Isolation Drills: HESS

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.

HESS: The impact of COVID-19 has been excellent for me as a songwriter, artist and creator, and I’m sure many other artists feel similarly. It allowed us to slow down!

For the past few years, I have been completely convinced that social media and technology has had a negative impact on me as a creative person. Before COVID, I often thought back and daydreamed about when I would just simply write. Or sketch out pretend albums I’d one day make. Or simply sit down and play the piano for hours and not think about the outside world or the internet and what’s going on at all.

During the height of quarantine, for the first time in my adult life, I had nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to see. It really allowed me to rethink what it was I liked about writing and creating music in the first place, and that sentiment has definitely stuck with me through this year since lockdown. I’m grateful for it, as it has been the lone positive outcome of this whole ordeal in a deep, dark sea of very sad and very pressing negatives.

While I see the impact of COVID as a boon for creativity at home, it’s obviously been a complete crisis and basically a big net negative for the music industry at large. Years of music-industry infrastructure relating to shows and touring has come crumbling down, and we don’t know what will take its place yet when we get through this.

In the meantime—since lockdown it has been a time of ingenuity and discovery—some innovative technological adaptations have been utilized, which has led to some great art. But it’s my position that COVID came along at the worst possible time in our culture and society, where there was already an anti-social trend happening anyway. People have been becoming more withdrawn, more in their own bubbles, in their own phones, their own realities.

Live musical performance is supposed to wake you up and inspire you, and create a memory! It’s sorely, sorely missed in 2020. It’s one of the last remaining bastions we have left against this tide of existential dread I think we all feel happening in our society. Watching people pour their hearts out on stages cuts through that grease.

Going to shows is such a big part of my social life—turns out I learned it was by far and away the biggest part—and I’m not alone. Some of my favorite memories I have in my life took place at shows. COVID is preventing memories like that from getting made for millions of people. It’s really tough.

I’m still really sad about it, and I’m sad for fans around the world. And I know that when we get through this, people will recognize all those times where they stayed home and lazily watched Black Mirror and stared at their phones when they could’ve caught a possibly life-changing show at a venue for 20 bucks. And we’ve all done it. Even me, a performer. We took live music performance for granted.

When we can have shows again, I know they’ll be better and more memorable than ever.