They Took A Slice of My Head For Science




Well, maybe it wasn’t for the glory of any world-changing scientific research. But what they did cut out of my head definitely opened up a great discussion about live music in my mind.

So I now have seven stiches and a pinched bump on my scalp where there use to be skin (see photo below). 

Truth is, I struggled with whether or not I wanted to write about this on Live Fix.

But, I figured–since I’m not going to be able to hide the inch-and-half-long incision and bald spot on my head–that I might as well tell you how it got there, and why  it’s going to impact my concert experiences forever. Just like my scary Wilco experience did.

I also was inspired to share this because of Roger Ebert’s openness about his throat cancer. And most of all, I decided to share this with you because I think we hide our sickness and pain to much, when sharing it might bring healing and comfort to others who are also struggling.  So I hope that talking about my recent surgery might help you in some way,  or at least allow you to see live music in a new way.

It’s time to cut into your head now

Last  Tuesday, I had a cross-section of skin removed from my the left side of my head. I was having it done because, a few weeks earlier, I had a mole removed that showed signs of possibly leading to melanoma.  So my doctor advised taking a bigger cross section  of my skin to examine and make sure everything remained healthy on Chris’s epidermis. 

The reason I want to share such a personal story with you is because I’ve written many times before about how our bodies and brains play an important role in how we enjoy live music.  In one post, I explored why mosh pits and stage diving is so sensual and how our bodies are living metaphors for fan interconnectedness during a live show. 

I hope you appreciate my honesty. And I apologize  if the psychedelic version of the  incision picture is a little too graphic for you.  Unfortunately, there’s no getting around the fact that science can be ugly.  And the picture reminds me that it’s worth looking at a nasty photo to remember what is beautiful.CutLiveFixThat photo also reminds me that ugliness and pain can teach us a lot about what makes live music such a live-changing experience. And most of all, the insight I gained helped me realize two important truths of the live concert experience.  Two truths that will forever change how I experience concerts:

1.  We shouldn’t underestimate awareness during our concert experiences

2.  We’re all interconnected at concerts

We Shouldn’t Underestimate Awareness During Our Concert Experiences

I know I love going to concerts. But do I really know what’s going on around me during the concert? 

On the day of the surgery my wife, Colleen, was there sitting with me before, during and after the surgery.  And during concerts she also there with me as she photographs the show. Now, I was taking a few pictures with my Blackberry Storm before they rolled me to the OR. But it was the pictures and video that Colleen took afterwards that spurred this post (Thanks Colleen!).  

I don’t remember much before the doctors injected the “happy juice” in to my veins helping me slip off into sedation. The only things I remember before I went to surgery and the first thing I remember afterwards was gazing up at the light  fixture above me and into it’s peaceful cloud-whisped blue sky cover (photo at the top).

A few hours later, as we ate breakfast and the sedation wore off, I asked Colleen if she had taken any pictures of the inscison thus far.  She told me “yes” that she had. And she also told me that I had asked her to take video when I came out of surgery.  

(What?  I asked her take video?!!)

I was stopped in my tracks.  I dropped my fork and starred down at my half-eaten steak omelet. 

“I asked you to take video?” I asked Colleen.  

“Yes, you did,” she said.  “You looked at me and told me  to, so I did.”

Now, this was amazing because I didn’t even remember asking her to take video.

And I didn’t even plan on taking video myself!  I only planned on taking pictures of the incision once I got home.  I was amazed at how my subconscious had risen to the occasion and wanted to document the surgery too–in a way that my conscious mind didn’t plan on!

And ever since I’ve been thinking: how does this connect with the live concert experience

So after a week, here’s what I know so far as I tried to remember the post-surgery moments and compare them to my most memorable post-concert experiences.

Post-surgery vs. post-concert

Watching the video over and over has helped me understand what it was like to be another person in the hospital recovery room. But I still can’t remember exactly how I felt or what I saw during the moment. Where my memory begins is still sort of foggy.  Nonetheless this has made me think about all the ways we recall concerts.  And more importantly, how our brain processes the live concert experience.

There’s four ways we usually remember concert experiences. We rely on our own memory; we read a concert review; we watch a video on YouTube, or we listen to an audio recording. 

All those different mediums trigger different parts of our brains memory which then triggers different emotions. And together our senses (sight, sound, touch) our brain and body work to store the experience into long or short term memory–which is where we return to relive our favorite concert experiences.

Then as a form of concert recall–like I’ve done with my family and friends over the last  week–we share our experience orally, with pictures, videos or with words.   

But what’s also amazing to me when I compare the post-surgery to the post-concert experience, is how the way I’ve told friends and family about my surgery has varied.

To some I’ve told only the facts.  And to others I’ve shared my story using all mediums and different senses.

And in all cases, the depth of emotional disclosure has varied, too.

And this varied depth of emotional disclosure has taught me a lot about how I recall my favorite concert experiences and how it influences the emotional depth of my concert reviews. 

Sometimes I don’t remember concerts as two hour events.  Sometimes I remember them in snap shots. Or in distinct smells like when I went to see Aerosmith for the first time. Other times I remember concerts for the ride they take me on; the series of peaks and valleys that the band takes me though. 

But however I remember concerts and when I write my notes during the show and then sit down to write the review, I will now always remember that–regardless of however we remember concerts–we are all interconnected during the live concert experience.


We’re All Interconnected At Concerts

I’m glad that I had the skin removed from my head. Because now I’ll have a scar to remember something that’s very important to me as a fan and a music journalist.

No matter how much concert culture wants to try to separate fans by creating exclusive VIP areas,  backstage passes or varied seats with different pricing.  I believe the truth that whether you’re in the front row, backstage or all the way up in the nose bleeds, that we’re all interconnected at concerts.  And this interconnectedness is what makes a oncert a sacred event.

Pain is good. It reminds us.

During the days following the surgery I felt pain.  And this was good.  Because I every time I laughed, chewed, raised my eyebrows, smiled or washed my hair, I was reminded that our skin, as our body’s largest organ, is a magnificent metaphor for how we’re all interconnected at concerts.   Everytime I felt a twinged of pain, I thought about how from a photographer’s flash to eager fans reaching over you to grab video on their cellphone,  we all interconnected.  And whether we’re having our own neuro-concert or having the same collective concert experience, we’re all a part of a larger organism of celebration and sometimes even collective worship.  And if we forget this then we’re doing a massive disservice to each other and to the sacredness of the live concert experience. 

Painful last thoughts

As the pain of the surgery has subsided during the week, I’ve been fearful that I will forget this.  In an effort to fight this fear, I sought pleasure in running my fingers gently over the stitches so as to somehow discover more insight, or make sure this experience is permanently rubbed into my long term memory.

But one of the main reasons why I wrote this post was so that I won’t forget what I’ve learned.  And I hope you’ve learned something, too. 

I’m sure more thoughts and ideas will surface down the road. But I’ll wrap this post up by sharing this:

When it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to share or talk about your illness. And when it comes to live music I encourage you to look for ways to connect your live concert experiences to your non-concert experiences.  And share what you discover with other live music fans.  Because I know that there’s more than one way to take in a show.  And I have much to learn from hearing about all your concert experiences.

Most of all, when I stop to consider your concert experiences–whether it’s Jonas Brothers or Saul Williams–my pleasure, respect and understanding for the sacredness of the live music experience deepens.  

Have your non-musical experiences shown you something deeper about live music?

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