Today I am thankful for the Counting Crows concert I went to alone.
While walking back from Dinkytown to my dorms with my friend Ronell on March 19, 1997 I was made an offer I could not refuse. There was a person standing outside the Northup Auditorium on the U of M mall trying to sell a couple of tickets to the Counting Crows show that was starting in about an hour. Ronell said she was out, I didn’t have time to ask my other friends if they’d like to attend, and I didn’t have the cash to gamble on them wanting to go with me. After a couple of minutes I decided to buy myself a ticket (at less than half face value, which was still a lot for this college sophomore). I still remember my hesitation and nervousness about going alone. After all these years I’m so glad I decided to.
Fast forward to today. While driving I took a break from my audio book and was flipping from random song to random and happened to land on Einstein on the Beach by Counting Crows. As I started singing along to a song I hadn’t heard in almost a decade I decided I wanted to listen to more of their music. Next thing you know I’m listening to a recording of a live show of theirs (thank you Apple Music!). As the first few chords play I’m instantly back at the Northrup Auditorium…
The nervousness of going alone. The excitement of a great concert. The lights slowly fade in but are still so dim you can barely see the leader singer as he starts to sing… Then they hit a loud note… The stage lights up and a huge star (the same one from their 2nd album) lights up… The crowd immediately erupts… And I’m gone, just one of the thousands of bodies bouncing and screaming, no sense of self, just pure energy and emotion… And it feels great!
Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, described a similar feeling while going to raves. He talked about the incredible feeling of everyone kind of blending into one collective and I totally understand what he meant. It was such a crazy feeling to lose “me” and just be a part of “us.”
That being said, there was also another interesting feeling of being in the crowd and surrounded by others but not knowing anyone. In some ways I was kind of a ghost, no one would have noticed if I were there or left. I wasn’t talking with anyone, I was just there. It probably sounds kind of weird, but there’s a calming effect when I’m situations like this. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but when I’m somewhere busy by myself, like an airport, I love throwing on my headphones and blasting music (preferably Deadmau5’s Some Chords) to the point where I can’t hear any of the noise outside of my music and just fade into the crowd. There’s no talking with anyone, very little eye contact, just detached in a mess of people, just being. This concert was one of the first times I’ve experienced that feeling. It isn’t something that I like to do often, but once in a while there’s something soothing about it…
How crazy that there were two such completely polar sensations at the same time? Throw in the fact that it was a pretty frickin’ epic show (easily one of the top 3 I’ve been to), and it was an incredibly memorable night!
Except… I don’t remember it often. Even listening to Counting Crows doesn’t just trigger it. It has to be cultivated and slowly teased into my brain. I’m not sure, but I’m thinking it’s got to do with the fact that I was alone and don’t have memories of sharing it with anyone.
After the concert I went back to my dorm to find that my friends had broken into my room and filled it up higher than waist deep with crumpled newspaper, an old trick of mine. It was AWESOME! We had so much fun taking turns diving into it, lounging in it, and even cleaning it up. It is one of my favorite memories of Brian McGovern, I just wish I could find the pictures I have somewhere of that night. That memory has no issues popping back up, but the concert memories don’t always come along with it.
Anyways, I’m thankful I went to the Counting Crows concert all alone that night, it has led to memories that, no matter how slippery, will be with me forever… Listening to a live version of Around Here has not been the same since.