Here’s a dirty little secret of mine: unless I really love the band, I’m not particularly crazy about live music. Considering that I played in a number of bands myself for the better part of a decade, that seems almost contradictory or, at the very least, anomalous. And yet it’s the truth.
If I have a strong affinity for the band that I’m seeing – as was the case a few weeks ago with Vasudeva or this last Saturday when I saw Gates in Ohio – then I’m as passionate a show-goer as any. When I’m less interested in the performer? I tend to lose focus fairly quickly.
Part of this is just old-guy syndrome. I’ve been to (or performed in) a fairly significant number of concerts in my lifetime. There was a time when a concert was, to me, worth attending just by nature of being a concert and so I used to go to any that I could. Punk rock shows in basements and dive bars, arena rock in stadiums, highly choreographed ska shows, theatrically staged performances of prog rock, sparse acoustic sets, multi-instrumentalists, a cappella performances: I had seen them all, with regularity. Not anymore. The show-going life has passed me by. Whether it’s due to overexposure or some other factor (like the fact that I’m getting old), a random live performance is rarely appealing to me anymore.
As it is, when I see a band that isn’t particularly engaging or important to me, all that I’m likely to take away from the performance is a reminder of how much I used to enjoy performing. There are few thrills like the visceral, exhausting, and euphoric act of live musical performance. And even though I have no desire to get back into all the effort and practice that performance entails, I can’t help but get a little nostalgic or even melancholic that it’s not a part of my life any longer. I don’t enjoy this feeling of nostalgia. It makes me enjoy the show I’m seeing even less.
So, to bring this back to a happier place, Saturday night was the kind of show that I still enjoy. I got to see Gates, one of my favorite bands (and they even broke out ‘Skyline’ – a song I love and one that I never thought I’d see them play live), and I got to spend time with my best friends and my extended pseudo-family in the process. It was a great night. Because, although I may be old and crotchety, I’m not dead inside. Live music still has the power to move me. The bar is just a bit higher than it used to be. And, ultimately, I’m not so sure that that’s even a bad thing.