Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why Going to Concerts Can't Be Bad

Last week, I came across this excellent article from the AV Club about the "importance of catching the music while you can."  Writer Keith Phipps points out that it's not only the threat of  a musician's death that should send you to concerts, but also retirement, the musician's strength varies from year to year, and inspiration may just fade.  Personally, I couldn't agree more.

Paul McCartney in Cologne (16/12/09)
I have seen Paul McCartney four times (1x in NY, 1x in London, 2x in Cologne) and I still constantly wait for him to go on tour.  My boyfriend and other friends always make jokes about it and can't understand why I spent about 230€ on tickets the last time I saw him two days in a row by myself.  But there's something magical about seeing an artist you particularly love and every performance is different.  I figured that he was in Cologne and nobody wanted to come with me (imagine that), so why not spend the 160€ on one ticket?  When else would I ever be able to spend that much money and be that close to one of my favorite musicians of all time?  I also went to the following night's performance but paid for the cheapest seat; the experience was different than sitting up front, but all the same, it was amazing.  I know that Paul McCartney will not live forever and seeing him is one of the few chances I ever get hearing a real Beatle playing Beatles songs.  For that reason, I also went to see Ringo Starr last year, even though I'm not a fan of his solo work.

Oddly enough, I seem to have reached a point in my life where I realize how many acts I have not seen but wish I had, even though I don't see myself as particularly old, nor have I missed many shows.  One of my biggest regrets is not seeing George Harrison while he was still alive, even though I had been old enough to see him.  On the other hand, I guess that's why I've been shelling out money to go see big-name acts; recently I went to see Eric Clapton with Steve Winwood, Bon Jovi, and in May, I will be seeing Bruce Springsteen.  I never considered myself huge fans of any of those artists, but seeing Clapton on the guitar was an unforgettable experience.  Regardless of his age, he can still let it rip.

I have also gone to great lengths to get tickets to certain shows.  Two in particular come to mind: Weezer at Irving Plaza back in the summer of 2002 (I think) when Mikey Welsh was their bassist and the White Stripes' "secret" show also at Irving Plaza (changed to the Fillmore) back in 2007.  In the case of Weezer, their roadie/friend Karl Koch had posted on their website that the band had a surprise for fans that waited outside the MTV TRL studios that day.  (Yes, this was that long ago that TRL actually was important)  It turned out that people in the TRL studio audience got tickets (even though the majority there were 'NSync fans b/c the band was there via satellite or something); otherwise, there was an opportunity to win tickets at a store near Radio City Music Hall.  I wasn't in the audience and had to try my luck winning (which in the end, I miraculously did), but I also ran around Times Square trying to find people with tickets to buy off of, went to Irving Plaza to try to beg my way in, and everything else.  That was the first time I ever saw Weezer and what a great show it was.  However, it's not just the show I remember -- it is the craziness of running around New York City trying to convince someone to let me into the show and how much fun it was bonding with other Weezer fans.  I didn't keep in touch with them, but the camraderie on that day and the pure joy that music could bring will always stay in my mind.

The White Stripes at the Fillmore (19/06/07)
The same goes for the White Stripes' show in 2007.  I had just graduated from college and didn't really want to buy tickets for their arena tour.  I knew they were playing Madison Square Garden, but I couldn't bear the thought of seeing the White Stripes for the first time in such a huge place.  Luckily, they announced a 'secret' show that I found out about reading the Brooklyn Vegan.  Tickets were to go on sale only at the box office at around 10 in the morning on a weekend or something like that.  I decided to take the first bus out from Jersey at around 5-ish and by the time I got downtown, the line went around the block to the Toys R Us on Union Square.  I had told a White-Stripes-crazy acquaintance about it and luckily, he had been in line much earlier than me because he lived in the city.  So I got in line with him and managed to get tickets.  The show was spectacular and we managed to get close to the front.  But again, it's not necessarily the show that I will remember, but the fact that it was the one time I saw one of my favorite bands before they disbanded in a small, intimate venue.  Sure, my parents thought I was nuts for waking up early and waiting 4 hours to get tickets, but I have no regrets.

For me, going to see concerts is certainly about the music, but it's also about the experience.  Whether it is Paul McCartney for the umpteenth time or a newly discovered band I think might be great live, I'm always up for going.  In this day and age, music is ubquitious and yet highly individual, whether it's on YouTube, the radio, someone's cell phone, or an mp3 player.  We cram our headphones into ears to block out everything else and we try to disappear into our own musical preferences.  A concert brings us out of these shells to share the experience with one another.  There's nothing like turning to the stranger next to you and grinning because your favorite song is being played live.