Isolation Drills: Chris DiPinto (DiPinto Guitars, Creem Circus)

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

DiPinto: I’ve always been pretty bad at the art of conversation. My poor ability to verbally express myself has consistently kept me from making real connections with other people, especially people I’ve never met. 

As a quiet teenager, I started playing in bands, and before long, I started to noticed that when I played the guitar, people were suddenly listening. Listening in a way they never did before. There was eye contact. There was a connection. As time went on, I got better at playing and the connections became stronger. At times during performances, the room would become electrified, and there was no denying that something was happening.

I’ve always tried to turn that energy into something positive. For that short period when I had people’s attention, I could maybe make them think, like with a simple message in a lyric, or with an outfit that breaks the mold and says, “You can be anybody you want to be,” or, “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do.”  

And now that connection has been cut off like a blown fuse in a blackout. The weight of attention. The eyes that hang on every movement. The approval and sometimes disapproval. The journey that occurs during a 45-minute set, where one can go in as the person they once were and literally come out reborn if the music moves them in just the right way. Even the catastrophes, where everything goes wrong. I miss those, too, because out of those came new strength and wisdom.

But to go back seems almost impossible at this heighten stage of alert. Already I feel myself cringe when I watch old footage of, say, Nirvana at J.C. Dobbs or Slade at Winterland in San Fransisco in ‘75 and all those people smashed up against each other, spreading germs of some kind—not of the deadly sort, obviously. 

I’m sure we’ll all get back to those jam-packed rooms and those cranked up amps and those sizzling connections—those “solid walls of sound.” But in the meantime, we will take a long break from it and hopefully not forget the feeling, until one night when the lights go down—and volume goes up. We will all connect once again.

In light of recent events, I would like to add that not being able to perform is a mere inconvenience compared to the struggles that many face today. People should not have to live day to day with the fear that they or someone they know and love could be gunned down or murdered at the hands of those who swore to protect. The time has come for change.