After 15 showless months, Seattle musicians are dusting off their pedal boards in preparation for their post-pandemic return to the stage. Live music, performed in front of real-life human audiences — novel concept, ain’t it?
“Of course I’m really excited about it, that’s kind of a given,” says Ken Stringfellow of The Posies. “But at the same time, I was like, ‘My god. I’m so out of practice and so out of shape. [Laughs.] Like, are we actually ready?!’ Of course we’re going to rehearse, but I’m like, ‘God, I hope I remember how to do this.’”
Something tells us Stringfellow and the seasoned power-pop rippers will be just fine when they take the Woodland Park Zoo stage to kick off a socially distanced edition of its beloved ZooTunes series July 18. Besides, any comeback kinks should get sweated out the night before with a club gig to reopen Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo.
“I’m sure it will be a little strange and I’m sure it will be hard to be completely unselfconscious about the situation,” he says. “And yet, we’ve already signed on, so here we go.”
For Sarah Pasillas, who leads Seattle indie rock quartet Antonioni, her band’s July 1 slot during Neumos’ reopening night came about pretty quickly. At least compared to the before times when the singer/guitarist would book shows months in advance. While the thought of being in close quarters with a club full of music fans fresh off a pandemic is “definitely on my mind,” Pasillas says she’s not letting it temper her excitement.
“I get it,” says Pasillas, mentioning a friend who questioned if it was too soon. “I haven’t been going out. I haven’t been to a show yet and I don’t know how I’m even going to feel seeing a bunch of people. So I guess in a way, part of me is compartmentalizing, just trying not to think about that part.”
After a year-plus without being able to play with her band — “Who I consider my family,” she says — Pasillas most looks forward to resuming the communal aspects of playing music. “I had to face the fact that music is not everything, even though it was — or is — such a huge part of my life,” says Pasillas, whose band released its sterling debut album this spring. “It was like trying to reconcile the fact that this was gone for the time being and I also had to continue living and continue being me.”
Throughout the pandemic, there were numerous times the 32-year-old swore she was giving up music for good, feeling increasingly disenchanted with “the hustle and the hype” aspects of the industry and having to promote herself. Ultimately, the time away crystallized what Pasillas loves about making music.
“I have an excitement that for the longest time, throughout this past year and a half or whatever, there wasn’t an ounce of excitement inside me about anything,” Pasillas says.
When the pandemic hit, Stringfellow and The Posies had just finished recording an album of their own, tentatively slated for release next year. With touring on hiatus, the singer/guitarist dived into the other half of his professional life, producing other bands out of his Bothell studio. Since travel restrictions eased last fall, Stringfellow, who lives in France, has returned to Washington for monthlong stretches, booking as many sessions as he can.
Still, Stringfellow managed to squeeze in a few reduced-capacity tour dates in January when Spain temporarily resumed some cultural events during a brief period. As best as Stringfellow can tell, that handful of small-crowd solo gigs made him the only active international touring artist during that time. For the most part, the shows went off without a hitch, he says, save for some uncomfortable fan interactions one night due to an awkwardly positioned merch table.
“Everybody wanted to come up and have a selfie and all this stuff,” Stringfellow says. “And we are wearing masks, but I got a little skeeved having everybody that much in my face.”
Despite his pond-hopping producer duties, Stringfellow’s travel itinerary hasn’t been as hectic as when The Posies are on the road. After a year or so behind the mixing boards and doing the occasional livestream, Stringfellow’s ready for the “physical exhilaration” of performing in front of a live audience.
“It’s an adrenaline level that you just can’t get from anything else, other than being dropped out of an airplane,” he says.
Let’s see how that first show goes before doing anything too crazy, eh?