pandora cued up a classic ccr song for me on the way home
windows down sun shining warm spring air
thinking of this quote that i just love:
“We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn … there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud. And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: A quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, “Don’t worry about it, John. We’re with you.” I played the rest of the show for that guy.
—John Fogerty recalling Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 3:30 a.m. start time at Woodstock.”
-hank bordowitz, bad moon rising: the unofficial history of credence clearwater revival
We’re all familiar with the sense of wonder and joy we experience when we hear a song or piece of music we love, but there’s something even more magical about hearing that song performed live. Although many artists offered streamed performances online during the pandemic, these didn’t quite leave us with the same enchanted feelings as concerts. So what makes live music different? Columbia associate music professor, Mariusz Kozak explains why live music is so powerful.
Live music allows us to experience what philosopher Alfred Schütz called a “mutual tuning in” This term refers to the phenomenon where we experience the passage of time and emotions with others. This is part of the reason humans need social interaction to thrive. When we attend a concert, we’re experiencing the tone of the music—fast, slow, happy, sad—with others around us. This creates a sense of intimacy with the crowd around us. This is also why babies who are bounced in time to music with an adult display more altruism towards that person.
This pleasurable effect gained from synchronizing with those around us is what makes live music and dance so powerful. Although most people probably relate to this feeling when remembering their favorite concert, this feeling is not limited to conventional music. It can also be experienced through collective visual synchronization. In the deaf community, facial gestures and movements are to convey emotions in music performance. The collective interpretation of the emotions behind these facial gestures also promotes a sense of unity.
The Blackfeet in North America use the same word to refer to music, dance, and ceremony, indicating the essential role of gathering to fully appreciate the benefits of music. Close friends can even experience this synchronization when walking or talking together.
Experiencing music in the presence of others cultivates a feeling of unity and empathy within us which exceeds anything we could experience by ourselves. As we head back to in-person concerts and relish this feeling once again, know that the true power of the music you’re hearing might not come from the artist, but in fact your fellow concert goers.
“There is a high that comes from live shows,
a collective energy in a large group of people all gathered for one reason.
The beat slices through the melodies and then drops;
the crowd bounces and undulates like ripples of water.”
-christina lauren, roomies
credits: the conversation, beth daly, Columbia University Mariusz Kozak
remembering 50 years of magical music memories at pine knob
one of the greatest outdoor amphitheaters ever, and still rocking.
i’m sure you can pick me out here,
on a typical night in the middle of the hill on the lawn
early 70s, where i saw my first live concert, Focus, performing their one hit, “Hocus-Pocus.”
Pine Knob. A holy musical pilgrimage for metro Detroiters for 50 years.
The award-winning theater was christened with a matinee concert by teenage heartthrob David Cassidy on June 25, 1972 (a few days later, old-school crooner Andy Williams and Quincy Jones hosted a five-night run at Pine Knob to mark the occasion). It was the largest venue of its type in the country at the time, currently able to accommodate 15,000 patrons.
A couple of weeks later, the first rock concert at Pine Knob forced the police to shut the place down — a sign that Clarkston’s new venue had a little something for everyone.
When the James Gang rolled into Pine Knob that inaugural summer, an estimated 25,000 “young people” tried to storm the venue. That’s according to a report in the Detroit Free Press, which noted that the rest of the “hard rock” concerts scheduled for that summer would be canceled after the ruckus. That included an upcoming show by Detroit’s own Bob Seger, who would go on to play more than 25 sold-out shows at the venue over the years.
Maybe you were at that show, or the more than 3,000 other concerts that have taken place there. Thousands have made memories at Pine Knob over the years, whether blurry-eyed ones from the top of the hill or once-in-a-lifetime front row experiences from within the comfort of the pavilion (which, admittedly, could’ve been blurry-eyed, too).
When Pine Knob changed its name to DTE Energy Music Theatre in 2001, it was those memories that kept the original name alive. Even the bands that played there and recorded live albums there called it Pine Knob. “It’s always been Pine Knob to me. I always call it that from the stage,” Peter Frampton told Billboard earlier this year. “I am really happy Pine Knob’s true identity has finally been returned.” (Frampton recorded his 1999 album Live in Detroit at Pine Knob.) For its 50th anniversary, new sponsors made the wise move to tap into that well of nostalgia by bringing back the original name and some of the retro aesthetic to the signage and logo.
“you create a community with music, not just at concerts but by talking about it with your friends.”
credits: photo – james r. anderson, history – ryan patrick hooper, hour detroit, detroit free press