What I miss the most: live music

As part of a new series, we asked our writers what aspects of pre-quarantine life they miss the most.

What+I+miss+the+most%3A+live+music

MCT

A concert is far more than a performance.

In a world largely devoid of communal ritual and ceremony, the opportunity to gather for an evening of live artistry with a roomful of strangers, and maybe a friend or two, is invaluable. The people in a crowd often have far more in common with one another than most groups of people you might find, be it at a party or in a lecture hall.

Here, everyone shares the same reason for being in attendance — some level of connection to the music being performed. That feeling when you find out a new friend shares the same taste as you is instantaneously amplified by the hundreds.

Anticipation builds, in line outside, perhaps during an opening act. And then, magic. 

There is nothing truly like the moment a beloved artist takes the stage, or the moment of bliss when the very first chord of the first song hits. It’s almost religious. I find it so easy to get wrapped up in the music at shows, so much so that when a song ends and the performer says a word or two to the audience, I often feel shaken out of a dreamlike state. 

There is an element of surrealism to seeing your favorite artists in the flesh. Suddenly this person, whose voice has been with you throughout any number of moments in your life, is right in front of your eyes. 

A few years back I had the joy of seeing the lovely Norah Jones, whose album “Come Away with Me” was released when I was less than a year old, and was the music I listened to before bed for roughly the first five years of my life. 

Hearing her voice live, especially when she played songs off that specific album, filled me with an indescribable cocktail of joy mixed with heart-wrenching nostalgia. It was hard to believe I was finally in the same room as the voice which sang me to sleep hundreds of times from the etchings on a CD in the old clock radio on my nightstand.

Now, this isn’t to say there aren’t awful concert experiences. I have my fair share of horror stories. 

Mosh pit bruisings, nearby PDA, getting puked on, getting passed out on, or even just being behind someone who smells less-than-ideal. And as someone who’s a fair bit under the six-foot threshold, I’ve also been to shows where I spend a majority of my time trying to orient myself so that I can see the stage. But at the end of the night, I’m not sure if I’ve ever regretted going out to see live music, no matter the occasion. 

But now we find ourselves in a uniquely tragic predicament. The current pandemic has put gigging musicians out of work and closed innumerable businesses around the country, live music venues included. 

A friend of mine put it this way: “As musicians, our whole job is to pack as many people as we can into as small of a room as we can manage.” So, while many artists are streaming live from their homes these days, “attending” a concert on YouTube, Twitch, or even Minecraft (yes, experimental pop duo 100 Gecs truly hosted a Minecraft music festival) lacks almost any ounce of true intimacy which can only be captured in the fleeting moments shared between a performer and their audience.

To say the future is uncertain would be a wild understatement. The world is in a bizarre state of fluctuation, and making predictions in regards to really anything feels almost hubristic. Live, in-person concerts may not be safe for the months to come, but I have faith they will happen again. Without them, the music we love will still be ours to listen to, but the communal element will be missing.

The chat section of a live stream is not the ideal place to interact with kind-hearted, like-minded strangers, but it will have to do for now. Technical latency issues may prevent artists from collaborating live from while distanced from afar, but solo performances or pre-recorded and edited ensemble numbers will have to do for now. 

The good news is, the passion for music isn’t going anywhere. Many artists are taking this time to hone their craft, to create beauty in the world. And this can only mean one thing: whenever and wherever it may be, that first concert with all things back to normal will be one to remember.