Sights, sounds, and synchronicity

I stand waiting, countless chatting twenty-somethings all around me, facing a colorfully lit stage littered with lonely instruments. Suddenly, the lights go down and my anticipation reaches its peak. This is the moment I and everyone else here have been waiting for- we’re ready to savor it.

Photo by: Heather Matley.
Photo by: Heather Matley.

Seeing concerts (or shows, the more informal term I’ll use from here on) has been my favorite hobby for about the last 5 years of my life. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me fairly well because listening to music is my unapologetic obsession. I almost never walk around campus alone without earbuds stuffed in my head, I’m building up a decently sized vinyl record collection and I’ve formed some of my most meaningful social bonds through shared music tastes.

I’ll never forget the first show I saw with some friends from high school the summer before my junior year: a band called Anamanaguchi. They’re a group that uses 8-bit sounds from old video games paired with live instruments in raucous performances. This was back when I was more unabashedly nerdy and wore less monochromatic colors. (Maybe I’ve just gotten better at hiding my nerdiness, I think).

That night definitely helped something click within me. The raw musical energy that whipped straight through me and every other person in attendance just blew my young mind. I was hooked on live music.

Since then, seeing shows with friends has helped to highlight portions of my life, turning ordinary recollections into heightened snapshots of memory, punctuated by colorful soundscapes.

Some of these special times include punk-themed high school romps in Los Angeles, running around the lush green fields of San Francisco’s Golden Gate park during Outside Lands Festival, beaming like a fool while seeing a mutual favorite band with my date, making new friends in London at an underground club and, most recently, celebrating my 22nd birthday in a beautiful concert hall with some of my best companions sitting beside me.

Romanticized events aside, seeing live music is such a poignant experience for me because it takes personal, visceral reactions I have had to my favorite bands and applies them to a large group of people, all in the same place for the same reason- to share those feelings with each other.

I recall a recent show I went to with some friends; Animal Collective at the Fonda Theatre. At one point during the show, the group performed an older, unexpected song entitled “Daily Routine.” The second those first few familiar electronic clicks came into play, the audience immediately went into energetic overdrive. I let loose alongside them.

As the song reached its fever pitch, neon lights from the stage seeping into the sound waves, the synth notes began to shimmer and scatter like light refracting from one hundred spilled marbles. Myself and those around me reacted by scrambling to the front of the stage and stretching our hands out to the singer like we were desperate to touch a mystic healer, a huge grin plastered across my face as my body was sandwiched between eager fans.

I realized how ridiculous this moment in time must look objectively, but I certainly didn’t care. I knew that the swarm of bodies around me didn’t either. As cloying as it may sound, I felt united to those people for that minute, kindred spirits in search of a united moment.

It felt as if I was a part of something bigger than myself. We were all one family that understood each other, at least for a little bit. It may sound naive, but anyone who has anticipated a show for months knows that when the day finally comes and those venue lights go down, differences are cast aside and memories are made.

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