What is it about live music that has such a powerful impact on some of us? What happens to our brains when we are with a group of like-minded fans hearing songs played for us that we have listened to hundreds, if not thousands of times? Why do we part with hard-earned money to overpay for a bottle of water or that awful $11 baked pretzel? Is it to just see a famous person? Or is it just that it’s loud?
Years ago, I was at Expo West Natural Products Expo in California. This expo is the largest natural product convention in the US and maybe the world. It would have had to be around 1990. I was young. Young enough to attend the expo and be on my feet all day long and still be spry enough to go to a concert that night. I was with two lifelong friends (we always go to shows together 30 years later). We decided to head to see Boston play at Universal amphitheater, a short drive away. That night was the first concert I remember seeing away from the local venus of my home in Utah. The show was terrific. Boston even brought the massive pipe organ that they played on stage with smoke and fog billowing. We knew the songs. We loved the songs. After the show, the crowd moved toward an exit that was bottlenecked and very slow. Trying to keep an eye out for each other so we could keep together. Someone ahead of the slow-moving crowd started to moooo. Yep, like a cow. Within seconds the sound was full and powerful. It was as if we were all cattle going to the pasture. Every person was mooing. It was fantastic to end the night, feeling a part of something so big with hundreds of other fans.
Around 30 years later, in Salt Lake City, I was with the same two friends, in a tiny venue. Motorhead was in town. They had an opener from England named Saxon. Between the two bands, we chatted it up with other fans talking about shows we had been to in the past, experiences that may be tied to Motorhead. Then the show started. The band without Lemmy began to play, and soon Lemmy came out with the help of a stagehand, bass in hand working the rhythm. He went up to the mic and started to sing. Sing the way only Lemmy sang. Lemmy would turn 70 in a few weeks. He looked frail. I can not remember what song it was, but he had to get help getting off stage just a minute or two into that song. One of the band members apologized and said Lemmy needed a minute and would be out soon. A few minutes later, Lemmy came out, and they started to play the song Ace of Spades. If there was one song the fans would know and had made Lemmy the money to pay for his massive WWII memorabilia collection, this was the song. I am sad to say he could not take it. A few minutes into the song, he again needed help. He came back to the mic a little later without his bass and fanfare. Lemmy, the rocker that took no criticisms from anyone, the hardcore metalhead was in tears, “I just cannot do it.” Less than 2 months later, right after his 70th birthday, Lemmy passed away from cancer he just did not talk about. Lemmy wanted to go out doing what he loved.
I love live music. I love it because its a real experience with real people, the fans, the people I love, and the artists that want to give what they were blessed to do. You can tell when an artist loves to give, and when that happens, it is magical. When the fans and supporters feel it, my soul feels it.
Live music is a huge part of my life. If you want it to be part of yours, I recommend you get on one of the web services that will keep you up to date on shows coming to your town. I like this one, www.bandsintown.com. Whether you know the band really well or not, get ready with a setlist. You can find most setlists on setlist.fm.