Browsing Twitter and Facebook you might think that in 2016 everyone is seizing the day, living in the moment and treating every day as if it is their last. Reading posts and tweets it is easy to see a community where everyone is practicing mindfulness, has grasped minimalism and is enjoying experiences not possessions. And then I go to a rock concert and see people around me who are not present and who think they can concentrate on more than one thing at once. It doesn’t seem to matter how much they have paid to see a favourite band, there are always plenty in the audience who will spend most of the gig going back and forth to the bar and then [as a consequence] to the toilets. I have seen people checking their emails on their phone during a set and others take the opportunity of a quiet and emotional moment in a song to have a loud conversation about which bus they will catch to get home! I don’t find it difficult to be in the moment at a rock concert; my ears are full of the music, I can feel the bass shaking my bones, I am moving to the beat and my brain is listening to the words or singing along. I really enjoy being immersed in good loud music with lots of other people and I always smile my way through a rock concert.
I certainly don’t let irritation with the fans whose minds seem to struggle to just let go and soak in the music and atmosphere spoil my own experience. I accept that people will take photographs [and I clearly take one or two myself] and, although I don’t understand it, I tolerate the many who will even film an entire track. But, I do find my brain occasionally wandering in to spheres of wonder; how can you dance with a drink in your hand; why, when you have paid for a ticket, you can bear to risk missing your favourite track because you are using the bathroom and what possesses anyone to think a rock concert is a suitable place for an intimate conversation.
Maybe I am too old school. I bought my first ticket for a concert in 1972 when I went to see Slade, backed by Thin Lizzy and Suzi Quatro … and I was hooked to the thrill of live music. Over the years I have seen many hundreds of bands from the mega-stars such as The Rolling Stones in 1976 to Karine Polwart, a beautiful Scottish folk singer. I have seen Black Sabbath five times, paying just £2 in 1977 and £55 in 2013 and Muse eight times, including a memorable gig in Grosse Freiheit, a lovely cosy venue in Hamburg [and where the Beatles played]. Back in the 70s the bar would close while the band was on and as a teenager I had usually queued for hours to get to the stage and so I guess just being there for the music became normal.
We saw Placebo this week and it was a great concert and the crowd was no worse than usual; the woman who insisted on shouting conversations with her partner didn’t spoil it for us. I will continue to support bands by seeing them live and I will continue to be truly present for the couple of hours they are entertaining me.