I Wanna Be Where the Bands Are

Brianna Riplinger

I have been going to concerts since I was a 3-year-old. My dad, a fellow music worshiper and constant concert companion, took me to see my favorite band at the time, Culture Club. I can remember the colors of Boy George’s clothing. I remember that everyone was singing along around me. And I am told that I sang along too, and that I had a big smile covering my small face during the show.

Not much has really changed. My dad doesn’t hold me up to see the stage anymore, but I still smile until my face hurts. I still sing along as loudly as possible.

Going to concerts used to be something that I looked forward to, like Christmas. I would count down the days and have a jittery stomach. I found it impossible to fall asleep the night before the show. I imagined all the possibilities of the performance: Would they do the songs that I had memorized, down to every breath? How long would they play? What would they look like in person?

After the show I would relive it for weeks in my mind. That joy and excitement lingered like the stale concert cigarette smoke does in my clothes and hair.

I am still amazed at how much music affects its listeners: The crowded waves of kids pulsating to the rhythm of Bjork’s “Big Time Sensuality”; the punks that sling their arms over each other’s shoulders as they slur along at Rancid or the Dropkick Murphys; the quiet reverence offered to artists like Neil Young or Tori Amos.

Music is as powerful, or more so, than religion. Concerts are the equivalent of religious awakenings, like church services, Marshall-amplified a hundred times. Music is more emotionally commanding than literature, theatre and film – it affects our brains and bodies as a primal force of nature. It is this powerful because, unlike any other form of entertainment, concerts allow the listener to become a participant – we are in concert with the band.

I know people who ditch class or play hooky from the office to wait in line for tickets or wait outside the venue for hours before a show starts to be as close to the magic as possible. Then there are those who travel across the country, and sometimes the world, just to grab a few additional hours of musical and spiritual ecstasy.

In our daily routines of walking through campus, the office, or down the street, we avoid eye contact. We don’t trust strangers and keep to ourselves most of the day. But at a concert, there is an automatic connection with strangers – you are all music junkies. And when we’re sprung from our cages, we realize that we are not alone in our addiction. There are other junkies, and they are just as rabid for their drug as you are. When we are all in one room, one stadium, or one field, we can loose our inhibitions. 50-year-old men can pogo. Little girls in parent’s arms can sing, “All I need is cigarettes and alcohol.” And the rebel and the bourgeoisie can get down together. So, do yourself a favor: Get out there and get yourself some religion – at your local bar, stadium or basement.


Brianna Riplinger’s column appears biweekly. Send your comments to [email protected]