What's So Painful About Live Music?

Here’s something to think about this weekend as you head off to a concert:

Are there similarities between shellfish and live music fans?

According to this Scatterplot post about a new study showing that shellfish do feel pain, yes, there are similarities.

“The findings add to a growing body of evidence that virtually all animals, including fish, shellfish and insects, can suffer.

Robert Elwood, the lead author of both papers, explained to Discovery News that pain allows an individual to be “aware of the potential tissue damage” while experiencing “a huge negative emotion or motivation that it learns to avoid that situation in the future.

Both pain and stress are therefore key survival mechanisms.”

So if you’ve ever been to a live show and felt pain because the show sucked, or you were stepped on, or elbowed or ashed on, then you are connecting with the similiar pain a shellfish might feeling or experience at a live concert, too.

This helps explain why certain fans stand around in an arms-folded guarded stance, even though the music clearly invites booty shaking. It might be because, they are afraid of being hurt and are protecting themselves (like a shell of crab protecting its soft interior).

Then there’s those that toss themselves into mosh pits not even caring about getting bruised or punched in the face. Those kind of fans find great pleasure in the release that slam-dancing brings, and in some cases even get a great release by inflicting pain on others.

But pain isn’t just for mosh pits. Pain is felt at many stages of the concert experience. And we can experience different types of pain, too. We can feel pain physically, emotionally, psychologically, or financially.

The pain process of the live music experience begins when we have to pay for expensive tickets, and it continues when we go to the concert and encounter or endure all the potential “pain hazards.”

And then pain is right there waiting for us when the show ends. Because, if the show was a dud, then we’ve wasted our time and our money. With no refund. Left with only time and our short-term memory to help heal us.

But can we control this painful process?

Sort of.

Sure, we can avoid the whole risk altogether by not going to concerts. But who’s gonna do that?

We could stop expecting too much from a show so our expectations don’t get to high and thus avoid the disappointing crash if the show is terrible. But who’s gonna do that, either?

Most live music fans live to be disappointed. We set ourselves up for the crash. And we love every minute of it.

We live to go to shows expecting to be blown away. Having high expectations and hoping to escape into the live concert experience is what most of us love about going to concerts. But we rarely admit this fact. Because most times the concert is pretty good.

But when it’s not…

As concert-loving creatures, do we use painful concert experiences to build up our own concertgoing “survival mechanisms” to avoid future concert pain? Possibly.

But I know we’ve all returned to shows by artists who’ve disappointed us in the past. And when that happens I start to wonder about our ability to adapt as a concertgoing species.

I think that the fact most live music fans are willing to endure repeated pain at live concerts is related to our desire to experience pain to the point of pleasure.

We could dive into a discussion on hedonism here, but for the sake of keeping things conversational, I’ll just say that the type of pain we love to feel while at live concerts–the type that would make us come back for more–is related to our generally optimistic view we have for our favorite artists.

Whether you’re a shellfish or a live music fan (or a shellfish who is a live music fan), I think John Mellencamp said it best when he sang “sometimes love don’t feel like it should/you make it hurt so good.”

His take on pain is that we think pain (to a certain extent and in the right context)is fun and pleasurable. I’d agree with that. And that song is pretty fun to sing along to, too.

I can’t quite hear the shellfish singing along in the first row of this Mellencamp 1992 concert. But I wonder if the lady that Mellencamp flips onto the stage felt any pain when she landed on the floor? And did she come back for more?

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