I will be the first to say I’ve had it very, very good when it comes to the ability to see live shows in the past year and a half. Not only has the greater New England area been packed full of artists, big and small, but they are all in relatively accessible venues at (mostly) reasonable prices. Me and my trusty RAV4 (and a sizeable fleet of Ubers) have been here there and everywhere it feels like recently, sometimes packed with friends and sometimes with just one other person or no one at all – travelling back and forth to venues. I’ve got a two hour drive to Portland, few hours to NY, an hour to Providence, etc. It genuinely felt like I had hit my golden era of concert viewings – at least one every two weeks. Life was good and things were rolling. I was ready to get the creative juices flowing. Time to start my music blog and start reporting on all these shows I’m going to!
That was pre-March 2020.
On top of that, like many of you, I have already had to miss several shows that were scheduled throughout March, April, May and June (so far), with the large majority of any summer shows already completely off the books. I’m talking the likes of Real Estate, Kaytranada, Getter, Santana, Phish – just to name a few. If you know my music tastes, those are literally some of my absolute favorites so I was pretty devastated. Some rescheduled for the same time next year (which is actually pretty cool), but many also being cancelled altogether. Many of my fellow concertgoers have experienced similar struggles, but these struggles extend beyond the stage and into every aspect of life. A major bummer, indeed. Far from the end of the world, considering the horrible things happening around our country and otherwise – but hey, this is a music blog and I have the creative license to be a little dramatic.
I have surrounded myself over the years with an amazing group of friends, the majority of which generally love music, have strong music opinions, play and write their own music, attend shows, regularly make Spotify playlists, scour the web for new music, etc. etc. These are the people that keep me going to shows and keep my love for music alive. Undeniably, one of the best parts of the concert experience for me is getting to share the love of music with the people you love. That experience of your favorite jam coming into formation on stage, and that little side glance you toss to your homie with a slight, knowing, head-nod. Like “oh yeah, here we go baby”. The constant side bets and guessing games of what the DJ is transitioning into next. The anticipation between set breaks. The rush to the bathroom and the beer line before the last song before set 1 ends (if it’s not one of your favorites). The feeling of seeing a show with a parent, experiencing the music you love together and just jamming out. The shared experience of absolutely cutting loose in or at the back of a crowd and dancing your ass off to the music you love with your boys. That knowing look you share with your buds when something particularly insanely good is happening in front of you, and you know you are seeing something special. The feeling of being with your girl, and hearing “your song” come on – cheesy as hell, I know – but man is that a real-deal experience. The connections you make with friends, old and new, at shows is something you can only really understand by being there, deep in the thick of the music.
And that’s just one aspect of what makes it so great. Actually being there, being surrounded by tons of strangers in a strange place, surrounded by crazy conversations, dancing, sweaty humans who spill beer on you accidentally and are usually too trashed to know what is going on, the jaded vets who have been following the band for years (or the whole tour), the rubes who look always out of place drinking their Claws, the Karens who have been dragged along by their husbands and wives, the kids who are starry-eyed – looking up at one of the first real live music experiences of their lives, the buddies who reunited for the first time in months -catching their favorite band on the yearly pass through the city, the young group of teens who have been looking forward to this show for months and months, just to name a few. The smells, the sights and the sounds… there’s nothing quite like it on this earth. The people you meet, the faces you see, young and old, never cease to make me smile. And the music, the no-holds-back attitude of a live performance – it brings me such satisfaction I can’t even describe. You want culture, you want a memory, you want something that makes you feel, think, or rattle your senses in some way – see some live music.
I live for that. I live for all of it. And I know a lot of you do too. It’s not always glamorous, but it sure as hell is fun. It’s one of the most honest, raw, visceral experiences you can have – watching some guys and gals throw together some home-made tunes together, putting everything out there for the world to see on stage, holding nothing back, on a (usually) cramped stage in a tightly-packed venue, with nothing but a slight view and some space to hold your beer. Not every show is amazing, you learn that after awhile, but I will say the very large majority of the shows I see, I remember and enjoy in some capacity. And I usually enjoy them very much.
So, the question remains: what do we do in this situation? We have a craving for live music, but no way to get any fresh content, despite the occasional webcast. Will this disease, or any future diseases (because who really knows what the hell is coming next), result in the postponement of future concerts well into winter of this year? Into next year? The concert experience going to be tainted for awhile because of the calls for social distancing (which are totally justified, btw – at least for the time being and what looks like the near future), and this I think is the only thing we can all agree on. But, where do we go from here.
And, where do venues go from here – the ones who have to host the shows, pay rent, uphold functioning venues with investors, owners, staff and a need for patrons to keep everything running smoothly. Sure, the longstanding, large venues owned by big investment partners will survive, but what about our local guys – the ones who can hold only a few hundred humans and who don’t get the big name acts? I feel for these people more than ever. I encourage each and every one of you to consider a donation to your favorite local venues during this time, who are being hit as hard, if not harder than any small business given their entire model runs on live events hosting packed groups of people in one setting. I’ve already seen a handful shut down for good, which is terribly saddening, and it feels really, really unfair. Why do bad things happen to good people? I’ll never understand.
I, for one, have taken this as a great opportunity to start scouring the web for new music – specifically YouTubing old concerts, scouring my favorite Reddit and Instagram feeds for old live music clips (I have to say, my music-focused communities have been especially awesome in bringing together live music finds during this time) and taking any chance I can get to catch a band planning a live stream here and there. It’s honestly a great chance to clean up some old playlists, research some new artists, find new interests, explore different genres, and really branch out your tastes. All we have is free time right now, and we might as well use it to our advantage. I’ll be doing my best to share any and all live, pre-recorded content and music updates as they come my way with y’all as much as possible. So stay tuned!
I miss you, live music. And I hope to see you again, real soon.