Alt-J at the Bill Graham on a Wednesday night is a rocking reminder of why I go to concerts
A concert is a concert. Life, in its ever-present search for meaning, doesn’t get more Duh than that. You buy a ticket to such an event because there’s a promise of fun to be had. Songs to be sung. But sometimes, there’s an element that gets added to the experience that transforms the aesthetic palette into an auditory and sensual umami.
For me, this tends to happen when one of my favorite artists is in town.
See, I have a theory. That the umami, that certain special something that defies description, comes from the emotional tether you tie to the music. This happens when it embodies that lyric from the Stars song Lights Changing Colour; keeping you lifted, because it keeps you out of your head.
With Alt-J, there’s the first time I was exposed to them, sitting in a café just off San Francisco’s Civic Center, several years ago. I know, I know. This was already three years after the group’s transcendent debut album, An Awesome Wave, had dropped, but I’m late to the party on anything cool.
I was writing on my computer when Something Good popped up on my playlist. I listened, pressed pause just before the end and, in a wonderful daze, tapped the repeat button. I would listen to that song fifteen times through. Something about the matador as metaphor, life about what you make miss, rang eternal.
Three years later (I’m big on symmetry), I saw Alt-J in concert at a venue near San Francisco’s Civic Center. Like the best kinds of concerts, or exposure to DMT, words really can’t do justice to what was felt.
And yet, it gets me writing. Which is a big deal, even though it isn’t. What I mean is, it’s a big deal for me, and I’ve learned that this in itself is enough. I’m writing on Medium to get my groove back after two years spent away from trying to feel anything. It doesn’t have to be a big deal in the world, as well. The noise that gets made in that kind of case is vintage ephemera. Music, and what it does to you, is forever.
That begins as you find yourself, almost absent-mindedly, tapping along to the beat. The urge to move, something about music unleashing something inside you, becomes that bit more forceful. The tap becomes a shuffle, then a stamp on the floor. Then go the arms, and you know, you know, you know.