There is just something about seeing an artist perform live that I crave. Since November 2017, I have been to a total of 29 different live music experiences: everything from three-day festivals to small gigs for local acts. Despite the inconveniences of a live performance, a lot of my fondest memories concern them. Whether it is jumping and screaming along the verse of Humble or grooving to the funky jams of Phony Ppl – there just is nothing quite like it.
Seeing an artist live is a payoff for all one’s investment in their works. Although I had listened to Daniel Caesar’s Freudian 100 times over, it still did not compare to the ecstasy of hearing them live. His music is not the type you jump up and down too, and that reflected in his unique performance. He list sage before beginning his set. In the smoky haze that it created, his band came out to screams from the crowd and started off with my favourite track Japanese Denim with the grace and tenderness that I had imagined it to be. Singing along with the thousands that turned out was absolute bliss.
Even though I had listened to it close to 300 times, it did not in any way diminish the experience. In fact, it elevated it: I knew every word and could relish every transition and favourite lyric live, with him not 10m away. It was like a three-and-a-half minute reward for having listened to that song as many times as I have. This feeling continued for the entire set, given how obsessive I was about the Freudian album. I knew every song inside-out, and so every time he would start, it would get me beyond excited. This feeling of euphoria is something you cannot replicate hearing the record.
The crowd was often my second favourite part of the live music experience. During one of the festivals, a friend and I had been building up anticipation for Rex Orange County’s set. We were both stans for his whole vibe and, in particular, the Apricot Princess album. It finally came around to his set, and we eagerly made ourselves as close to the front as possible, running over from the stage furtherest from where he was scheduled to perform. We probably were 20m from the front, in the centre of the stage.
The first couple of songs were played and we sang along like passionate court jesters. Towards the end of the second song, we noticed that most of the crowd, at least around us, were just chatting and seemed largely disinterested in the set. It was disappointing but that did not stop our group from enjoying ourselves. After the third song, we were particularly loud and a group of three found themselves next to us singing as passionately as we were! It was such a great feeling, the sense of camaraderie came instantly. We ended up grooving and singing along with them.
I thought I was enjoying myself before, but when they came over and shared in our delight, our moods just skyrocketed. The rest of the set was a blur but probably among the most fun I have ever had. Although we chatted with this other group during songs, we didn’t get their names as both of our groups were heading conscientiously to other stages for the next acts. That was my one regret from that day, it is hard enough to find kindred spirits – to not at least ask for their IGs or otherwise was a missed opportunity. While not all crowd experiences are as good as this, they are mostly positive given that everyone there is a big enough fan of that artist to pay the price of entry.
The live music experience is one of the highlights of the human experience, at least for me. When I first started going to concerts, this was my revelation. Nowadays, I am first in line for concert tickets for artists I listen to – there is no hesitation. Given how rare it is for an artist to tour to New Zealand, I will take all that I can get.