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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 9-9-22 – Live Music

“We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn ... there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud. And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: A quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night, I hear, "Don't worry about it, John. We're with you." I played the rest of the show for that guy.” —John Fogerty on Woodstock at 3:30 a.m

I was not at Woodstock; I was too young to walk around the block alone at the time. But I love live music. I am more of a small venue person than the big shows. The pandemic was a long dry spell in live performances. I have attended two shows since the onset, one was the Recover Our Loud concert in Vegas where and then two weeks ago, seeing Jason Isbell at Steel stacks. What made the show even better was running into a lifelong friend and having a shared experience with someone who also loves live music. I recall the first time we met for lunch after not seeing each other for 25 years and the conversation quickly turning to what we were listening to now. It got me to thinking about how grateful I am for live music, everything that goes into bringing performances to the public and how it connects us.

A 2019 study published in Frontiers in Psychology How Live Music Moves Us: Head Movement Differences in Audiences to Live Versus Recorded Music. The title explains the study, but they found that head movements were faster during the live concert than the album-playback concert. Self-reported fans moved faster and exhibited greater levels of rhythmic entrainment than neutral-listeners. These results indicate that live music engages listeners to a greater extent than pre-recorded music and that a pre-existing admiration for the performers also leads to higher engagement. This study titled Brain Waves Synchronize at Live Music Performances is even more to the point. No wonder people talk about what concerts they saw decades ago, they etch a powerful communal experiences for all those who attend them.

Music always has been a central facet of my life. My original avocation was theatrical lighting and sound, so I have been behind a few stages in my life. I know music does not resonate with everyone so powerfully, but it does for me. In addiction, I saw very few concerts. When I got into recovery, I was initially concerned that they may be risky for me, but I did not find this to be the case. In my first year of recovery a friend in recovery took me to see Miles Davis and a few other shows. I learned that live music was an even more powerful experience in recovery. When I started dating Julie, we began to go to shows. She has had a huge influence on the music I listen to. We have regularly gone to concerts over the years and watched some musicians go from obscurity to acclaim. We were part of that experience.

Easily, the biggest concert organized by and for the recovery community in history was the UNITE to Face Addiction rally on the National Mall on October 4th, 2015. It helped inspire Rally in the Valley (RIV) that ran for four years in my community, I was honored to MC RIV, which was a great honor. I was there with a few thousand of my closest recovering friends. Last year, at the Recover Out Loud Concert in Las Vegas KT Tunstall performed. I found a clip of KT Tunstall’s whole performance. She hit me in the forehead with the pictured guitar pick at the end of her set. That was a shared experience for many of us in the recovery community who had not experienced fellowship for a long time as a result of the lock down. I am grateful for those who put so much work into making these kinds of events possible.

Last week was at least the tenth live performance I have seen of Jason Isbell. I saw him on his first live tour after he left the Drive By Truckers and released Sirens in the Ditch in 2007. A few years later, Jason found recovery and his music got even better. His CD, Southeastern led to Isbell's clean sweep of the 2014 Americana Music Awards. Southeastern won Album of the Year, Isbell was named Artist of the Year, and the song "Cover Me Up" was named Song of the Year. He may be one of the greatest singer songwriters of our time, and it was cool to see him from those early $10 shows as he built a well-deserved following.

There is this infrastructure around life performances that takes a lot of dedication to keep operational. Small venues and the musicians who play them operate on thin margins in the best of times. The pandemic lock down was the worst of times for these places and the people who dedicate their time and energy to keeping the lights on and the music playing. They face a long slow road to recovery, with ticket sales lower and no-show rates higher than before the pandemic. We lost a lot of amazing venues which permanently closed. We must support live music to sustain it. These people and places contribute a great deal to the fabric of our communities and our economy. We must preserve them.

Grateful for musicians and live venues. Grateful for the opportunity to have shared experiences centered around music with people I love. Grateful for recovery which opened up the doors to experience these things in ways I was missing while in addiction.

What are you grateful for today?

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