When I was younger, rock concerts were major events in my life. I would find out about a show through a listing in BAM or the Guardian, buy my tickets early and let the anticipation build over weeks or even months. Against the backdrop of tedious mediocrity that was high school, an upcoming concert was a glowing beacon, a reminder that there was a grander, funkier, freakier world out there and that I could access it if I wanted to. Going to these concerts, I knew I was a part of something larger than myself. And back in high school afterwards, I would be sustained by the secret knowledge I'd gained at the Stone or the Omni or the Phoenix Theatre, seeing Primus or Soundgarden or Fungo Mungo: I am not like the rest of you. This is not my whole world.
Once I had a car, concerts became less of a big deal to get to, and consequently less of a big deal. What had once been a breakthrough to an ecstatic new world was now a mostly enjoyable but fairly regular amusement. Once I moved to New York in '93, concerts became even less meaningful. Try as I might, I failed to find any scene in New York that could stand up to the multi-ethnic, genre-muddling loopiness of the Bay Area. Where bands back home wore wild costumes and leaped around like lunatics, the East Coast scene seemed to require that bands dress badly and stand around looking bored.
Concerts still involved painful noise, crowds, cigarette smoke, long lines, overpriced tickets, late nights, sweat, bad drinks and horrendous opening acts, but the payoff was less. I no longer needed rock concerts to help me locate myself in the world or feel cool.
I've been to plenty of concerts in the years since then by artists I really like, but it's rare that I've felt that old sense of anticipation. Today, though, it's back. Tonight, I'm going to see Gogol Bordello at Irving Plaza, and I feel the giddy thrill of adventure in store. Check out the live clips and you'll see why.
Bonus: Not a Crime (Video)