I have had an idea for quite a while now to go out on a tour and require everyone to leave their cell phones at home. Or maybe to offer a discount to people who are willing to put them in a basket for the night. I suppose that is the opposite of a good social strategy.
But hey, maybe the people at your show will listen to you enough to actually know whether or not they like you and want to follow you for more than cool’s sake by the time they get home.
Three days ago, my wife and I drove to Phoenix, Arizona for As Cities Burn's Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest 10 Year Anniversary tour. I truly do not understand how people live in Phoenix, Arizona. Or Mesa or Scottsdale or Gilbert or whatever your suburb is called. But the bill was stacked with three of our favorite bands, and we have friends in all of them. I think it was the first time that we have gone out of state for a concert that wasn’t ours in three years, and it felt to me like when we met, road tripping, good music and sharing a cigarette because it’s what you do when you’re road tripping.
I got my phone out to take a picture of Listener before they started playing. I thought about taking more pictures during their set, but as soon as Dan started in with his jokes, I knew that I wanted to enjoy it for what it was with my own eyeballs.
I just had the thought in my head that maybe I could appreciate more of a widescreen view without my widescreen obstructing it.
I took three pictures all night. One of Dan and Kris looking at each other before they started to play, one of my friend Josh playing keyboard and dancing a lot for a Snap I thought might be funny, and one of As Cities Burn because my wife's camera sucks and she wanted a better one (for what it’s worth, it wasn’t a better one).
I don’t know exactly what I want to say here, but pictures are cool beyond the number of Instagram loves they receive, and words carry more value than the number of retweets attached to them. And Facebook doesn't matter.
I cried during Listener’s set, just like the sob story I am. But I’m not ashamed of it. I heard Dan sing that “everything falls apart at the exact same time that everything comes together for the next step” and I hoped that he believed it beyond fear as a prison. And I hoped I did, too. And I heard him sing that if we both found ourselves all alone, or in prison (behind bars in our minds), there is a plan. And I hope that we believe it.
I watched my friend Kris will it with every smashing drumbeat.
There are some things that deserve bigger windows than the 1920x1080 resolution displays we spend three quarters of our waking days staring at in the name of social interaction.
So I kept my phone in my pocket and decided I would make a memory and keep a memory inside of my mind, with all of it’s grandeur that will grow throughout the years until I begin to tell it like a fairytale. Until it has fireworks. Until it becomes legend.
Maybe that’s already happened. I do love a good story. And maybe one day, I won’t remember it at all. But it will have happened.
Maybe someone will remind me that I was able to catch my friends opening up for more of my friends, and that I never imagined they’d be my friends, and that it was a show that reminded me of youth before I knew any of them. A show that made me sing, a show that shamed me for trying to be too cool for too many years and a show that reminded me of time as a fleeting machine and a show that pierced through all of the analyzation until I simply felt alive like I did when I knew that art held value beyond commodity. and spoke beyond itself.
[Plus, I got to hear Toby complain about a (potentially) broken rib. And he’s the daddest dad on the road right now, and I appreciate that.]
I married a different kind of creature than me, and I don’t know if I understand her a lot of the time. But there are moments when her eyes light up and I know that she is happy. It’s a glimmer that reminds me of the eyes of a child. Brandi had those eyes that night. Eyes that hurt and loved and cared and wished and knew and cherished the moment she sang, “I believe there is something here to be learned of grace, because I can’t help but love you even with a heart that breaks…”
And there’s so much attached to that, for everyone. The person who wrote it. His family. His recipient. His father. His daddy. The people in the room, singing along, who may not relate to circumstantial specifics, but absorb the feeling for their own.
That can’t fit into a picture gallery the way that God can’t fit inside our heads. And I think that the beauty of the former leaves me in awe of the magnificence of the latter. These things don’t fit inside of boxes.
When geotags and retweets strip the beauty of its power, remember that we were created to awe and wonder outside of ourselves. I can’t speak for my friends, but I will say that their art gives me hope in a greater artist. Lately, that has been a recurring theme in my life - art that testifies beyond itself. Like Albuquerque butts up against the Sandia Mountains, and when I stand in the mornings to stare at them, I can’t help but wonder at their creator. Like the stars I used to sneak out of my parent’s house to see, and I couldn’t help but wonder who made them.
Or why I believed that he made me.
Or why I believe that he preserves me.
Or why I believe that he will take me home.
Those truths are helpful to remember when I can't stack up against the law of pithy tweetable truisms or filtered Instagram images, trying hard to capture the magic of an amazing concert, but falling short of the way shows like that crawl into your bloodstream and speak a greater word.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter, and I’m all about VSCO, but try leaving your phone in the dashboard of your car the next time you’re patted down for a concert.