of normality. Our lives drab and unfulfilled by the wire from the news to our brains. Confused by inconsistency and boredom. Watching online performances that didn’t quite scratch the itch, spending money you didn’t have in an attempt to keep those keyholders to the other land afloat.

We scraped by but have not been left unscathed.

The sour taste, ubiquitous this past year, is lessening. No longer does it flow through my veins and poison my outlook. My roots have begun to regrow, and I’ve tied lost connections back together with scraps of string. I’m edging closer to a now visible rug, a tangible connection to what once was. Just a couple more steps.

Pass me your paper ticket as my toes edge onto the rug. I’ve not seen home in quite some time, but as the ink from the stamp finds its way between lines on the back of your hand, usually invisible to the naked eye, I hear a shift.

The shift of a door not there, a window unseen and a world like no other. But a shift. Back to normality, back to a world unknown. To those who mock our love for these ceremonies, we offer only pity. For they heard nothing, their heads in clouds that offer no escapism, only ignorance. But you heard that shift, too. And we know that our way out of here is coming.

It’s not like before, what is? But it’s as close as we’ve got in over a year and for that we praise the powers that be. So, sit and fidget, thrive in the discomfort of not being able to dance to your favourite song. Hold on to the possibilities that lay ahead. Order your drinks off an app that makes no sense and, for God’s sake, wear your mask.

The venue understands. As the building nods apologetically and the staff smile under covered mouths, we get why you’re anxious to return home alongside us. The journey is longer than we first expected.

We’re all as out of practice as one another. Clapping offbeat as the artists faff with an amp that had an inch of dust atop of it just minutes before soundcheck.

Be prepared for what once would be the worst experience of live music you could have possibly envisioned. To grasp at the shortest straws imaginable. It should have you wishing for the good old days. But it doesn’t. Because you’re back amongst your people.

As the power of live music encompasses the room, the presumptions of how you’d feel are left at the door. For all the inconveniences this world now has us endure, this is better than nothing.

Because, like me, you feel your soul return. Like me, the rug is under your feet once more, and each gig you sit at is just an inch closer to the safe zone. To the point where you can once again visit the dimension that you call home. The place where you found yourself. Where you could shed the preconceptions others had of you, drop the socio-normative cloak that you wear day in, day out and simply be.

But until then, we take what we can get. So, pass me your hand and accept these new conditions. Because they’re only temporary.

We hope.

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