Tomorrow Will Be Kinder
“Tomorrow will be kinder
It’s true, I’ve seen it before
A brighter day is coming my way
Yes, tomorrow will be kinder.”
Music attorney John Strohm said something on Twitter Saturday, as we all sought answers, as we all grieved the events unfolding in Paris.
“I don’t mean this lightly…but the terrorists messing with a rock show really crosses a psychological line for me. Way too close to home.”
And that’s how I connect to this. As people desperately want to connect to tragedy, to feel empathy, I’ll connect to this the simplest way. Late Friday and throughout the weekend, the popular way to show empathy was to recall a vacation photo in front of the Eiffel Tower or to change the colors of an avatar. My own first reaction was of attachment to the band, Eagles of Death Metal, which I interviewed two months ago before their appearance at Iron City; how Jesse Hughes went on an extensive rant about his native South Carolina’s removal of the Confederate flag (he did not want it removed, assuming that he was not playing the role of Boots Electric) and how my editor cut all of that out. I recalled that, at the end of our phone call, Hughes invited me to hang out backstage, and when I arrived at the venue a few weeks after our conversation, he had actually left backstage passes for me. [We didn’t use them, and that still bums me out.]
I recalled how nice he was. I recalled how fun that show was. And that made me feel something.
But there isn’t need to attach myself to the event in such a specific way when a more universal one stares us all in the face: they messed with a rock show.
The first concert that I attended was at the Von Braun Civic Center on April 29, 1988. I was five, and at one point during George Strait’s set, my dad took me to the stage level where a security guard lifted me to the stage and I shook the King’s hand. The first concert that I paid my own money to see was at Ryman Auditorium on May 30, 1999. I was 17, and in an age void of a camera in everyone’s pocket, somehow, we had one and my then girlfriend and I took a photo with Ben Folds by his tour bus. In the twelve years between and the 16 years that followed, I have seen thousands of live concerts. Festivals, stadiums, arenas, clubs, bars, living rooms. I’ve seen concerts with a hundred thousand other spectators, and I’ve seen concerts with more band members than audience members. Live music inspires me, it moves me, it makes me whole. It’s cost me relationships and it’s been the spark of other new ones. It’s been a hobby, it’s been a career, it’s been at my core for almost all of my 33 years.
I never want to lose the joy that live music brings me.
This weekend, I was fortunate enough to catch two of the best concerts that I have seen in a year filled with unique live performances. And it’s easy to reflect on that as recent memory being easier and fonder than distance, but both of these concerts included an artist stepping away from their microphone and projecting their bare voice into a crowded room creating intimacy with rooms of 250 and 1,300 the same.
The Secret Sisters (above) opened for John Paul White (formerly of the Civil Wars) at the Workplay Theater on Saturday and offered the first such performance, also pausing to dedicate “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” a song they wrote after the tornadoes of April 27, 2011, to Paris and Beirut.
And then Damien Rice did it again on Sunday. At a show in which the venue’s primary bar closed for the duration of his set at the artist’s request. At a show with just one man on stage that could simultaneously create the powerful sounds of a sextet and a gentle whisper acceptable in church, Rice made a room of 1,300 feel like 100 by stepping away from his microphone.
Headlining Saturday, John Paul White apologized, offering that he would be playing nothing but new songs. He was sincere when he told Birmingham that he deliberately didn’t promote the four-show run because he wanted to get his feet wet, when he told the room that it took a lot of pushing and berating from his wife to get him to leave the house again and when he thanked the town for its’ longstanding generosity.
At both performances this weekend, cell phone usage was extremely minimal. At both performances this weekend, crowds were attentive and kind. At both performances this weekend, artist connected with fan – deeply, spiritually. It was incredibly moving to lose yourself to the moment, to live music. It was a reminder of why we love it. It was a reminder of why it’s important and of why it heals.
I don’t really record performances much any more. I snap a photo; I’ll post it to Instagram or Facebook so that I can share an experience with people that weren’t there. And I think that’s more about wanting to share that healing, that feeling that I get from it with people that don’t understand. My dad certainly never has. Sometimes, I feel myself getting upset by the way other people enjoy shows. The worst – the worst – is the guy that yells things at the stage. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and I’ve never grasped the goal. Cell phone video has begun to annoy me, which is wildly hypocritical, because I have taken more than my share when such technologies were newer. But a thing that I have begun to realize about every person in the audience of 250 or the audience of 1,300 is this: each connects to the music in their own way.
I go to thousands of shows, but for someone in those rooms, this particular show is the highlight of their year. They drove. Far. They planned it out, got a hotel room. They framed the ticket as a memento after. To someone, this was a once in a lifetime experience. So if they aren’t affecting the way other people enjoy their own experience, why should I care? I’m most happy that they found that way to connect with it, to enjoy a memento they can share with friends. I’m most excited they can know the healing power of live music.
An amazing weekend reminded me of all of those things in the wake of a tragedy that hit way too close to home. And I never want to lose that.
I hope that tomorrow is kinder.