Experiencing Grief, Joy and Community in Live Music

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Two things have been brewing in my mind lately.

1) The Community of Cathartic Mourning

and

2) Building Relationships in Live Music

The Community of Cathartic Mourning

A good friend of my wife and I shared this Bonnie Raitt Star Tribune review with me a few weeks ago (the video above is one she excitedly posted on Facebook before the concert).

I share this review with you because it was one of my favorite reviews I’ve read this year.  And when I finished reading the review I thought about something very important that happened to me when our friend sent me the link.

My life changed.

I was transported straight to the heart of Raitt’s palpable concert atmosphere.

I read the review and I felt rushes of  joy, sadness, hope and an overwhelming sense of cathartic connectedness with the fans at the concert that captured the essence of live blues so beautifully. And this review represented one of the aspects of live music I love the most:

I love how live music can be an unexpected yet appropriate environment for group mourning (just like it was for fans at Rock the Bells after Michael Jackson died).

And it goes both ways.

Because live music can be just as cathartic for the artists as it can be for the fans.

The review writer/reporter, Jon Bream, didn’t say it overtly, but because of the way he wrote the review and captured the emotional intensity of the moment, I could feel that he too was traveling through and expressing his own version of cathartic mourning.  I could feel the emotion in the words as he took me step by step through the emotional progression of the show.

And the progression allowed me to travel though my own internal emotions from the past.

As I read the review, I recalled similar emotionally intense situations were I’ve been ambushed by grief at concerts. One that always stands out is Lollapalooza 2007,  where I unexpectedly mourned a friend who died.  That friend loved Modest Mouse and specifically their song Float On. During that song I welled up and had a moment of grief that was unexpected and somewhat undesired (like most of us I’m still working on expressing sadness and grief among strangers).

When you read the Lolla 2007 review you’ll see that I didn’t mention the Modest Mouse moment because I wasn’t quite sure how to make it appropriate for the review.

But nonetheless that moment was good for me.

And I’ll never forget that moment.  Ever.

Judging by Bream’s review, I imagine Raitt did her own mourning during the show as she mourned her brother Steve who recently died of cancer.

And I know, too, by reading the fan comments after the review, that other fans at the show were mourning in a similar way like I did at Lollapalooza 2007.

Which brings me to my second reason for this post: connecting with others during the live music experience.

Building Relationships in Live Music

Recently my friend Benjamin Slayter–who I had the pleasure of meeting at Rothbury this summer–asked me in a Facebook comment how I write my live concert reviews. This was the first time any body had ever asked me.  It was a honor to answer Benjamin’s questions and a pleasure to share what I’ve learned about writing live music reviews. So I gave him a short version of my approach which led me to write a more fleshed out and formal rundown that I’ll be sharing with you in a future post.

LFMourningCommunity

The reason I mention Ben’s request is because meeting him at Rothbury was one of many relationships and connections I’ve made over the last year with other music writers, photographers, business owners and fans. And lately, I’ve been really excited as I think about how cool it is when relationships and community can be built because of live music.

So what I did was compile a list of people I’ve connected with over this last year or so because of live music.  The list is in no particular order and is a mix of artists I’ve interviewed on-site; writers and photographers I’ve met and had great chats with in the media tent; vendors and PR I’ve connected with at concerts. I’ve included links to their online work so you too can enjoy their words, music, photos, businesses and daily experiences as much as I have.

If I’ve forgotten anybody I do apologize. It’s not because I’m a jerk. It’s because I suffer from the occasional brain fart. So by all means feel free to send along your link so I can add it to this post.

As always,  thanks for reading. And I hope to see you at a show, or talk live music with you very soon!

Ann Teliczan: photographer, artist at Michigan Sweet Spot

Greame Flegenheimer: writer at Brooklyn Vegan

Mike: writer, editor at Sound Citizen

Garret Woodward: writer at State of Mind and RFW

Jesse Borrell: writer at  Jam Base

The crew at Rock for Kids

Lewis Cooper: writer, photographer at Gonzo Shots

Photographer Leigh Ann Hines

The crew Arts of Life

Dan Hyman writer at Popmatters

Jules Esh at Earphoria

Chicago emcee, producer, activist, poet Jessica Disu (AKA FM Supreme)

Jamie Ludwig: editor, writer at Alarm Press

Jen Cray: writer, photographer & editor at Ink19

Steve Wienberger: author of No Air Guitar Allowed

Chicago producer and beatmaker Radius

The crew at Pitch Perfect PR

The crew at Madison House

Sgt Tibs at GoWhereHipHop

Scott Legato: photographer at RockStarProPhotography

The Crew at Future of Music Coalition

Ben Ratliff: writer at New York Times

S.D. Green:  writer, editor at Ink19

Eric Mueller: Pirates Press

The Crew at Cornerstone Promotions

Drew Fortune: writer, editor at Popmatters

The Crew at Open Books

emcee, poet, activist Saul Williams

Ben Slayter: photographer, designer

Lily: Director of Popmurals.com

David Miller: writer, editor at Matador Travel

Photographer: Anthony Nowack

Dean Budnick: writer, editor at Relix Magazine

Janine Pumilia: writer, editor at Northwest Quarterly

The crew at Live Music Blog

Writer David Shehi

Frank Krolicki writer, blogger at Windy City Rock

Jason Petros editor, writer at Chicago Independent Music Review

The crew at I Pledge Eco

Wolfgang's Vault - Bonnie Raitt Live Concert Recordings

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  • http://www.slaytercreative.com/ Ben Slayter

    Chris-

    I find myself going to festivals and concerts as a chance to meet and connect with new people, whether it’s our neighbors in the good life (Shout-outs to Uncle Joel and Kevin!) or whether it’s a chance to meet someone like you and your wife.

    The short time we were able to spend together that afternoon at Rothbury I felt was enriching in its own regard, outside of the festival atmosphere. Being able to talk about our experience, what we liked, what we were interested in on a professional level it seemed was more enriching than who we partied with.

    I have been engaged by your writing, and am so pleased to have had a chance to meet the man behind the words. It’s not too often these days of reviews and shows being a click away that we get to meet the people behind them, and your post here today brings me to the point that I must also pause for some reflection. It’s the people, just as much or more than the bands and the music, that I do this for.

    In 2008 my Rothbury experience’s pinnacle was meeting Aron Ralston (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aron_Ralston) who was forced to amputate his own arm while hiking alone. I’d heard about him, known about him, but seeing him handle a DSLR in the photo pit with one arm was a revelation and an inspiration. Hanging out with him backstage? Awesome. Erin and I also had a chance to interview KG (Kyle Gass), just because we were in the media tent during the time his press agent was asking if anyone wanted to. You make your destiny. You create opportunities. You have to get out of your bubble to do it.

    Coming back to Rothbury in 2009 with Erin working Community Relations helped me feel like we were part of the larger community, and knowing and meeting so many wonderful people from Madison House (Carrie, Megan, Jeff, et al) put me in a place to get MUCH more enjoyment out of the festival, and as a result, the music.

    Getting a chance to meet photographers like Michael Weintraub at Rothbury, Jeff Kravitz randomly at a gig in brooklyn, and Danny Clinch at Carnegie hall has given me even more inspiration, and also taken my NAS (Nikon Acquisition Syndrome) up several notches.

    We are so fucking lucky Chris, and your post just makes me realize this more.
    Thanks for sharing, and thanks for reaching out. Hope to see you guys again soon.

  • http://www.slaytercreative.com Ben Slayter

    Chris-

    I find myself going to festivals and concerts as a chance to meet and connect with new people, whether it’s our neighbors in the good life (Shout-outs to Uncle Joel and Kevin!) or whether it’s a chance to meet someone like you and your wife.

    The short time we were able to spend together that afternoon at Rothbury I felt was enriching in its own regard, outside of the festival atmosphere. Being able to talk about our experience, what we liked, what we were interested in on a professional level it seemed was more enriching than who we partied with.

    I have been engaged by your writing, and am so pleased to have had a chance to meet the man behind the words. It’s not too often these days of reviews and shows being a click away that we get to meet the people behind them, and your post here today brings me to the point that I must also pause for some reflection. It’s the people, just as much or more than the bands and the music, that I do this for.

    In 2008 my Rothbury experience’s pinnacle was meeting Aron Ralston (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aron_Ralston) who was forced to amputate his own arm while hiking alone. I’d heard about him, known about him, but seeing him handle a DSLR in the photo pit with one arm was a revelation and an inspiration. Hanging out with him backstage? Awesome. Erin and I also had a chance to interview KG (Kyle Gass), just because we were in the media tent during the time his press agent was asking if anyone wanted to. You make your destiny. You create opportunities. You have to get out of your bubble to do it.

    Coming back to Rothbury in 2009 with Erin working Community Relations helped me feel like we were part of the larger community, and knowing and meeting so many wonderful people from Madison House (Carrie, Megan, Jeff, et al) put me in a place to get MUCH more enjoyment out of the festival, and as a result, the music.

    Getting a chance to meet photographers like Michael Weintraub at Rothbury, Jeff Kravitz randomly at a gig in brooklyn, and Danny Clinch at Carnegie hall has given me even more inspiration, and also taken my NAS (Nikon Acquisition Syndrome) up several notches.

    We are so fucking lucky Chris, and your post just makes me realize this more.
    Thanks for sharing, and thanks for reaching out. Hope to see you guys again soon.

  • http://www.dopelesshope.smugmug.com/ David Shehi

    It is the universal language that connects us all. Music has been used in virtually every sect and sub-sect since the beginning (Psalms). There is no better modality to connect with absolute strangers. It is those moments when you turn and look at someone who you will never see again (probably) acknowledge their dance with a smile and know exactly how they feel at that moment. The collective vibe is a spiritual experience. Great read Chris.

  • http://www.dopelesshope.smugmug.com David Shehi

    It is the universal language that connects us all. Music has been used in virtually every sect and sub-sect since the beginning (Psalms). There is no better modality to connect with absolute strangers. It is those moments when you turn and look at someone who you will never see again (probably) acknowledge their dance with a smile and know exactly how they feel at that moment. The collective vibe is a spiritual experience. Great read Chris.

  • http://soundcitizen.com/ Mike Phillips

    Very nice post, Chris. And I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to connect through music.

    Allow me to share a grieving moment of my own through music.

    September 13, 2001.

    Two days after the horrific day of September 11. I remember the city of Chicago was dead silent. No airplanes, no loud music, no horns honking in traffic. It was a collective feeling of sadness and respect for human kind that hushed the normally bustling streets.

    I had tickets to PJ Harvey at The Riviera in Chicago on the 13th, and was struggling; trying to decide if going to a rock concert was the right thing to do. It was a tough decision, but we decided to go – mostly because we didn’t want terrorists and hate-mongers to continue to alter our lives.

    Before the show, the crowd was on edge. There were whispers and nervous laughter as nobody knew exactly what they were doing there. Everyone’s eyes revealed sadness and lingering shock.

    PJ Harvey took the stage. She talked about an earlier band meeting – how they debated whether they should do the show. Were they being disrespectful? In the end, they decided they absolutely must play. That in times like these it is crucial for people to gather and mourn and help each other stand up.

    She plugged in and ripped the first chord. It was loud. A chill shot up from my heels to the back of my neck. The air was suddenly warm and you could feel the audience take one giant deep breath and slowly exhale – as if we’d been deprived of oxygen for the past 48 hours. I became overwhelmed with sadness, then the far away screams of thousands of innocent people got a little quieter. We were all happy to be together. And we were exhausted but ready to rock.

    Because that’s how we roll.

  • http://soundcitizen.com Mike Phillips

    Very nice post, Chris. And I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to connect through music.

    Allow me to share a grieving moment of my own through music.

    September 13, 2001.

    Two days after the horrific day of September 11. I remember the city of Chicago was dead silent. No airplanes, no loud music, no horns honking in traffic. It was a collective feeling of sadness and respect for human kind that hushed the normally bustling streets.

    I had tickets to PJ Harvey at The Riviera in Chicago on the 13th, and was struggling; trying to decide if going to a rock concert was the right thing to do. It was a tough decision, but we decided to go – mostly because we didn’t want terrorists and hate-mongers to continue to alter our lives.

    Before the show, the crowd was on edge. There were whispers and nervous laughter as nobody knew exactly what they were doing there. Everyone’s eyes revealed sadness and lingering shock.

    PJ Harvey took the stage. She talked about an earlier band meeting – how they debated whether they should do the show. Were they being disrespectful? In the end, they decided they absolutely must play. That in times like these it is crucial for people to gather and mourn and help each other stand up.

    She plugged in and ripped the first chord. It was loud. A chill shot up from my heels to the back of my neck. The air was suddenly warm and you could feel the audience take one giant deep breath and slowly exhale – as if we’d been deprived of oxygen for the past 48 hours. I became overwhelmed with sadness, then the far away screams of thousands of innocent people got a little quieter. We were all happy to be together. And we were exhausted but ready to rock.

    Because that’s how we roll.

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  • http://www.christophercatania.com/ Chris

    Mike, that is an amazing story. I too rememeber that time when we were all scared and felt guilty and I’m glad that you shared your story to remind me of lie music can be a moment of healing when we think it might be selfish to rock with others.

  • http://www.christophercatania.com Chris

    Mike, that is an amazing story. I too rememeber that time when we were all scared and felt guilty and I’m glad that you shared your story to remind me of lie music can be a moment of healing when we think it might be selfish to rock with others.

  • http://www.christophercatania.com/ Chris

    David,
    I’ve had many moments this summer and in concerts past were I’ve been amazed by the power of the “collective vibe.” It’s in those moments were I connect with total strangers and wonder how everyone else feelings in that same moment.

  • http://www.christophercatania.com Chris

    David,
    I’ve had many moments this summer and in concerts past were I’ve been amazed by the power of the “collective vibe.” It’s in those moments were I connect with total strangers and wonder how everyone else feelings in that same moment.

  • http://www.christophercatania.com/ Chris

    Ben,
    I’m blown away by your comment! Thanks so much for the kind words and sharing what you did–it was really awesome! We truly are lucky and blessed to be able to experience what we do in a live music setting.

  • http://www.christophercatania.com Chris

    Ben,
    I’m blown away by your comment! Thanks so much for the kind words and sharing what you did–it was really awesome! We truly are lucky and blessed to be able to experience what we do in a live music setting.

  • http://www.windycityrock.net/ Frank

    Chris, thanks so much for including me in your post. It’s been great connecting with you, too. I always enjoy reading your site and am looking forward to collaborating on ideas.

  • http://www.windycityrock.net Frank

    Chris, thanks so much for including me in your post. It’s been great connecting with you, too. I always enjoy reading your site and am looking forward to collaborating on ideas.

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