How to Capture Live Concert Emotions With Few Words

Mike Rohde Design SXSW 2009 Sketches
Mike Rohde Design SXSW 2009 Sketches

It’s a few weeks past, but nonetheless, I’d like to share the creative note-taking of Mike Rohde as he uses his moleskine to remember this year’s SXSW Interactive conference.

As I mentioned last year–when I first saw Mike’s sketches of SXSW 2008–I was reminded of how I do a similar thing when I’m covering concerts. Sometimes I draw a quick sketch of the stage, crowd or the tour banner. This usually helps me grab the vibe of the concert and tap into the emotion undercurrent so I can write from a different perspective other than just how the music sounded.

This also helps me to really capture the emotional impact of the show from many angles, letting me actually see what I’m feeling about the concert experience. Then once I get home I can combine the sketches with the hard facts to flesh out the review.

In some ways these sketches I do are more like visual emotional cues. Because they also help me to remember important thoughts I had at certain key points during the show. The reason I do this is because sometimes it’s easier to draw a picture than it is to put a word to how I’m feeling in the moment.

And on my notepad isn’t the only place where I’ve seen live concert artwork being created. I’ve seen another versions of capturing emotions via artwork onstage, too.

Estrojam 2007
Estrojam 2007

When covering hip hop shows I’ve seen graffiti artists doing canvas tagging or mural paintings off to the side of the stage. During that show, I remember my eyes bouncing back and forth as the artist drew, spray painted, and hand painted while the beats and rhymes flowed from the DJ and emcee.

When I saw that, it really made me think of the power of combining live music and art into a multidimensional concert experience. And when you have that type of concert experience, it lives on in the form of the drawing for that artist, much like it does when I jot down a sketch of my impression of how I’m feeling during the show. And I’m sure it’s memorable for fans too, because it’s not to common of an experience, so when you do see it, it really leaves a mark on your mind and heart.

More than just ink on paper
By using sketches to capture ideas and feelings, I’m able to rely on my emotions and combine that with the other hard facts of the concert experience. Together this usually makes reviewing concerts more fun, more memorable and a whole lot easier to recall. And the power of capturing emotions in artwork is a key ingredient to the success of art therapy

Do you sketch during shows? If you cover live concerts,  what sort of tools do you use to capture the facts and emotions of the show?

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