September 27, 2014

Why I Follow a Band: The Moment that Makes it all Worth it

If I only ever write one good thing, I want it to be the description of how it feels to be in my favorite place in the world. I’m already disappointed, because no matter what I tell you, it won’t be good enough. I’ve always loved words and the infinite things you can say with them just by arranging them differently or choosing the perfect synonym and putting it in exactly the right place. They’re my favorite tools to work with, but you can’t build an ocean with a hammer and nails. Trying to tell you what I feel when I see a Hanson show is like trying to describe the taste of a hot dog to someone who has never eaten one. I could choose all the right words and make you see it in your head. You might be hungry and decide you want to try it, but there’s nothing I could ever say to make you taste it.

Even with all of the right words, there’s the issue of where to start, what angle to take. I could give you some fluffy adjectives like “unifying” and “transcendent” and “happy” and make it sound like a big kumbaya campfire sing-a-long where everybody loves each other because of a shared passion. I could go the scholarly route with a thesis and a specific end goal and start using examples to support my claims to lead you to the conclusion I want you to reach --> “Hanson shows are ________!” Doing any of those things would offer you a deceptively limited perspective of what it’s really like. It would never fit in any blank.

So forget the outlines and the angles. This is what it feels like to me.

There’s something intoxicating about being front row center, and all you can see is the band a few feet in front of you. There are a thousand people behind you and there’s an elbow in your ribs, and somewhere in your personal bubble, someone is singing really loud and off-key. Thanks to the general admission lottery, the girl pressed against your back is the same one you yelled at an hour ago for trying to cut you in line, and you’ll spend the next two hours blocking her from stealing your spot for the second time that day. You’re hot; you’re sweaty; you slept in a car or on a sidewalk or in a cheap hotel bed with three other girls—IF you slept at all—and right about now you’re seriously questioning why you put yourself in this situation over and over again. Maybe this is it, your last trip. Maybe you’ll grow up before the next tour.

And then the lights dim, and there they are. You feel the rush of adrenaline that comes with the opening chords, and it’s so familiar that it’s almost a part of the song; any song. Every song. It’s not a religious experience. Your feet still hurt and you’ll never be able to dedicate your full attention to the masterpiece in front of you because if you let your guard down, you’ll find yourself three rows back with an intimate view of some girl’s head. People will spill beer on you or scream obscenities during the quiet parts. You’ll have to yell at some girl to stop resting her camera above your head unless she wants to see it fly across the stage when you jump.

But the band will also play your favorite song, and you’ll dance and clap and forget to notice the other things. You’ll jump on cue and you’ll laugh with your friends when someone forgets the lyrics. During the guitar solo, you’ll grin and clap, and maybe you’ll get a quick smile back in your direction. You understand that all it says is “thank you for having a good time.” You feed off of the band’s energy, and they feed off of yours. It’s this crazy symbiotic relationship that has nothing to do with how hot somebody looks in a suit or how suggestive the lyrics might be. It’s about a type of love, but not lust; it's an attraction to music and to a feeling and a moment bigger than any one person.

An adrenaline-induced high powers you through the show, and when it’s over, you crash hard. It was fantastic, it’s over, and now all that’s left to do is get in the car and drive to the next one because every single show could be your last, and no matter how many times you do it, you never know what’s going to happen next. Every show you go to has the potential to be the best performance of their career, and by that logic, so does every show you miss.

But it’s not a fear of missing out that drives you. It’s the excitement of knowing that every time will be completely different and yet somehow exactly the same as the last. Each show is an opportunity to relive your best memories while forging new ones all at once. It's this strange fusion of past and present all wrapped up in a single timeless moment where nothing else matters. That's what keeps you coming back. And when you say "I follow a band," what you really mean is "I'm chasing this feeling that I can’t get anywhere else.”