At the risk of sounding like a lesser B high school student looking for a hackneyed quote to answer the word count or page count of an essay, I find that Bob Marley’s, “A good thing about music, when it hits you, you hit you. feel no pain ”, is really the only way for me to describe what I have felt over the past two months as I rekindled my love for live performances.
At the first concert I attended after closing, I felt as anxious as I would secretly feel to meet an ex-lover I swore I would never stir emotions again. And I had no idea why I felt like this as I stood in the lobby of Charlotte’s Belk Theater in front of my love (my true love, because I have no plans to meet an ex-lover, c ‘is just an analogy), sipping a plastic cup of expensive whiskey and cola before rushing to our seats.
It was my boyfriend who brought me back to this cursed lover and watching him watch live music made me come alive; not because of the music itself, but because of the intimacy of the experience – to stand next to him waiting for his gaze or his arm around my back when darkness fell around us like a warm blanket.
You’d think I’d invite our third wheel on with open arms, but instead I groped through the emotions like live shows and having sex for the very first time. When we took our seats, I couldn’t understand why I was so nervous. Then the lights went out and my breath quivered at the first notes, unbeknownst to my sweet love, and I became overwhelmed by the weird, mesmerizing, enchanted crowd and movement of it all.
But it was not the group. It wasn’t the performers then or any of the shows that followed. None was my choice, none was even my type. It was the simple fact that I had forgotten at those times that when the lights went down and the music started, nothing else mattered. The metaphorical cloud of sadness that seems to follow me everywhere I go, that creeps in when I smile the hardest, goes away.
During our series of breakups, I hated live music shows. Outrageous drink prices. Sitting in the backseat of a long Uber ride. The queue patiently waiting to be stopped, searched and swung. And more importantly, each seemingly “too much fun” person sent me on a “what if” frenzy, convinced that I would experience the worst case scenario: having to fight my way to the top of a human rush.
It wasn’t until after a pandemic and four family deaths that I realized how much I truly loved the chaos and the beauty of it all.
A plethora of screenshots and photos proving my vaccine status are scattered around my phone, now lost in a sea of food, drink, dogs, and memes that I save between shows. Cranky staff scan IDs, secure wristbands, and triple check vaccine photos. The shock of buying a tallboy and a cola whiskey knowing I would hear, “It will be $ 28.50.” The often unpleasant smell of the bathroom which is surely located far enough away that you miss at least one song if you “break the seal”. The titled but excited viewer who still asks politely, “Can you lower your cap so I can see over your head?” as if by magic your head could shrink. And of course, the sweat under a mask that can not wait for the reprieve of the not so fresh air.
At each performance, I took in deep breaths to appreciate the aroma of secondhand smoke and alcohol wafting through the air. Then I exhaled as if I was settling into an upside down dog in yoga class, releasing all the negative thoughts and emotions into the air.
The first sounds of the ensemble pour into the room like the screech of a teapot brewing quietly on the stove for some time, as the light show sets in – laser beams projected into a dark room propagating across the stage. That’s when the trauma ends and my renewed faith in the hour-long therapy sessions without the off-grid fee of $ 350 begins. Oh, how I missed you.
After such a long distance between this world and my own reality, it’s now that I fear that this love affair stuck in the cycle of on-agains, off-agains will come to an abrupt end. That I will forget how much we missed each other, or that I will follow my eating habits and my excesses, the two paths leading to my transcending the sheer, simple, childish nature of those moments in the dark, once encapsulated. more by live shows.
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