My home country, several years ago (or more), pre-COVID era (feels like a lifetime or two ago, I don’t dare trust my memory anymore). A local 4-piece band is performing at a hipster-like venue at a small-scale alternative rock festival in the capital city. Their sound is a mixture of surf rock, rockabilly and the 1960s psychedelia, with contrasting distorted guitars. They play their own tracks only. The musicians are graced by bright white lights growing dimmer as you move further away from the stage, where they darken, dissolve and evaporate, mixed with clouds of smoke.
The crowd is demographically mixed, small, but enthusiastic; the people (drunk and sober alike), are dancing and swaying to the music they by all means have never heard before. Alcohol and other stimulants are helping everyone leave their real-life tension behind, but I chose the hard way out: being sober (as I always am). The friend I came with (a very fine guitarist himself) took a few shots of our fabled local alcohol prior to the gig, guaranteed to keep him cheerful, although he’s perfectly capable of maintaining his happiness on his own.
The band is going through the set as planned, then all of a sudden, right after the intro to the 5th or 6th track for the night - the power on the stage is out. All electric instruments, guitar pedals, microphones etc. fall silent. The music stops. The crowd, undeterred, starts cheering, empathizing with the musicians’ predicament, as the bass player is walking off stage in an attempt to solve the issue.Devoid of (functional) microphones, the lead singer and the guitarist do their best to apologize to the crowd and even crack a joke while waiting on the bass player or anyone else to get back to them with (good) news. The drummer sits in silence. My friend, myself and everyone around us starts chatting to fill the gap brought on by the sudden lack of music.
Without any intro, the guitarist starts playing a bare, slo-mo version of Del Shannon’s “Runaway“ on his electric guitar, now turned acoustic, and the lead singer starts singing along, his mellow voice reverberating through the venue, with no microphone. The drummer is still silent. After a few bars, my friend and the people around us start joining in. I sing along too, instinctively, surprised; how come I know some of the lyrics, despite having paid next to no attention to this song, until now?
My chest trembles softly. My head is buzzing. A tear or two hangs in the corner of my eye. Time stops. The whole universe condenses into that tiny venue, a pack of people in it, and the unrehearsed, on-the-spot, minimalist, ethereal version of “Runaway“. A missing piece of my heart falls into place.
In my loneliest, darkest hours, when time stops, I pull this memory out from the depths of my brain, wrapping it around myself, like a soft blanket. The way I listen to “Runaway“ completely changed after that.