I just rode my bike home from the concert. The Flagstaff Urban Trail goes directly from that destination to my neighborhood. I can hear what sounds like the final applause and screaming emanating from the Pine Mountain Ampitheater. It's maybe 2 miles from here. It's an outdoor venue but with a big dumb roof overhead so you can't see the stars and moon. The tickets were $30, but I went without a ticket, and got in for free. Mind you, I tried to pay, and the guys just kept ushering me through the gate. I don't understand what was going on, because I would have paid...and then felt gypped. I don't like the "big" shows. I almost didn't go at all, but I am a perma-fan of the Indigo Girls, and a girlfriend was bugging me to go. For the price of a concert ticket I can buy 30 songs, or 3 albums, right here at my desk. The sound from my ipod is better than concert sound. WAY better. The modern concert scene sucks. The venues are too big, the artists are jaded, the sound is bad and too loud, the crowds are either apathetic or obnoxious. Am I getting old? Maybe I'm getting old. Forty one doesn't seem that old.
Actually, the sound was best OUTSIDE the auditorium. I could actually hear and understand the words and both string parts from outside the front door of the place. I rode my bike around in circles and listened to a song.
Amy and Emily---the Indigo Girls---are looking kinda middle aged too. They're showing the miles, but they still sing and play with conviction. Emily confessed that she gets a headache from the altitude, but she didn't seem to be hurting. Amy said she gave up smoking and took up eating. You could see it on her. She's not obese, but she stores her fat like a middle aged man. Not on the ass and hips like girly-women. She looks more masculine all the time. I am convinced that if you tested her, you would find she has a high level of testosterone for a woman. She even has the wolfish chin that horny high-T men have. And there's nothing wrong MIND YOU about having a lot of testosterone. Other than the distraction of your libido. Anyway when Amy is playing guitar she still has the edge, and looks like she could keep it for a while. She bangs out a lot of tough rhythms on her guitar, and they make me want to dance. And her low voice is wonderful. Powerful and rich.
Modern media is fueled by sex appeal. These two don't try to be sexy at all, and that is part of their charm. They're real. Emily says "ya'll". But the point, for me at least, is the music. I thoroughly enjoy their lovely strong vocal harmonies, groovin' guitar and best of all, their incredible songwriting. Some of those songs are timeless. The songs I agree with most are Emily's.
Emily was speaking out for the truth so long ago. Trying to inspire us. I was inspired, I still am. She moves me to be a better person. Some of her songs are worth learning to sing. Worth carrying down and teaching to our children. This, to me, is the greatest compliment one could give to a songwriter. I put her right up there with Townes Van Zandt, capturing the simplest of truths lovingly.
It's almost too bad that they have this lesbian following. The crowds have more than their share of high pitched squealing girls in them. I think it reduces the acceptability of their message to a broader audience, even though their message has damn near nothing to do with being gay. It is about live and let live. It's about working our way to a better world, and loving on the way.
I remember seeing them at some bar in the Little Fivepoints area in Atlanta, when they were local legends. It was a spirited performance to a warm but laid back local crowd. There was the full moon show at Red Rocks with Rasta Rob. And back when I was an undergrad, I saw them at another benefit for a good cause in Knoxville, Tennessee. That was a packed show with the heat of bodies dancing and the delirium of feeling the love and joy from all around. It was like some Grateful Dead shows I remember, when the crowd really grooves on the same wavelength.
That's what is missing from modern concerts. They're canned versions of something that you saw on TV. Audiences are just going through the motions, spending obscene amounts of money to be uncomfortable and get their hearing damaged. Performers keep trying to evoke the magic to make a little more money off of it, but the symbols are dead, the meaning is vacant, the community is phony. And the money has to be tapering off. There must be a better way to get the message out.
One thing that bummed me out is that when thanking the squealing crowd after each song, Amy kept saying "Thanks for listening". It sounds too humble and presumptuous at the same time. It's damned near impossible to actually listen at one of these shows. I try hard. But she just seemed......less confident somehow, and that was sad to see. Though I can totally identify. I am less confident that I used to be.
I remember a factoid, from I can't even remember which source, about happiness and age. The finding was that people in our culture reach their low point, depression or mid life crisis or whatever, in their 40's. I can only hope that I've already reached my personal nadir, because I don't want to go any lower than I have already been.