This post has been delayed by choice, forgetfulness, and happenstance, but it was destined to eventually become live on 1146 miles. Today is finally that day.
I attended the Avett Brothers concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater at the end of June. I sat on one of the planters because I didn’t have any intention of wandering into the upper general admission section. I ended up next to a middle aged man. He was bald. He wore dark rimmed glasses. He wore sandals and a polo. I assumed, wrongly, that this spot was a nice spot to listen to the Avett Brothers. He would manage to hit on girls that were younger than me, toke it up, attempt to sing along not knowing the words or what a melody is, fall off the planter and drunkenly stumble off into the Colorado night. I couldn’t help but feel that we were there for entirely different reasons.
I was there for the music. No venue touches Red Rocks as far as I’m concerned. On a cloudless summer night, it is the place I want to see music at.
The last act I saw at Red Rocks was Bon Iver, personal favorites from Flume to Beth/Rest, and to be the followup act to that was a tall task. I won’t say that I was moved or inspired or even liked the Avett Brothers set as much because that would be a lie. But nobody was going to touch Bon Iver. So once I dispatched that comparison from my head, I was left with an enjoyable Saturday evening with the brothers and their band from North Carolina.
I recently had a bar conversation about music, touring, and concert-going. We agreed on most things, but the one thing as an artist and as a fan, we both genuinely expressed was a desire to be there for the ‘moments.’ We might have an inkling that a moment might occur but we don’t know. Those moments–those pure moments–can be a multitude of things. They can be realization of love, they can be escapist getaways, they can simply be awe-inspiring. The one thing that they share is some unique aspect that makes us assign the idea of special to them.
The beauty of concerts, alone or in a big group, in a sweaty dive bar or at an outdoor amphitheater, personal favorites or unknowns, is that those special moments occur much more frequently than in other aspects of life. We might not know if there will be a ‘moment,’ but that inkling occurs from the first note sometimes. We spend our lives on the lookout for these moments because moments are the present state of what will eventually turn into the past and into our memories.
I think moments allow us to say we were there, that we lived, that even if you or I aren’t considered special that a special moment blessed us for a few minutes, and for that fleeting time, we approached the sun and the heavens and have the story to tell of it. It can be a beautiful and wondrous thing, but if we fly too close to the sun, we can become modern retellings of Icarus. I always associate Thrash Unreal by Against Me with this idea that we shouldn’t spend our entire lives chasing moments that may never come (not really a quote from the show but h/t to The Wire nevertheless). It can be similar to a drug and that’s why I associate it with the Against Me song; somewhere along the way, chasing moments can turn into chasing ghosts.
Dumbed down and numbed by time and age
I perhaps am not as different from that middle aged man that I sat next to as I would like to think. We were both chasing something. My pursuit was less tangible, it contained a lot fewer awkward moments and ultimately, I got lucky and had a few ‘moments,’ too. I have my doubts that he encountered the lucky he was seeking. At some point, his turned into a chase of ghosts.
All exits look the same
I wouldn’t have purchased a ticket to Avett Brothers if I didn’t think I would enjoy it (as much as I love Red Rocks, there’s no way in Hades I’m going to a jam band like String Cheese Incident). Part of my enjoyment is the moments that bands can provide. I’m sure a psychologist could better explain the mindset regarding chasing moments and what its implications are. I know that for myself there’s a little distance anxiety that ‘moments’ alleviate. The distance hasn’t changed from where I started but I am afraid (really afraid) of how easily it is to become more distant. I might pull away from some that get too close out here and I think I cling a little tighter to certain things from back home now. It’s really inexplicable when I refuse to throw away a ratty t-shirt because of sentimental value or make up an excuse to stay in.
Three words that became hard to say: I and love and you.
When Seth and Scott Avett with Bob Crawford and touring members Joe Kwon and Jacob Edwards played perhaps their biggest hit, I and Love and You, it hit. I had my ‘moment.’ Nobody wants to be alone and the fears and anxiety of distance are captured in the above title lyric. If I thought about it, the ‘moment’ offered a brief respite from those thoughts.
The Avett Brothers offered a few of those breaks and that was the takeaway from the Avett Brothers concert at Red Rocks for me. Sorry, if this wasn’t a conventional concert review, but music isn’t meant to be graded and assigned scores on 10 point scales, in my opinion. Someone else can talk about setlists and critique acoustics. I’d rather talk about the emotions that the music brings.
Music can be many things and for me, it’s a language and a soundtrack of life. The set on June 30 exemplified it. I found it fitting the encore ended with Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise, a track title that summarizes life at 24.