I mostly write about games and wrestling on this blog (with the odd exception), but if there’s something I do more than play games or watch wrestling, it is listen to music. I almost always have something playing: be it at the grocery store, on public transport, or even when I’m writing at home. Ever since I developed my own taste in music by finding things I actually wanted to listen to, I’ve been jamming away as much as I can.
And like many people who love music, I also really love concerts. I went to my first proper concert in February of 2011 to see Iron Maiden on their first ever show in Indonesia and I instantly got hooked. Later that very same year I went to my first and so far only music festival in Rock Werchter 2011, again to see Iron Maiden. I’ve been going to concerts pretty regularly since then, with my most recent one being Dropkick Murphys in the Ziggo Dome supported by Frank Turner and Jesse Ahern.
One of my favorite concert memories comes from Rock Werchter 2011. We only went on the last of four days but looking back on it with my current taste in music, it was a pretty excellent line-up on every day. Bands like Linkin Park, Arctic Monkeys, The Gaslight Anthem, The Pretty Reckless, The National, My Chemical Romance, and more made up the first three days, but the final day was the big one for us. My older brother was a big fan of Iron Maiden but had never been able to see them live, so down to Belgium we drove. We were there more or less from opening time so we caught most of All Time Low’s set. Over the course of the day we got to see Social Distortion and Kaiser Chiefs (both of which I’m still fond of today), along with others I didn’t recognize at the time like Kasabian and Grinderman.
As the day rolled on there were a lot of older dudes in denim vests covered in patches filing into the concert field. Then finally, as the sun began to set, Iron Maiden started to play as the second-last act of the day. Their set was naturally excellent, but it wasn’t their set that really stuck out to me. After they finished we started to head to the exit. As I looked around to drink in the atmosphere one last time I noticed something: we were far from the only people leaving. I guessed at the time that about half the people were filing out. Seems like not a lot of people wanted to stick around for the main event, which is completely understandable: the final act of the festival was none other than the Black Eyed Peas.
The reason I love concerts so much goes pretty deep. There’s the element of seeing your favorite acts in person, which I think is the main reason why people go to see shows. Music rarely sounds better than when it’s being sung by a room full of people alongside a live performance. But the reason I go to concerts is the incomparable sense of community and togetherness that being in that room gives me. Everyone is there for the same fun reason, and all their attention is focused on the same place. I never feel more part of something bigger than myself than when I’m in a small room singing some slamming tunes from one of my favorite artists.
My favorite concert I’ve been to is Frank Turner And The Sleeping Souls supported by PUP and Xylaroo in De Melkweg on November 9th, 2018. Coming to that decision was not an especially difficult one. He’s my favorite artist of all time playing to a packed and rabid crowd of die-hard fans. I made a playlist of his setlist and still listen to it frequently. Every time I do, I flash back to that chilly November night in the packed main hall of De Melkweg. I went with my parents, brother, and my best friend. I spent most of the concert on the sidelines trying to avoid the circle pit in the middle of the room, but my best friend was in the thick of it. When we met afterwards he hugged me and called the show “life-affirming” and I had a hard time coming up with a better description of that concert. Everything about it was perfect for me. The music was excellent, the venue was wonderful, and the atmosphere was unbelievable. It’s one of my favorite recent memories, and it’s one I come back to frequently.
So what have I been doing in the meantime while concerts are obviously impossible? Two main things. The first thing I do is watch concert videos on YouTube. Dropkick Murphys held their St. Patrick’s Day concert in an undisclosed location to no crowd and streamed it live on YouTube with proceeds going to charity. I’ve also watched Frank Turner’s official recording of his 2000th concert a whole lot. I also got pretty into live albums. I had a few in my collection already but my current favorite is Will Varley’s Live At Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I might not be able to be in the same room as them but the roar of the crowd and the banter are all still there, and that’s a pretty good replacement for the time being.
What is the point of all this? There’s no grand or introspective conclusion here. I just really miss concerts. This pandemic looks like it’s sticking around for the long haul and we have to remain vigilant and careful so for the time being, concerts aren’t going to be possible. This hits music artists and venues pretty hard, so if you’re at all able, please buy some albums and support your local venues and independent record stores. We’re all trying to get through this together, and music is one of the biggest things keeping me going. Give back to your favorite artists if you can, so we can all see them perform again once this is all over.