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Story by Eric Baskausas, Senior Creative Director

The first time I ever saw a band play in a club was in 2000 and it changed my life. Ever since that night I’ve found myself in basements, bars, and venues at least a couple times a month, without interruption, until everything stopped in March of 2020. With how much of my life revolves around music, the return of live music in 2021 was one of the best parts of my year.


This year meant going back “home” to my favorite venues like the Empty Bottle here in Chicago. Stepping back into these familiar places after such a long hiatus was a little strange. It felt like it had been an eternity, but at the same time, it also felt like nothing had changed. Either way, it felt great, especially when Oozing Wound took the stage and melted everyone’s ears off.



I was able to fulfill a dream over 10 years in the making when my band got invited to play The Fest in Gainesville, Florida. My friends and I go almost every year, but this was the first time any of us had experienced the 3-day punk festival from the stage. The collective sense of joy that coursed through everyone there, from the staff to the bands to the fans, was exhilarating to be a part of.



I co-own X-Ray Arcade, an all-ages music venue / dive bar / arcade / tater tot and pizza bagel restaurant in Cudahy, Wisconsin. I am so proud that we were able to survive over a year of not being able to do what we do best: hosting bands on our stage and crowds of 100+ in our space. We had only been open for a year when COVID hit, but it felt like we’d been around for much longer with the way our community showed up for us when we needed it most through merch sales, donations and more.


When vaccinations became widely available and it felt safe enough, we re-opened for indoor shows. Our first day of full operation I was moved to tears (just a couple) by a band made up of three high school kids from Chicago. Because music rules.

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