A friend of mine lamented to me online recently that everything is shut down tight in the music capital of the world, LA . She said that all indoor businesses were closed and there is a potential lockdown coming. No place for her, and anyone to play. Ouch. The same is true in many other cities, including the other major music centers of New York, Nashville and Austin.
But there is live music here in Ajijic and the communities along Lake Chapala. It has retreated into restaurants, mostly with outdoor seating, which is common in central Mexico. Between Chapala and Jocotepec, the two major counties along Lake Chapala in central Mexico, there are under 60 Covid cases and only 2 deaths due to Covid-19, so restaurants are open, with protections. The rest of the country is not doing as well with 356,000 cases and 40,000 deaths, but, the curve has flattened and is falling in some states.
So, while bar-only venues like La Mezcalaria remain shuttered, places that serve food can have live music if everyone follows safety protocols.. Those consist of a getting your temperature taken at the door, wearing a mask, and cleaning your shoes on a disinfecting doormat before you are allowed in, One inside, the staff all wear masks and many wear face shields over masks, cutlery often comes in sterilized plastic bags and in in some places the waiter who brings your food is not the same one who takes your used dishes. Tables, chairs and restrooms are sanitized after every use. And of course, seating is cut by 75% and spread waaaay out.
The bands have to follow safety protocols too. Bands are kept many feet away from patrons. One restaurant, Casa Domenech, further isolates the band with a barrier of police tape to prevent patrons from hugging band members (it happened) or getting close for selfies and videos. Band members may congregate with each other – either they have the virus or they don’t by now, so cross-infection is not a worry – but some wear masks if they are not singing or blowing into an instrument to protect the patrons.
It also helps that central Mexico’s mild weather has led to most restaurants being either completely or partially outdoors. We are in the rainy season now when rain can come down for one or two hours at the rate of an inch or more per hour. But even when it does, the property owners are prepared with heavy duty beach umbrellas shielding the tables and tents or tarp shelters for the band. The show must go on; they need the money and we need the music.
What isn’t happening is concert halls, big venues (even with seating), and rock clubs with alcohol only. Even some venues in Guadalajara that serve food, like the Palindromo, can’t have live music because the actual venue is in a separate room and has no seating available to separate fans– not that they would anyway. And, of course, the big auditoriums like the Teatro Diana and amphitheaters like Telmex are closed, putting a crimp in both classical performances and traveling rock groups.
However, some places are starting to book live bands for gigs as soon as August. The Palindromo, which hosts top notch local alt rock, electronica and post rock bands, is optimistically booking bands for November including the punk pop group Los Punsetes and the pop trio Cariña. Even more optimistic is the giant Telmex auditorium which is listing August concerts with OV7, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Camila Cabello – with warnings that if the Covid situation is not adequately resolved for concerts they will be postponed.
Whether or not any of these happen — and I will be there if they do– tonight I am going to be sitting at a socially-distance table in the outdoor restaurant Meraki Bistro listening to the hot guitar and silky voice of INAMIC while I dig into a Mexican Philly cheese steak and Caesar salad and sip tequila. Live music is back. All you need is dinner al fresco.
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