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Go to the show, stay at the show

The wind was cool and the sun was hot, dusty grass fields tamped down by two weekends of 25,000 people listening to music. The mistakes of the previous year being talked about from group to group, open walkways, more food, a better lineup, more conducive to the festival vibe. More bleachers, more shade, better approach.


We made our way to the VIP section where free beer and private lines for merch, food and toilets were the selling point. We sit quietly on the couches watching the people arrive, concert wear, hiking wear, questionable wear. We talk about our footwear choices and suffer through the heat of our jeans knowing the sun will set and we will be prepared, our layers packed away in our locker outfitted with a charger. They have thought of everything.


Live music is in the air, naloxone being distributed and t-shirts and sweatshirts flying off the shelves. Couples of all ages. Two women come in with a towel and a clear bag followed by teenagers in cowboy hats, a group of moms in jeans and black shirts, the jeans not covering their ankles. And then the bros--the dads on vacation, off the golf course or straight from a baseball game, laughing, toasting, being together. Live music does something to people, it is magic connection glue. I look forward to seeing our front row friends that we see each year at this festival.


As we enjoy the day with our liquid refreshments and delicious food, Larkin Poe, Sheryl Crow, Gin Blossoms, Noah Kahan, Morgan Wade, and Dave Matthews, the world unfolds in front of us.


Perched in the last row of the VIP bleachers with a place to sit, a bar for our drinks and food and plenty of room to dance, we take in the sights , the people moving from stage to stage, mothers and daughters excited for the "sticky song." Couples on first dates and others married for years. Some specifically there for Dave and others just for Noah. they sing along to Sheryl and sit and look at their phones between shows. there is talking and sharing, interacting and lots of laughing. One woman promises not to vomit on the row in front of her and then dramatically lays down on the green turf that has been in use for two weeks of people festivaling. (I didn't even consider that point until now, as I sat on that same turf for quite some time yesterday as well!)


I look around and notice how many of us are smiling, singing out loud together, in the cool spring night, planes overhead, just singing and laughing, cheering and clapping. Live music does something to people.


In our family, we talk about going to the show as a balm. It is what you do to feel fully alive. To be where you belong, to do what you are put on this plant to do. It is metaphor and truth. It is aspiration and the way we choose to live. And while we are there we have the time of our lives only regretting the time on our feet and the hours past our bedtime.


There has been a lot of talk about concerts this year with Taylor making the rounds and selling out shows, something we haven't seen in decades. I just think about all those memories, people coming together and laughing, singing, sharing, becoming friends but last night I was witness to something darker and more profound.


Just in front of us, a man took call and while we couldn't hear any of it, the demeanor changed in an instant. His wife putting her hand on his back, his hand going to his head, to shield his eyes as the tears began to fall. She looked at him with an intensity that I know from years of loving the same man. Something was wrong and she had to just wait to find out and was willing her heart into his. Tim looked at me and said, something isn't good. It wasn't like we were staring but it was something you couldn't miss. They were our age. I imagine a parent on the other end of the line. I found myself saying a prayer and sending my love to them from the row behind. The call ended, and dead was the word I heard, and repeated. The woman hugged him and then ran away. And then came back, took off her sweater and hugged him again. I know that sorrow, that inability to be comfortable in your own body and. you need to escape it, I saw her fall apart and put herself back together again. I witnessed heart break.


Meanwhile, Noah took the stage and every word he spoke, every song he sang felt meaningful and pointed, for us, for them, for himself. and then Dave creating magic singing along. They stayed and sang and held each other and celebrated live music. Later they would have to get in the car and drive home, share the news, plan the funeral, probably travel, likely remember and laugh and cry that every time they hear Sheryl or Noah or Dave they will never hear them the same again. They will be fire at first, bringing pain to the surface but someday, one day, a balm. Something that marks time and space. Something that says I was alive. We were alive together. Listening. Singing. Loving.


They say know your audience, and yet as we live this life our audience is alive and loving and losing in each moment, I say know yourself and share your experience and the audience will find a way to connect. Your example of showing up, and staying is an example; both the artists and the audience.




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