Bluegrass dream analysis in the time of COVID-19

We’ve discussed bluegrass dream analysis in past columns, so if you’ve read any of those, you’re already familiar with the four classic bluegrass dream archetypes:

The stage anxiety dream in which you’re introduced by the MC, only to look around you and discover that all of your band members are actually badgers.

The medical dream in which you’re on the operating table and the surgeon is Jimmy Martin, who is singing, “be thankful you’re living, drink up and go home.”

The flying naked over Bean Blossom dream.

The equipment anxiety dream, which varies by what instrument you play:

Dobro players discover their bar is actually a roll of string cheese.

Guitar players have accidentally swallowed their only Blue Chip pick.

Banjo players discover they’re actually playing a 7-string banjo, and the additional two strings are tuned to B flat and A.

Bass players discover their instrument is suddenly twice as big as it used to be and is made of granite. Also the stage is a mile away.

Fiddle players discover they’re actually dobro players.

You’ve probably had one or more of these dreams in your life. But among the many things that have changed with the COVID-19 crisis and life under stay-at-home orders, are the kinds of dreams we’re having. Our dream life has been altered drastically along with the rest of our lives. 

In the first week of lockdown, things were pretty normal, dream-wise. I had the swallowed pick dream (TPR 45, except in my dream it was rhubarb-flavored), some routine travel anxiety dreams, and a dream in which my band consisted of Charo, Andrew Cuomo, and two badgers (I have no idea what that one meant). But as the weeks went on, my dreams started consisting of a lot of cramped spaces filled with people, complicated and crowded travel situations, and a lot of touching my face and having other people touch my face. Far from causing anxiety, these dreams are now a source of comfort, and after extensive discussions with other bluegrass musicians (one Zoom meeting with two people, one of whom could never get the audio to work), I’m finding that others are having very similar dreams.

In his recent book on dreams, Dreams Are Weird: Riding the Ferris Wheel of the Subconscious, Dr. Herbert Traumscheiss stated that, “Dreams often take us to places we are currently unable to go, whether that be a town in Wales overrun by goats, or the department of motor vehicles.” This has never been more true than in the current quarantine environment, and what is beginning to emerge is a whole new set of COVID-19 era bluegrass dream archetypes. Here are the four most common ones, with examples of how they might play out:

The ridiculously crowded van: you discover that your band has downsized from a bus to a van, and that the band has meanwhile expanded from a 5-piece to a 9-piece band, with one additional roadie who is actually your high school English teacher. You all stop at a crowded Cracker Barrel that is managed by your mother. You sit at the one round table. You touch every corn muffin, then signal to the waiter by putting four fingers in your mouth and whistling. 

The airport stress dream: you’re flying to a festival gig in California. You’re in a crowded airport and you find that your flight has been cancelled. Now the only way to make it to your show is to fly standby on a flight that leaves in 20 minutes. You run to the gate and are informed that they can’t give you a seat, but that you can sit on the armrest between two passengers, who turn out to be Melvin Goins and Dr. Anthony Fauci. You order a drink and just enjoy the fact that you’re going to arrive on time and that you’re touching your face a lot.

The festival all-star jam: You’re performing at a festival that is enjoying three times its normal attendance, and everyone is crowded into a barn due to rough weather. Though your set was hours ago, you’ve been asked to hang around until the very end for the “all-star jam.” There are 72 people on the stage, including Curley Seckler, Wilma Lee Cooper, and Sofia Vergara. Right after the eighth verse of Will the Circle Be Unbroken which seems to also be the “1-877-Kars-for-Kids” jingle, you hurl yourself into the audience for some crowd-surfing.

The very crowded merch table: It’s after your show and the longest line you’ve ever seen is at your table. People are buying CDs, LPs, cassettes, hats, and band logo-emblazoned hand sanitizer bottles, which you seem to have 15 crates of. No one wants your autograph but everyone wants to touch your face. You let them.

Sweet dreams.