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In memory of the Chip Bowl at Gus’ Pub

Did we really all used to share a communal bowl of Party Mix before the show?

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The first time I put my hand in the infamous Chip Bowl at Gus’ Pub, it’s because I was looking for something to do. Punk time meant the act I was there to see was at least a half hour away from stage readiness, and the vibe of the room was equally awkward and anticipatory. It was Party Mix. It always was Party Mix, somehow with 25 percent more pretzels than it comes with from the store. (The bar manager once told VICE that the pub goes through “seven bags a week, 30 bags a month, 365 bags a year.”)

I blinged out my right hand with Ringalos, ordered another Oland’s and leant against a wall, eating the chips off my fingers while talking with friends.

Getting people to go to a show—convincing them to take a chance on a band they’ve never heard of, to turn down the dependability of Netflix and their couch—was no joke pre-pandemic. Now, after over a year of sheltering in place, we’re nostalgic for everything about live music and can’t wait to experience it all again. A classic case of not knowing what we’d miss until COVID-19 meant it was gone.

But one thing I can’t imagine coming back? That communal snack bowl. Pre-COVID, it was a fixture, as much a part of the identity of Gus’s as the year-round Christmas lights and seven-nights-a-week live entertainment schedule. Even when no one in the crowd looked under 25 (or, indeed, when there was no crowd at all), the place always felt like a bunch of middle schoolers threw a party Mom and Dad didn’t know about, complete with the top-shelf chip choice from your grade school lunchbox. (This vibe doubled down when broken pretzels inevitably littered the front row while punks moshed.)

But after over a year of sanitizing hands, wearing masks and standing two meters apart, does anything sound worse than sharing a snack with strangers?

This makes me a little sad. Not just because I’m wondering what free food I eat before a show now (LOL/gross) but also because my dream Halifax rom-com meet cute—two people grazing hands amidst the barbecue-flavoured corn chips, locking eyes, and going full Cheryl and Toni from Riverdale—will now *never happen.*

Maybe this is for the best, though. The bowl was always on the bar, near the bathroom. Is that really where you want to meet The One?

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