There’s a parking lot in LA where half the street lights are broken any day of the year.
If you look to the right, a mural of a woman’s face welcomes you by the glow of cigarettes and headlights. The entire alley reeks of industry and abandon, but it’s home.
I cross the parking lot carefully, gravitating towards the music until my friends’ faces appear out of the doorway and embrace me. We enter The Smell, and the night begins. It is my first time back in months — a period which feels like forever. Attending shows here has been a weekly ritual for me for the past three years.
Knowing that it will likely be my last show at The Smell for a very long time, I allow myself to be swept away by the opening act, Shower Curtain. If you asked me who they were opening up for, I couldn’t tell you. I was completely absorbed by Shower Curtain. Their latest self-titled album immediately brought me back to seeing them live, especially the opening track: “Should I Call You?”
Like the vast majority of college students, I was sent home for the rest of the year due to COVID-19. I hated my college autumn quarter — so much so that I dreamt of transferring to practically anywhere else. I had no friends, and around me — and on social media — I was engulfed by images of smiling groups of students. I felt truly isolated, despite being surrounded by hundreds of people. This all changed winter quarter, when I made the best group of friends I could have ever asked for. The weeks preceding the news of mandatory mass departure were some of the best of my life. From deep conversations lasting until 2am to taking some of my friends to their first DIY shows, I finally felt like I belonged.
Now, I’m separated from my friends, states apart, unsure of when we will see each other again. While social media and regular group Zoom calls keep us all “connected,” it is hard to not feel the distance created by screens when just a few weeks ago we were gathered in person. For me especially, it’s hard not to wonder if these connections will last, or if I will be returned to how I felt in my autumn quarter. In quarantine, it’s hard to know how to communicate. Shower Curtain captures this feeling for me.
When I’m thinking about you /
Am I on your mind too?
I’m yearning for people outside the bounds of quarantine and wondering: are they yearning for me the same? This is followed by Shower Curtain repeating “Should I call you? / I wanna talk to you,” furthering how repetitive this all feels in the monotany of life in quarantine.
I reached out to Victoria Winter — the one-woman band that is Shower Curtain — to learn more about this song, “Should I Call You?”, that I can’t stop coming back to, every time I return to this EP. The ideas Winter described to me delved into experiences with distance and doubt: “I was struggling with distance and uncertainty in the reciprocity between me and someone else,” Winter explained. “Just wondering through different emotions and quite literally on how I should act on my feelings.”
I think this questioning and this uncertainty really comes through. It’s impossible to listen to Shower Curtain and not become absorbed in dream-like introspection.
“In quarantine, it’s hard to know how to communicate. Shower Curtain captures this feeling for me.”
When I first saw Shower Curtain live, back at The Smell, I had briefly returned to LA to see old friends before my family moved to Boston. For me, that show symbolizes my departure from what I still consider my “home.” Hearing them now, it is hard to not think about how I was able to create this same environment for myself at college, before being torn from it.
When I listen to this EP with my eyes closed, I imagine myself sitting with both my college friends and my friends from home on the couches at the back of The Smell while Shower Curtain plays. I imagine being happy, surrounded by people I love in the graffiti-covered walls that first made LA feel like home to me. I don’t have to worry about whether or not to call my friends, when I will be with them again. Instead, we are all swept away by Victoria Winter’s soft vocals and the guitar tone that make me nostalgic for a time I desperately miss. And finally, I feel like I am home again.
Soleil Engin is a public policy major at the University of Chicago, where she also helps organize student performance opportunities with the Music Forum. She is passionate about healthcare equality, creating gender inclusive music spaces, and making music with her band, Puddlejumper.