On Monday night, I went to my first gig since before the pandemic began. It was lovely to be back.

I went see Arlo Parks, the winner of this year’s Mercury Music Prize for her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams (which is very good, by the way, the earlier singles even better).

The gig was in Bristol, and in the run-up to travelling, the organisers sent a long list of Covid conditions and requirements.

It was interesting that while the government have ummed and ahhed over vaccine passports, this venue at least was using them as a requirement. The other main Covid criteria was that the venue said they’d ‘like’ everyone going to wear a mask.

In reality, the mask wearing was about as uniform as on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons.

That did feel a bit weird, stepping into a sort of time warp as if Covid had never happened. But it was interesting how quickly you slipped back into the unwritten rules of gig going. The area in front of the stage was rammed with bodies: social distancing was so, well, earlier in the year.

I watched the gig from the upstairs bar, looking down, which was less crowded and the doors open behind for those wanting to nip out for a smoke. It didn’t take long to be reminded just how great seeing music is in the flesh.

There’s all those little details: the thump of the bass pulsing through your body; the smoke swirling upwards in the spotlights. I even found myself feeling vaguely nostalgic for the good old-fashioned roadie, dutifully despatching the gear of the support band, wrapping lead after lead around his arm in a large cone.

The first gig I ever saw was The Pogues at Manchester Apollo back in the mid-1980s. Before they came on, the entire front of the stage was lined up with a long row of pints of Guinness, which they proceeded to drink their way through by the end of the set.

Arlo Parks, whose softer tone touches on issues such as depression and anxiety, read out poetry during the set and swapped her notes for flowers from the front row.

There was a warm feeling in the room, and not just from the throng of bodies. Even the overpriced, watered-down beer in plastic pint glasses tasted half drinkable.

The gig ended appropriately enough with her song Hope, whose chorus reiterates ‘You’re not along like you think you are.’ Being back in a crowd was a good reminder of that.

The following morning, I woke up with that faint ringing in the ears from the night before. It was lovely to be back.

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