As I’ve mentioned in other articles here – I’m a near constant live music-goer. So much so that the fact that I’m only going to two shows this week is extremely unusual for me – someone who is much more used to attending three to five in the average week. If I don’t go to a show for more than three or four days I get really antsy and irritable. One thing people often ask me is “Why? Why do you go out and spend sometimes eight or more hours in some sketchy neighborhood to watch some bands you’re not sure you’re even going to like?” And I’ve mulled long and hard over this question – and I think I’ve managed to come up with seven reasons as to why I find live music essential.
1. Live music lets you meet new people
This point is particularly important to me because I work from home and thus don’t have a lot of opportunities to meet people otherwise. Live music gets you in a friendly environment where people all have something in common and love to talk between sets. Most of my closest friends are folks I’ve met at shows – and why not? We’re all into the same thing – rock and roll, and if that’s not the glue to start a relationship I don’t know what is. The point being if you want to get out and meet people – what better way than to go to a bar, watch a band and meet a bunch of people who are interested in the same thing as you?
The best part is that a lot of these shows – especially on the underground tend to attract some very interesting people who work in fields beyond the arts. There’s a reason that a lot of the greatest figures in history were interested in the arts – that’s where all the cool people go! And by meeting these people (As I discussed in my article on making interesting friends) you are immediately more likely to become a more interesting individual yourself. It’s a win-win situation and leaves you profiting on a personal and emotional level and can guide you even into new career fields!
2. It can be a cleansing experience
I mentioned in the intro to this piece that if I don’t attend live music at least once every few days I get really antsy – and I think that might just be a reflection of music addiction. After all – with the prevalence of streaming most of us are listening to music for at least a few hours a day – so why not extend that and spend time in the live experience? One thing I’ve found is that being drenched in sound and being away from all of our electronic notifications functions as something of a mental reset. Countless studies have shown that it’s good to be detached from electronics for at least a short time and live music gives you a time to focus purely on sound. It’s really strange but also very reassuring – for perhaps half an hour at a time you are allowed to leave behind the cares of the world and instead revel in something we all love.
This is part of why I get upset when people text at shows – it takes away from the otherworldly power that music can have. We all need to check out of this layer of reality every once in a while if we wish to maintain our sanity, and in my opinion live music is a great, chemical free, way to do just that. It gives you a chance to find space – almost like meditation. So next time you go to a show, trust me, you don’t want to be texting, you want to be cleansed by the music and feel yourself becoming stronger through the power of beautiful and gloriously emotional sound.
3. It allows you to discover the world
One of the things that I most value about my career is that it lets me travel and discover new places in the context of music festivals. But it’s not only music industry professionals who fly all over the globe for music festivals – a lot of people use it as an excuse to discover a new region of the world. Why not base your next vacation around a road trip down to South By Southwest? By exploring the globe you can become a more established and worldly individual simply through the depth of the experiences you’ve had. It gives you something to save your money towards and to get excited about. In a society defined by increasing lethargy what better way to have a good time than to kick it across the country for loud tunes with friends new and old?
In the last couple of years I’ve traveled heavily – attending events all over the world and I have tons of other cool events coming up in the next year that will allow me to crisscross the country in the name of rock and roll. And guess what? It’s probably the most empowering and inherently satisfying thing that I have ever done. I’ve found that a lot of people are just looking for an excuse to travel and I’ve always felt that music was one of the best excuses to do so. More and more people are attending music festivals every year and more and more of them are travelling thousands of miles to get there – why not hop on the bandwagon?
4. It can improve mental health
There’s no end to the list of studies and books that talk about how music can improve your mental health. Personally as someone who has struggled with depression and being on the autism spectrum I find that music can help reduce a lot of those tendencies. Hell – the great Oliver Sacks even wrote a book about it, Musicophilia, and if you want info right now then check out this great article on Psychology Today that really delves into how music can help you out. It’s shouldn’t be too surprising to find out that music is often views as one of the keys to mental health.
And after all – isn’t depression what fuels most music anyway? Legends ranging from Bob Dylan to Pearl Jam have had to deal with the eternal struggle of existence and have found their salvation in music. The world can be a dark and scary place and comforting yourself with music is perhaps the single best thing you can do to help yourself carry on through the fire and the flames. I mean – music therapy is an established medium and live music is a key aspect of that – so why deprive yourself of something that could help you face every day with a smile?
5. You get a unique set of life experiences
Hanging out at shows gives your life a totally different flow than the average individual. If you regularly attend club shows you’ll probably find yourself at some point hanging out with one of your favorite bands and learning the ins and outs of what it means to be a part of the underground. There is a very specific etiquette that you find at club shows and becoming exposed to that allows you to discover a whole range of experiences. One night you might end up helping a band carry their equipment to the van, another night someone who thinks you’re friendly might have you run their merchandise stand in exchange for a t-shirt. These are the things that help to make underground music so exciting – the sense of community.
Beyond that – because of the high concentration of artists, drug addicts and generally weird people at concerts crazy things sometimes happen. You find yourself engaging in all sorts of exciting and quasi legal adventures simply by being at the show. It’s part of what makes live music so exciting and vibrant – it’s utterly and painfully real so just about anything can happen, and if you’re ready to handle the excitement then you may very well be in for the ride of a lifetime. The sense of chaos and wonder that defines live music is endlessly entertaining to nerds like me and gives you a chance to be a part of the human experience on a very primal level.
6. It allows you to grow as an individual
Now I readily admit that this entry ties together several of the last few entries but I think it’s important to emphasize. Every one of the things mentioned above help you to grow as an individual and become a more interesting person. Maybe a part of it is my own biased opinion, like I said, I go to a ton of concerts every week and in a month attend more shows than most people do in a year. But that being said, look at any one of the above points individually and I think it’s hard to deny that each and every one of them helps you to become a more interesting and developed human being.
Growing as an individual is after all essentially the end goal of life right? I’d imagine that most of you want to grow old and die as someone with rich experiences and lots of friends all over the world. You want to be considered to be an interesting and engaging individual with a lot to share, and pretty much every single one of the points mentioned above will help you with that. Growing as a human being and being ready to share your own experiences with the world is an extremely exciting thing – and if you want to share your joie de vivre with others, what better way to do it than to be a more interesting and developed human?
7. You enter a new community
I debated long and hard as to whether I should put this one number 6 as the final point on this article – and then I realized that the music community is a large part of why I’m still alive today. You see – when you start attending live music on a near constant basis you find yourself bumping into a lot of the same people, especially if the shows you are attending tend to be in the same genre. Eventually you start to be friends with these people – beyond that you start to engage in the activities that go beyond just going to shows. Not only (As discussed at the top of this article) do friendships form but you find yourself to be a part of something greater than yourself.
The music community is one of of the largest, most welcoming, and tightly knit communities in the world – it’s practically a religion. And with social media being as closely tied to music as it is it’s always easy to find people interested in the same kind of stuff as you – even if they live on the other side of the globe! You find yourself constantly hanging out with bands and even letting them sleep on your floor and you end up getting to participate in the arts on a very visceral level. What I’m trying to say is that despite the lack of money and existential terror that the music industry has found itself in in recent years, it still may very well be your escape and path to freedom.
Featured photo credit: Alberto Carrasco-Casado via flickr.com