Last night I got to see Steely Dan, which has been a concert bucket list item for many years. I hadn’t planned on going to the show, but when the opportunity arose, I happily took it. I saw DMB back in June, and thought that would be it for me for concerts this year, but sometimes things just work out.
I am not an easy person to go to a concert with. I am a music-trivia-obsessed former groupie who worked concert security for many years, so concerts sort of mean more to me than they do to other people (e.g., nobody else shouted out congratulations to Walter Becker, who secretly and quietly got married a few days ago). They are a challenge and an opportunity. A contest to see how close I can get to the stage, if not backstage, an opportunity to experience music with friends and strangers. This type of experience places me directly opposite the throat-catching, obsessive fear I have about when my own death will happen, my struggle with mortality that creeps into my life almost every day. When I am at a concert, I am ALIVE. I feel I am doing what all those articles tell you to do about living every day to its fullest. But it’s not always fun for other people.
When I went to DMB, I tailgated with my cousin and a good friend in the parking lot beforehand. We found a place to settle on the lawn at Blossom, and then I disappeared. I came back briefly to gather up the rest of my stuff, as I had a feeling I would not be back, and I wasn’t. I never saw them again and all of our phones died so we never reconnected. It took me almost an hour to get into the pavilion; it’s much harder now than it used to be, but I finally managed, and then moved strategically when I had the opportunity so that I could get as close as possible. The closer I am, the more intense my experience. I got up to about row 15 and lingered there awhile, sharing beers with strangers and hanging out, but the girls I was next to, who were also seat-jumping, were obnoxious and made themselves targets for security, who came and checked tickets and made them move. I slunk out behind them as soon as I saw security approaching and moved to another section, where I found myself next to a guy named Ray in his 50s, who was like the biggest DMB fan EVER. He introduced me to his brother and we had a fine old time, drinking, dancing, high-fiving and hugging each other and enjoying the shit out of the rest of the concert. He never made a move on me physically, it’s not like that. When you meet other music-spirits, you recognize each other and just enjoy the shit out of each other’s company, and that’s what I did with Ray and his brother. It was a great way to spend the concert, though I was disappointed I couldn’t bring in my cousin and friend as well. If I had managed to get backstage, I would have figured out a way to get them in too, but it just wasn’t in the cards.
Steely was at Nautica, which is not a venue I have a lot of familiarity with. But I managed to find us a place to alight that was way ahead of where our actual seats were, and right next to a couple quite a few years older than me, with whom I instantly connected. The woman of the couple, who was 60, black, loud and proud, connected to me instantly and we had a fucking BLAST together. We were right at the front of a section so we got up and danced whenever we could – between the foot traffic and security guards telling you to sit down (who sits DOWN at a concert?), it wasn’t as much dancing as we wanted, but we enjoyed the shit out of what we could squeeze in. The four of us toasted Trayvon during a quiet moment, and to music as the universal communicator that can bring everyone together. “There is no race here tonight,” she said to me, and I hugged her. She gave me her number and invited us over for a barbeque, which will probably not happen; I know this from experience. I high-fived people as I walked along the path to the bathroom, the music-spirits reaching back out to me, and the uptight people not even seeing me. I caught a cop giving me a double-take and he laughed as he knew he was caught. “You wish I was yours!” I yelled at him, and he nodded and laughed. My concert companion navigated my concert-crazy much better than most people do, which maximized the experience further.
If you’re not sore from dancing and a little dehydrated the morning after a concert, you’re doing it wrong.
You can see people at concerts who are music-spirits; for whom the music is really touching their souls. Who reach each other and connect. I truly believe if there was more of this understanding and connection between people, if people would let it out more often and not be afraid of it, or squash it, or judge it, or limit it, the world would truly be a better place.