The internet, as David Bowie perfectly said in a 1999 BBC interview, is “an alien life form” that has changed the way we see and do everything.
It is now 2020, our connectivity is at an all time high, and yet it is no longer dependent upon sharing a physical space with other human beings. If you can watch a free show at your convenience from the comfort of your home, where is the incentive to buy a ticket, commute and ultimately make an effort to go to one?
Especially now, in the grips of a global pandemic, our inherent tendency to come together is being challenged. It begs the question: what is going to happen to live music?
Relatively speaking, it could be argued that television had a similar societal impact as the internet, but there were still ceilings. When The Beatles made their US debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963, families gathered around their household TV set, sharing one source of entertainment. You still had to tune into a specific channel at a certain time like everybody else or you’d miss the show.
The internet, with its infinite opportunities, knows no such boundaries. It is as if we all have our own personal televisions with endless channels and zero time constraints. Nobody really ever has to compromise or be on the same page anymore, and I can’t help but feel like an isolated kid in a candy store. All the candy in the world and nobody to share it with.
Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I think human beings need limitations the same way children need discipline. Sometimes it is healthy to hit a wall. Music venues have walls, and I hope it stays that way forever. You will never see me cheering for a fucking hologram, and that’s a promise.
Nothing will ever replace the sensation of going to a live show; seeing and hearing artists in real time, surrounded by real people who share the same passion; feeling understood and part of something bigger than ourselves. We aren’t above communal happenings, they simply require a little more effort and the reward is worth it. Especially now, amidst the fragmented nature of internet culture, they offer a sense of togetherness that we are all craving, whether or not we realize it.
Streaming is a decent substitute, but you won’t feel sound waves permeating your body temporarily possessing it, or the bass vibrating so deeply in the pit of your stomach, that you genuinely start to wonder whether or not you swallowed an amplifier (you have not, everybody is having that same feeling). Forget making your way to the front row to have your face melted by the climax of a guitar solo. Or the token concert stoner, selflessly passing spliffs around like she or he is everybody’s best friend, in the good faith that you’re all there to support the same band. The self proclaimed chief of vibe, assuming the role of making sure everyone in proximity is having a ball. The implicit chance that a thunderstorm, or some other extraneous force, could end it all, and the subsequent excitement and hopefulness bouncing between audience, performers and production alike.
The stimulus of kinetic energy in every direction, that you bottle up in your memory and take home with you after the show is over, to relive again and again, especially on sad days when you feel most alone. The Internet can attempt to capture the essence of it all, but it will always fall short.
Sharing the experience of live music is transcendent, my raison d’être, and even though coming together is becoming increasingly more obsolete, nothing will ever take its place.