First Rave Back! Guest Post by Shawn O'Connor

festival pandemic rave

I went to my first fully open show since the start of the pandemic on July 10th, 2021. I had attended a few small shows when bars had temporarily opened up where I live during the summer of 2020. As nice as it was to have live music during that time, having to sit at a table the entire time with only 5 other people and having any sort of dancing discouraged really messed with the vibe. Needless to say, the thought of returning to normal and attending a live event again was exciting. 

The closest thing resembling a festival experience I’d had in the last 1.5 years was re-watching old sets from Lost Lands (though I’d never been) and Oliver Heldens in that boat on YouTube (which was honestly pretty sweet.)  

I couldn’t believe that the Calgary stampede was going to be put on at all. After the year we’d just had, it seemed like an event of this size would be completely out of the question for a long time, but as soon as they announced tickets for Black Tiger Sex Machine I had to grab them. Soon my Instagram stories were filled with friends asking, “who am I going to see there?”. Who I was going to see there turned out to be about 20-25 friends.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had been around 20-25 people, let alone ones that I wanted to see. 

We got ready the same way we always had. It was actually nice to see my bathroom covered in glitter for once. 

It was a strange experience being back. Mostly because it was exactly the same as I remembered from the last show I’d gone to. From the lineup to get in, to the far side of the porta potties being completely free while the crowd formed near the front, it was like I’d never left. 

Like nothing had ever happened. 

 I had a bit of anxiety being in that large a crowd again. A couple thousand people, shoulder to shoulder; “excuse me,” and “I love your outfit,” and “do you have any gum,” could be heard all around. I imagine this is how everyone that died when Thanos snapped his fingers felt the first few months after they were brought back to life. 

The anxiety left quickly after my friends and I got into the crowd and started dancing. I can’t tell you how fun it was just to be dancing, hot and sweaty, with my favourite people. It certainly didn’t hurt that we were seeing Black Tiger Sex Machine, one of Canada’s top artists. I missed seeing all the familiar faces and making new friends. I even missed overpriced water and even more overpriced drinks. 

A girl dancing next to me at the front of the stage asked me for some of my water. And I gave it to her. Without even considering that this might be a bad idea, I just did what I always did at a rave, and assured her that there was only water inside the bottle. (Not recommending anyone share drinks with strangers of course, for a variety of reasons.) 

The energy by the end of the show was so positive and powerful; the crowd felt like we’d dropped a ton of weight off of our collective shoulders. There will be a difference of opinions on the safety and timeliness of these events and that’s fair, but it certainly felt good to be back. 

-Shawn O'Connor

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