COURTESY OF RUDY MALCOM
About three quarters of the way through every concert that I’ve been to, I find myself transitioning from a state of enjoying the concert and the moment that I’m in, to realizing that the experience will be ending soon and feeling stressed about having to enjoy the performance.
There’s something about the impermanent nature of a live experience that stresses me out.
At first I can recognize that the moment I’m in won’t last forever, how exciting that is and how glad I am to be where I am.
However, at some point the imminent and inevitable ending makes me panic a little. I end up overanalyzing my emotions to the point of not enjoying the experience any longer.
I think the reasoning behind this ultimately boils down to a generational shift that’s come along with binge-watching and constantly having media at our fingertips.
Whether that’s TikToks on repeat or a seemingly limitless choice of shows to watch on Netflix, or even a music library on Spotify that allows you to listen to songs on repeat as many times as you want, whenever and wherever you want.
You can listen to one artist, one album, or even just one song over and over — and it still won’t be an experience that has a sense of finite time inflicted upon it.
Live concerts and events, on the other hand, only happen once, and this is something that I feel like we’re not used to anymore, especially as members of this generation.
Even if you’re able to go see an artist in concert more than once, you’ll still never have the exact same experience again, in that same venue, on that same day, with the same people around you.
I’m generally not one to get my phone out and record songs at concerts — although I am guilty of posting pictures on my stories — but equally I don’t think there’s any shame in doing that.
It’s a way of trying to preserve the ephemerally live experience, and I can completely understand why people want to do that.
For me, personally, that draws me out of the experience even sooner than my brain does naturally, so I try to avoid it.
That being said, I tried recording parts of The 1975 concert I went to at The Anthem in May, and I haven’t once watched them back.
That’s not to say that I haven’t listened to their songs many times since then — I’ve listened to “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” probably a few more times than I’d like to admit — but I haven’t once gone back to those recordings.
Last Friday I had the exact same feeling.
I went to D.C. to go see dodie, an English singer/songwriter and YouTuber whose videos I have been watching for years and whose concert I bought tickets for all the way back in April.
When I saw her tour announcement, I knew that I wanted to see her in D.C., regardless of whether I found someone to go with me or not.
Ironically I couldn’t see her in London because I was here on campus, but luckily I found a friend (and willing photographer) to drag along.
Dodie’s songs are lyrically complex and emotionally beautiful, juxtaposed over light and floaty melodies.
She performed a whole range of different songs from her three independent extended plays (Intertwined (2016), You (2017) and Human (2019)), from a dramatic opening with a dark stage and “Arms Unfolding” with soft violin from Gillian Rivers, to the fun and upbeat “Absolutely Smitten,” which she performed in the encore and saw guitarist Orla Gartland and bassist Pete Daynes running across stage and swapping places around a jumping dodie in the middle.
There was easy banter between songs, and her joking around and interacting with the crowd created an ambience of calm and comfort.
She quipped back at one member of the audience who kept offering her a hug when we got to some of the slower-paced and more emotional songs, saying, “I’m trying to create a mood here!” She even took a pride flag from someone and slipped it in her pocket during “She,” a song dodie originally wrote when she was 17 and reflecting on having a crush on a past female friend.
One of the lyrics goes, “And she smells like lemongrass and sleep / She tastes like apple juice and peach,” which dodie commented is a very 17-year-old thing to write and is almost childish in its naïveté, but there’s something beautiful in its simplicity.
Later in the song, she goes on to sing, “But to her, I taste of nothing at all,” which is just so bittersweet and painful and ends up cutting the metaphor off entirely.
In “She,” dodie sings, “Oh, you would find her in a Polaroid picture,” which, is yet another way of trying to catch an instant moment — something that is more artistic and nostalgic — but also something that is singular and fleeting put into this permanent frame.
The other day one of my teachers said, “It’s all very well and good to tell people to live in the moment, but at the end of the day we all have bills to pay.”
Regardless of the experience you are having and how much you’re enjoying it, it’s hard to separate yourself from the rest of the world around you, and, to a certain extent, you can’t.
I had to think about getting the bus back from D.C. and what time we had to leave, and I had to let my brain pull me out of the space.
And there will always be something that reminds me, about three quarters of the way through a live event, that it’s inevitably going to end.
But when I look back on it now, I don’t remember the exact moment I started stressing — I remember how good Sophie English was on the cello, or how much I loved dodie’s debut of “Boys Like You,” and how I can’t wait to hear it again when it comes out in a few weeks.