I need crowds. We all do.
One of the byproducts of this damn pandemic is the loss of crowds. We count capacity for the purposes of subtraction rather than addition. We are now swimming in a pool where the size of the gathering matters, and social distancing is more important than socializing. Isolation and quarantine are the safe plays, and division is prized more than multiplication.
One of my good friends lamented a couple weeks ago— “I miss live music.” Truer words have never been spoken. Earlier this year, before the world hid under the covers, I had convinced Ashley to fly to Red Rocks in August on a Saturday, catch Jason Isbell’s show the next day, and fly back to reality on Monday morning. (Lucinda Williams was scheduled to open the night so it would have been a double treat.) But all live music has been silenced this year, and that trip is a no-go. (Aside- Jason, see you next August on the Rocks!)
The beauty of a crowd at a live music show is its unity and singularity of purpose. Good God, do we need that shit more than every now. Social media is like the world’s biggest sandbox, with everyone fighting for the one plastic shovel. You can’t watch the news without seeing the conflict and now people disagree on which news you should be watching. The political discourse is anything but discourse, and our leaders are better off emulating Vince McMahon (or even Jim McMahon) than James Madison or Thomas Jefferson. To be fair, a reading of our history does show we have always had our share of high-pitched squabbles in our country (Aaron Burr did shoot Alexander Hamilton in a fucking duel. And oh yeah, we did have this little disagreement amongst each other called the Civil War.). But damn, it’s pretty loud right now. We need the feeling that comes from a crowd more than ever.
I have always been in awe of musicians and loved the rush of the crowd. Go to a rock show, and strangers are bound together by one love and one vision. Life is put on pause in favor of the experience. In the mix might be a Southern Baptist conservative Republican sitting beside a liberal gay rights activist. In a show crowd, however, a single body gathers and forms for one united purpose–a shared love of the music.
I’m linking a video of Pearl Jam in Madison Square Garden with this post– watch Eddie Vedder’s face while the Garden sings “Better Man” back to him. The words he wrote come back loud and clear, and his face is pure joy. At this single moment, the crowd is not clouded by politics or arguments, It’s the music, and it’s about sharing a common love with someone else. Even a stranger. I can’t think of anything our country needs more right now.