The other night I got to go to a sold out rock concert in a small venue. Chevelle packed out Amos' Southend--it was one of the best shows I've experienced. Maybe it wasn't one of the best I've ever seen, but it was one of the best I've experienced. The band plays loud music, which I certainly appreciate. They also connect to their audience in a primal and in an intellectual way. I get into the lyrics and I get into the sound. The sound, sonically heavy especially from the bass, made my body vibrate; the lyrics keep my brain working. And apparently I'm not the only one who noticed.
Amos' has a balcony that surrounds the whole club, so folks can stand around one floor above the ground and stage level. It seemed like everybody in the room was engaged in the moment, the total release that you have to be either drunk or totally swept into--in some cases, I think both were at work. Folks weren't just present, they were singing songs back at the band. Folks can say whatever they want to say about their music (this style of music isn't for everyone), but no one could argue the connection the band had to their fans, nor could anyone miss the depth of impact the band had. A person standing close to me said, "This crowd would follow them off a cliff." Yes they would.
This is what's so unbelievably powerful about music--it grips onto the soul and transports it, lifts it above circumstances. This power is why parents have always worried about what their kids listen to, why the Soviets banned Tchaikovsky, why music is always a part of religious services, why music is always a part of national events, and why some of us spend thousands on music every year. You can't escape the power of music and the release that it offers. If the emotions weren't so profound or real, then music would just be entertainment. But it seems to do something deeper than simply entertain; it touches inside of us. As powerful as it is to experience a concert, I can only imagine the experience of having a crowd sing your own words back to you.
Yet, our political culture is notoriously stupid on this. As the debate over the proper legislation and regulations related to firearms continues, the willingness to fund arts education continues to decline. As an economic culture we seem to be more interested in funding the building of newer and newer gadgets and technologies by insisting that funding math and sciences is the way to get ahead in the world (because winning matters most, right?). Yet music and the arts are part of how we express our humanity and the release of artistic creation is part of how we keep from losing our minds. The kind of release I watched and experienced the other night watching Chevelle is redemptive. I wonder if, instead of inspiring violence, intense music actually offers a "safety valve" for the kinds of tensions that all of us feel. As we get busier and busier trying to keep up with the technology that is supposed to make our lives simpler (what a joke of a notion!), the need for the kinds of release that the arts provide will be more and more needed. Maybe one move toward the ending of domestic gun violence is to make sure that everybody has a chance to learn how to express themselves artistically.