A message for my fellow gig-travelers

Do people think it’s weird that you travel, sometimes great distances, to see live concerts? Do you derisively get called a fanboy or fangirl? I sometimes get a reaction akin to, “I can’t believe you’d fly/drive all that way for just a concert!” Once, I got that statement while sitting on a plane with a couple who, no joke, were traveling to see a college football game. They failed to see the irony (or the similarity).

It’s socially acceptable to state that you’re traveling to see things. Cities. Monuments. Natural wonders. But, I suspect I’d start to get funny looks from people if I were to say I was traveling solely to feel the Mediterranean sun on my face, or to taste tapas in Spain, or to smell the scent of orange blossoms, or to hear what Tokyo sounds like at night. Why does our sense of sight get all the glory, when there are so many avenues to experience the wonders this world has to offer?

Not everyone is aware that live music is a multi-sensory experience. People think about music as just something you hear, but live music is felt just as much as heard. I’m not a synesthete so I can’t say I see, taste, or smell music, but it definitely feels three-dimensional to stand and feel waves of sound crashing into you and penetrating your bones. And, sharing the moment with a few hundred or thousand or tens of thousands of fellow fans makes the moment all the more special. Why did the couple next to me on the plane make the effort to travel across state lines to attend a game they could have watched on TV? For the same reason I traveled to see a beloved band that I could have just listened to on my home stereo.

Online streams are great for when I can’t travel, and my hat is off to fellow fans that painstakingly post photos and videos to share their excitement with those who can’t be there. I can appreciate that others try and capture the moment with their phones and cameras, but when I look at pics and streams and video, I’m looking at the moment from the outside. In my memory, I’m inside the moment being created, right before my eyes and ears. Despite pictures and audio and video recordings, no one will ever experience that night exactly the way you will in that moment, because they will not be there to know how it feels, in that exact time and space. That, to me, makes all the inconvenience of travel worth it.

Monuments are all well and good, but I feel a much stronger pull and a greater sense of urgency to travel for more intangible, ephemeral things. Sakura blossoms in the spring. The Northern Lights. A mind-blowing cup of coffee. The sound of crashing waves. And, increasingly, the full-body experience of live music. What is more ephemeral than being present when an artist brings his or her creation into the world? Besides, speaking as a performer, it’s always more fun to perform when the audience is enthusiastic about the music being created. You, the audience, are an integral part of the equation, and your energy can mean the difference between an okay show and an unforgettable one.

So, my fellow gig-travelers, don’t feel apologetic or guilty or embarrassed for chasing the fleeting but intense beauty of live music. Many people can say they have seen the Eiffel Tower, but how many can say they’ve witnessed Eva Cassidy perform live? (I wish.) I’ve traveled a fair few miles to see musicians whose work I admire. I’ve never regretted a single moment of those shows, but I definitely look back with regret at the shows I had the chance to go to but didn’t. I am not likely to get to experience everything I want to in life, but given a choice between getting a selfie with a koala and being part of a one-night only musical experience that will never be repeated exactly as it was that night? Sorry, koala. (Call me if you take up the piano, though.)

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