The Artists Den

Sometimes I’ll know nothing about a band, or very little — except for the way they sound, and as soon as a peek behind the curtain is granted, I’m a fan.

Going just beyond the surface of something that you thought was one way can be a magical, enlightening journey. Going even further can be life-changing.

Tonight while channel surfing, I came across Live from the Artists Den on PBS. I flipped over to it right as it was beginning and, having never seen it before, I assumed it was akin to Inside the Actors Studio. In a way it was, minus the interview-heavy format. But it provided a similar intimate setting, gave you a peek inside the musicians’ lives thanks to the commentary interspersed throughout the program and made you feel as though you had a great seat and were about to embark on a great evening.

The Fray hasn’t been a band that I’ve been a huge fan of for reasons that aren’t terribly important. What is important was the way that the things that held me back from liking them immediately disappeared the second I bothered to pause on the program. Removing their band-ness and plunking them down in the middle of a terrific venue in New York to talk about their story and how they felt playing in the space they were in was just enough to make them relatable, and — for me — therefore likeable.

Insta-fondness aside, I started wondering about the allure of concerts. What exactly is it about paying good money to be in a venue where the vocals aren’t clearly understood, singing is occasionally lackluster and/or off-key, people are often rude and it’s more difficult to see the band than it would be if you’d just stayed home and watched a concert DVD?

I’ve decided it’s the sensory immersion.

For me, it’s similar to how I can transport myself to my own little world by blasting my favorite music in the car with all windows up and messing with the audio controls until it’s a veritable assault on the ears.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Large venues aren’t so good. Small ones are ideal. If neither large nor small venue is available, the next best thing is a live album cranked way up in my venue-on-wheels.

The first time I went to a concert, I had no idea my floor seats would be next to the massive soundboard. As soon as the first few notes started to play, I could feel emotion welling up inside of me.

People do this for a living?

The drums started, then the bass. The soundboard was doing its job, as every note, every beat and every ounce of energy the band was putting out reverberated throughout my body.

And then I started to cry. I can’t really explain why, except that I’m sure it was something that surpassed even extreme elation.

There was something indescribable about the sound that filled the arena, the pulsing through my body, even the smell of beer that had been spilled on the floor and was evaporating — similar to steam rising off a lake…all of it provided a solid, trance-like state for a good three hours.

When I put in a live DVD and give my mobile-venue’s speakers a run for their money, they do a good job at recreating the atmosphere I still remember from my first concert as though it was yesterday. And I try to relive that experience multiple times a year.

If you ever ask me a question and I seem to not hear you, now you know why.

Tonight I am thankful for that first experience that has led to countless others, and for the more I know are yet to come. They’ve all provided their own, unique magical journey for the evening, and each has never failed to be both enlightening and life-changing…exactly the way immersing yourself and going beyond the surface should be.

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