I've been going to concerts for the past 3 decades, and what it means to say that has changed a lot over those years. So here is a look at the evolution of a consumer of live music.
When I was very young, my dad would take me to concerts. These were live performances done by musicians with instruments. At Peter, Paul, & Mary, I sang along at the top of my lungs to "If I Had a Hammer" but fell asleep and missed "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" We went to see Vince Gill get inducted into the Grand Ole' Opry. There were guitars and drums and singing. People sat in rows and clapped and sang along with the artist.
Around age 11 my common-law stepbrother took me to see what was, in my head, the biggest deal ever: Boyz II Men with TLC and Montell Jordan. We sat on a lawn at an outdoor amphitheater. There were no guitars or instruments in the foreground, but the artists sang the songs I knew from the radio and I stood and cheered and sang along.
In high school before you hit 18, the only thing to do on the weekends is go to live shows. I saw lots of bands that I loved (Stabbing Westward, Nine Inch Nails) and plenty I was indifferent about (TSOL, Less Than Jake). These concerts were loud and angry, I was smashed against my fellow concert goers clambering for a spot closer to the stage. I would leave these shows half deaf and sweaty and hoarse. These weren't just concerts, though; these were social events. I learned what it was to be a girl and spent hours getting ready to "go out" to see and be seen. I stayed after the concert was over to meet the band. I was immersed in the music; I lived the music (even if I couldn't necessarily pick out the acoustics of one guitar over another and sometimes the singer was drowned out by the drums). It was this dedication to live music that would eventually lead to meeting the man who would become my husband. Much of our early relationship was spent going to concerts (or cheering him on at one of his own).
One day it happens: you go to a concert or live show and you start getting the impression that maybe you have stayed too long at the fair. No longer do you find yourself pushing and shoving your way through a crowd of sweaty people to try to clutch hands with the lead singer, oh no. Now you are standing near the back of the venue, wrinkling your nose at the B.O., glaring at "all these kids" who are out past their bedtimes without parental supervision. You start to wonder if it's worth all the effort to drag yourself away from your comfortable couch and needed sleep to have your ears ringing the next day and cigarette stink in all your clothes. I still went to the occasional concert with the husband, but they became few and far between.
Then a few years back a good friend started getting me into the EDM scene. I've always liked electronic music, but I'd never been to a DJ set. I didn't understand. How was this any different than just going to a club other than it costing a whole hell of a lot more? My friend had a spare ticket to go see Tiesto at Hard Rock Live. Since it would cost me nothing, I decided to take a chance.
Wow. I felt like the kids in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, entering the chocolate room for the first time. I was surrounded by (mostly) grown-ups, nobody was pushing or shoving, everybody was HAPPY and friendly and DANCING. There was no judgment or snooty faces, just a bunch of people hanging out having a good time, listening to some great music, watching a spectacular light/video show. Hot. Damn. I was sold.
And so my love for "live" music was reignited and I found myself (frequently alone) having a spectacular time going to see Paul Van Dyk, Nero, Dash Berlin, Ferry Corsten, and so many others. I didn't feel right calling these events concerts, so I would refer to them as "shows" or just "dj sets." These people weren't musical performers, they were producers. I can recall trying to awkwardly explain to my dad what the appeal was of going to these events. No, they don't exactly perform live. You aren't appreciating their musical reinterpretation of their musical works (most DJs only play a few of their own songs and play a lot of other people's music). Going to EDM shows is an experience. It's like being surrounded by a giant squishy cloud of positivity and happy people with dancing thrown in for good measure.
Now that Daphne is here, my ability to experience live music has been understandably stunted. This Saturday will mark my triumphant return as I finally get to see Tritonal "play" (they're one of the most important stops on my DJ Bucket List). Lest you think I don't go to concerts anymore, I'm also treating the hubby and I to Muse in a few weeks (we are possessive, and think of them as "our band"). I even bought us floor/standing tickets just so we can prove to ourselves that, gosh darn it, we aren't THAT old yet. I think that a love of music is going to be one of the most important gifts that I can give my daughter and eagerly await her first live music experience (perhaps Yo Gabba Gabba Live?). Live Music isn't dead, it's evolving, just like my enjoyment of it.