Isolation Drills: Dani Gershkoff (LikeBirds, Hardwork Movement, Kladky)

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.

Gershkoff: These are my pandemic instructions for getting through the day. Do something fun. Listen to the birds. Watch the leaves change color. Watch some slapstick comedy. Call a friend. Cook something delicious. Between the ongoing pandemic and the rise of facism, acts of joy and care are more important than ever to survive, to thrive, to resist. I have so much love and gratitude for my community of artists, culture makers, agitators, educators, dreamers, healers, visionaries. Simply existing in these times is victorious.

I miss breath and sweat and eye contact, overcrowded rooms, a quick exchange of smirks. The way someone’s shirt falls over their hips. The unexpected gait of a walk. A random encounter that lasts way longer than you thought it might. There is so much grief uncovered in this time. So many lives lost. I feel very lucky I haven’t lost anyone close to me. 

The waves of grief, anxiety, and excitement keep coming and going. Any day I can remember I’m not totally alone in it all is a good day. I lose a lot of sleep in general; in the pandemic I’ve lost more. In the summer, I kept starting up new things. An artist support group. An antiracism discussion group for white allies. I bought a synth. I got a puppy.

The white allies group has continued. I started the group back in June when there were protests in Philly every day and bombs going off in my neighborhood every night. It was exciting to see and hear people resisting in every way imaginable, and it was also jarring. I wanted a space for myself and some friends to share fears and visions without being burdensome to our Black and brown friends and communities.

We started using the body-based practices in Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands to dig in deep, uproot the racism we carry and locate ourselves in the fight. White people like myself are steeped in racist lies, ignorance, numbness and lack of integrity that we need to work through as we dismantle the police state we live in. My Grandmother’s Hands is an amazing resource for this work. I recommend it. 

Working a nine-to-five from home since the pandemic started, I’ve had the gift of adjusting to a slower pace of life. I do feel guilty knowing so many people are working extra hard right now while I’m home, catching up on rest and sometimes immobilized by fear. But I also crave time when I can study and write music all day. I wonder if that’s just a fantasy or if I could make use of such abundance.

I do have more time now to make music, and I’m loving that. My partner, drummer of LikeBirds, moved in at the beginning of the pandemic. Living with a drummer is kicking my butt. Rhythmic training any time of day is an awesome part of hanging around. 

LikeBirds is finishing up our first single. Watch out for the release sometime this fall! Other than that, I’m mostly working on shifting my motivations for why I practice, perform and write music now that I don’t have many gigs. My inner critic can be so damaging, so harsh.

I’m supposed to catch up to somewhere I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to be better somehow, less me, more someone else. In the pandemic, there is way less immediate external motivation. Stuck inside, I have to connect with my own heart. I’m taking time to reground myself, remembering to make music because it is where I can tell that I’m really, truly free.