We stumble up the steps and look at the stage. Find a spot, set the blanket down, and prepare to snuggle. It’s cold at night in Berkeley, after all. When Beruit starts, I start to remember why I love seeing live music. There’s something irreplaceable about the sounds, something magical about seeing it live. Real musicians, giving you a glimpse of their talent.
As I look out into the crowd, it’s nothing but a splattering of little neon screens, pointing in reverence to this traveling act. This magician on the stage, performing tricks. The band doesn’t even have a computer playing the drum parts; no pre-recorded vocals. Not even a big sound crew. Just one guy checking the board with a Rolling Stones hoodie on a Walmart table that could easily collapse at any moment. It’s an ancient art, playing music. No edits in a live show, and though they’ve rehearsed a million times before, there’s something raw, authentic and old school about not having a backup. No edit button, no unsend, and especially no A/B testing. There’s nothing that will predetermine this moment, a refreshing break from the internet of predictable content we’ve come to live with.
The audience is here precisely to seek that rawness. But it’s not enough to sit and experience the moment for themselves. They need proof. Social validation. A record that they were there. A record that says they were brave enough to stick their phone in the air for hours and annoy everyone else to prove they like the band just that much. They can’t take the risk of having no proof, no record, nothing recorded about them at this point in history.
You can give a snapshot of what happened, sure. But in the moment, in the live space you can have a panoramic view. In person, you can smell the Marijuanna smoke. You can listen to each individual trumpet melody, colliding with the bass and droning melodic vocals over the speakers, like a symphony. And maybe that’s the point. No camera, no matter how great the quality, will capture the whole experience.
But we’ve all been led to believe that a screen is the same as in person. We’ve become safe. And lazy. With money it’s easy to be safe. And lazy. What we’re missing is that passion for something that doesn’t have VC funding or RSUs attached to it. That impractical, impossible hobby that so many people gave up on in lieu of money and a new iPhone each year and something to tell classmates from your High School reunion. That hobby I gave up on long ago in return for a high salary and being able to live in San Francisco.
It’s that sense of adventure we crave, and at the same time we are unwilling to do anything about it in exchange for our cushy lifestyle. We’ve built a fortress of things to help us cope with life, to help us become more connected and to help us experience the things we’re too scared to try in person. But is that really living? Maybe those tiny screens really are paying reverence. Maybe they’re giving kudos to the ones brave enough to make their lifestyle a great adventure, instead of playing it safe. We’re paying homage to the true artists, who don’t get the recognition they deserve. Paying homage to the life we wish we had chosen.