It’s been months since we’ve been in quarantine or lock-down or now this in-between state of re-opening in the U.S. Since I’ve been missing live music, I’ve been tuning into some Metallica Mondays (the streaming of old Metallica concerts on YouTube every Monday night) and watching old shows from some of my favorite bands on YouTube. Doing so has helped me stay sane while experiencing cancelled shows/festival – let’s just say 2020 was finally going to be the year I had the time and means to devote to live music (along with attending my first festival ever), but evidently this year was destined for different things.
While having a concert streamed into my living room has been nice, it still hasn’t compared to seeing one in the flesh. The excitement, the devotion of the crowd, and the flutter of anticipation at the band’s entrance – all of it is missing. The desire to go out and be a fist-pumping participant in the ritual of live music will not be quenched by second-rate viewings on the small screen. And I’m not the only one who feels this way – if you haven’t read Dave Grohl’s well-written essay on the thrill of live music, then please take a look.
Here’s my list of top 10 things I miss about live music. And here’s hoping once COVID-19 loosens its grip on the world and restrictions ease, that we come together again to celebrate the art of live music.
Yes it’s usually overpriced but it’s good to check out the artwork for the tour and keep some mementos for when you’re old and can no longer endure the rigours of a rock show (hoping that day never comes though).
9. Getting ready
I don’t think most guys put much thought into this but for girls, like myself, outfit planning is a big thing. This is a chance to brush off those items that you don’t get the chance to wear elsewhere. It used to be considered kitsch to wear the merch of the main artist that’s performing but now it’s the go-to piece that everyone centers their outfit around. This is a chance to let creativity shine and feel good about the way you look.
From the moment the show is announced to when you buy the tickets and then when you’re counting down the days until you hear the songs in person, the excitement is palpable. You know it will be a night to remember when the songs you’ve been listening/driving/working out to will finally be played on the stage. It’s a reprieve from the 9 to 5 and all the things that frustrate you – a chance to leave that behind and rejoice in what it means to feel alive.
7. Concert banter
It’s appreciated when the band connects with the audience and cracks jokes or calls out the signs fans have brought or when they tell some crazy story about your town/city when they last rolled through there. It builds some feel-good connections between the band and the audience.
6. Singing along
There are some songs that need audience participation (looking at Queen’s “We Will Rock You”) and there are some that just demand it for no reason other than there are devoted fans that know every word to the songs.
5. Interaction with fellow concert-goers
I love people-watching and the shows that I attend have an eclectic set of fans. Whether it’s the guy near the stage during the Slipknot show with the vibrantly colored mohawk or the person a few rows away putting on an impressive display of headbanging with their super long hair, I’m certainly entertained at these shows. And let’s not forget how you probably never met most of these people before but you’re all there together to see a certain band/artist. You share a kinship when you join each other in gushing over a certain aspect of the performance or when you help the girl next to you find her sunglasses because she’s been dancing so hard to the music, they just fell off, and she’s so happy when you hand them to her that she hugs you and it feels so natural. The community at live shows is unparalleled.
There’s an electric current in the air that pulses over the crowd and is exchanged between the performer and audience. For the audience, it’s the result of the adrenaline that’s built up after each person’s personal connection to the music that led them to anticipate the performance for weeks or months. And for the artist, it’s seeing that music, those lyrics that were written when money and fame were still elusive and they weren’t sure how life would look in 5 – 10 years, being sang and embraced by the crowd. And of course, the mosh pits and screaming can’t be discounted for its effects in hyping up the audience and performer. This is the appreciation of life at its fullest with live music.
I’m a believer in showing up on time, if possible, and not missing the opening bands. You may or may not previously have been a fan of the openers, but if the night goes well, you might realize the music is great and be compelled to dive in further after the show and therefore expand your musical taste. Also, they’re pretty good at hyping you up for the main show.
There’s nothing I love more than an overdramatic entrance which seems to be the way most bands do it. An understated one that rips straight through with loud music goes down well also. Some bands have an iconic way of doing it such as Metallica with “Ecstasy of Gold” while other bands switch it up a bit more for each tour. Overall, there’s something about the entrance which becomes the ultimate exhilarating moment in the show.
Finally – the pounding of the drums and the wailing of guitars, interlaced with powerful vocals – when the music hits, there is nothing else. Just you and the artist. This audio can’t be relived through the distorted box-like sound on concert videos and going such a long time without it is unbearable. I only hope we can live the magic again soon.