At 34 years old, sometimes I feel like I am trying to play a younger man’s game when I go to a concert. It doesn’t help that my favorite concerts to go to are the small club shows where the walls are black and you have no choice but to be up close and personal with a bunch of people you don’t know. I go for the music, stay for the experience, and leave with the feelings.
One of my favorite parts about going to concerts is meeting people. I used to be really shy and now that I am more socially adept, I like to say hello to people. If someone is standing within my vicinity, it’s not going to kill me to throw a “how you doin’?” and acknowledge that they are a person and I recognize that.
I learned the Concert Commune mentality at my very first Bruce Springsteen show. If you’ve been to a Springsteen Concert, you already know what I mean. It was March, in Philly, it’s freezing cold (and I refuse to wear a jacket because that would be just one more thing that I’d have to carry). I’m waiting in line to get a wristband for a drawing to get right up against the stage. Of course, I’m 9 hours early, because I had to be first. I wasn’t first, but importantly: I wasn’t alone. I met a wonderful group of folks who were telling stories about the first time they’d seen the Boss, how they raised their kids on Springsteen music, and how much they were looking forward to seeing the show. When we got our wristbands, we all disbursed. Because the wristbands were numbered, we were guaranteed to run into each other when we were corralled for the drawing.
Some of my fondest Springsteen-Concert memories are waiting for the drawing. People are trying to hedge their odds in every way they know how. Some people are counting on their lucky number to come through, others are calculating the numerological odds of the number they’d been given, and one lady kissed her lucky flask. Say I was number 1, your Mom was number 2, and you were number 3; if your number was drawn and I was in your group, I’d still get to go in first with you. When you are in line, waiting for the numbers, you get friendly with the people you’ve waited in line with, making alliances in case your number got drawn. I’ve made more family members at a Springsteen line than by having family members having kids. I’ve got an Aunt Karen, Cousin Tony, Aunt Carol, and on and on. The lines were long, the weather could be hot, but I remember those lines and those people more than I remember the show sometimes.
Michale Graves (former Misfits), one of my favorite singer-songwriters of all time, played a show at Reggie’s 42nd here in Wilmington. I learned a few things that night: 1. Reggie’s is the concert venue that I didn’t know I’d been missing all of my life, 2. Mike and his band (Carlos, Chris and Tony) haven’t missed a beat in all the years they’ve been playing, and 3. You are never prepared to see a burlesque dancer have a dollar bill stapled to her butt (true story), no matter what you tell yourself.
There was the time I’d met Toad the Wet Sprocket and Glen Phillips played along when I said “we’ve been friends forever,” the time that I saw the Gin Blossoms with some truly incredible friends, and then there was the time that I was waiting to see the Misfits and some guy comes up and smacks me on the ass …it turned out to be my big brother, but it still surprised me, you know?
I’ve taken pictures with complete strangers, I’ve held up people who were too drunk to be standing in the middle of the dance floor, and not once have I ever heard anyone say “you aren’t enough of a fan to be here.” Think about that: people are paying hard earned money to see a show and there is no entitlement in the gathering. To me, that’s powerful.
Why am I going through these stories about going to see concerts? Because there is a theme. We are all there for one unifying reason: to see music. The roads we’d traveled to get there didn’t matter; our gender, religion, sexual orientation, creed, beliefs, political affiliations, or other circumstances didn’t matter. If I fell down at a show, someone would pick me up just like I’d pick them up. The world is headed for hell in a half-assed handbasket; there was something sweet and pure about meeting people at a concert that made me happy. Part of me wants that for everyone — I want everyone to feel like they’ve met people who couldn’t care less about who they’ve been, but care about who they are right now.
Maybe, for a brief moment, we can think of our world as a rock concert. Make friends with strangers, forget your bias, look only for the person in the here and now. See, anyone is welcome at a rock concert; the band who is playing is willing to meet you and is happy to talk to you for no other reason than they are glad you came out to enjoy yourself. We need more of that, we need more embracing each other for no reason, or the reason being that we are just glad that someone showed up.
This is Radio Nowhere — is there anybody alive out there?