Love it or hate it: Live music

by David Holub

Love it

It was a jazz festival in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the headliner, saxophone player Ed Calle’s delayed plane made him hours late for the gig. When he finally took the stage, well after midnight, maybe 20 people had stuck around from the hundreds on hand earlier. I felt bad for Calle, a fairly big name in the jazz world, and wouldn’t have blamed him for phoning this one in. Instead, what happened was the most spirited, energetic, virtuosic performance I’d ever seen on any instrument before or since.

That’s what I love about live music: The potential for being absolutely blown away, the possibility of being pulled from the world you once lived in, shown something you hadn’t seen before and taken to a place you’ve never been.

I love attending shows of bands I may or may not have heard before and being overtaken by the grooves that beckon me to the dance floor, allowing the music to pulse through my body in blissfully unexpected ways.

I love summer for the music festivals, where you throw down a blanket or chair in a sea of blankets and chairs, kick off your shoes and let the sun (or rain!) and music infiltrate your skin and warm your soul before finding a patch of grass large enough for the funkiest hippie-dance the music will allow.

I love live music for those things you couldn’t have anticipated, the reciprocal convergence of energy that happens when performers and audience create the perfect place at the perfect time and everyone is feeling the magic.

— David Holub

Hate it

I don’t hate all live music. I’ve seen some incredible shows: Leonard Cohen at the Barclays Center in New York, Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields at MASS MoCA in Massachusetts, Death Cab for Cutie on Coney Island (back in college when I was into them), The Decemberists at The Bowery Ballroom (back in high school, when I was into them).

But I do hate crowds. I’m short, so I really can’t see a damn thing. At a live music show – unless it’s a civilized performance with assigned seating, which is ideal – you’re just shoved together with a bunch of people. You get pushed around by drunken folks dancing. They are sweaty and you can smell everyone. Plus people are singing over the lyrics, so if it’s a popular musician everyone knows, you probably won’t be able to hear them sing very well.

Sometimes, I find live music TOO loud. I know it’s supposed to be loud. But I suspect eardrums shouldn’t be pounded quite so violently. You can’t talk to the people you’re with because it’s so loud, thus you can only listen or dance. I don’t especially like to dance.

If it’s music that I don’t know, or that is mediocre, or that I’m just not particularly fond of – why suffer through it? I went to a Max Richter concert in NYC last winter, and the music was beautiful; but I could only catch an occasional glimpse of his elbow or ear through the mass of Amazonian jerks who shoved their way in front of me.

— Anya Jaremko-Greenwold


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