I remember going to watch live music for the first time. The experience is still so vivid. I was sitting a couple rows back from the front of the Brisbane Arts Theatre where Billy Bragg sang one of his most popular songs ‘New England’ in his beautifully raw London accent. It was so surreal. Almost overwhelming. Being 12 at the time, I had been confronted with few experiences that lived up to this particular moment. It wasn’t just the performance, it was the atmosphere, the environment, the crowd, the unspoken emotional bond shared between complete strangers through the love of music. It was fascinating for me. To this day I can still hear the chorus unconsciously echoing through the back of my mind:
"I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for a new England, I’m just looking for another girl…"
For some, music is where their heart and passion lies, and for others it’s just another regular source of entertainment. Personally, music is an avenue for escape, a sense of familiarity in mysterious environments and the roots to conversation and experiences with new people.
Regardless of your own connection to music, it’s hard to overstate the effect it has – its influence on the people around you as well as the contemporary issues within our community. It’s a universal language, the super-glue for all social interactions. Think about it: from the moment we are born, music is introduced into our lives through poems and lullabies. It is apparent in all of life’s Hallmark moments, from weddings and funerals to graduation ceremonies. It’s an outward expression of our social and cultural beliefs.
Through the roller-coaster ride of covid, a ‘new normal’ has evolved: no more waiting three hours in club lines, no more kebabs at 2am, no more cheap romance. No more.
It feels like a decade ago that I was dancing away my problems, drinking cheap spirits and venting my inner monologue to people I had met just 10 minutes prior. It’s something that I now realise – all too late – that I previously took for granted. The loss of freedom and belonging, my freedom and belonging, has gone down the drain with the loss of live music.
Music is now a somewhat anti-social activity, whether we like it or not. We have become accustomed to our favourite playlists echoing through four walls, Saturday night solo dancing in the lounge room, or listening with headphones on while enjoying a glass of red wine and the dulcet tones of Lana Del Ray or Amy Winehouse. Although this sounds rather enjoyable, like most activities, the pleasure is quickly diluted after weeks on end. Music in it’s pre-recorded format just doesn’t hit like the live version does.
For one, the song is exactly the same each time you listen to it. It’s like when you discover a new track and each time you get the chance to play it, you do. You listen to it over and over until you know every single lyric, lose all replay value and end up finding a new song to fill those empty moments.
Half of the appeal of live music is that the experience is different each time. You may see your favourite band/artist 20 times in your life (if that), and no one performance will be the same as another. From the people you go with, to the venue, and the drugs you took or the alcohol you drank. Don’t get me wrong, not every live performance you go to will be worth attending. But it’s rare you hear someone buy a $750 dollar ticket to a performance 7 hours away, for them to come home and tell you it was average.
I often forget that we’re all in the same situation: everyone is on YouTube or scrolling through their camera roll clutching at past memories, everyone is suffering from the lack of IRL interactions and affection, everyone is suffering from the loss of live music. And although I doubt the pandemic will eradicate my paranoia of being locked up in my room for another two weeks, I’m really looking forward to going to a gig once more.
Music is great. Live music is amazing.