Let there be songs to fill the air…
There’s something transcendent about listening to live music outdoors. As if even the sky is energized by the electric rush of a modern hymn rising through the air.
At the height of the pandemic, in the Summer of 2020, when we really didn’t know when and if we’d ever revel again together in an open field, the community college near my house hired a Grateful Dead cover band to play in the school parking lot. The audience listened to the concert from their cars.
In the still summer night, the sound was soft and pure. About a mile away, I danced to “Jack Straw,” “Bertha,” and “Lazy Lightning” with my dogs in the backyard. I updated the setlist to all the Deadheads I knew from my phone. Texting up into the stars.
It felt better than almost anything else I remember from that time, a message of hope humming through the little aura of love we’d built around our home. But it also made me feel a little more alone because none of you were there.
That’s the other thing about live music. It’s the scene that makes it real.
Come As You Are
My dad had this wonderful appreciation for different lifestyles and tastes and interpretations of cool, just so long as you went all in on whatever it was you were into and how it made you who you are.
He was a Bob Dylan and John Prine and The Eagles and The Beatles kind of guy who loved to ski and hike and be outdoors. At every wedding, he was the first person on the dance floor. And when we were too little to know how lucky we were, he took us to Red Rocks to see acts like Chuck Mangione and John Denver.
I remember on one clear summer night in the stands, how he said, “The stars are on the stage and in the sky.” Which I thought was the coolest thing ever and repeated it at the top of my lungs a couple dozen times for everyone else in the amphitheater to hear.
He happily shared the turntable at home as my brother and I worked our way through everything from AC/DC to Bob Marley, Joy Division, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty, Patti Smith, The Clash, Blondie, The Cars, Bob Marley, Neil Young, Generation X, T. Rex, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones.
And he let my brother’s punk band practice in the basement all through high school, quietly letting the neighbors know they’d only “play ‘Rebel Rebel’ one more time and be done by 9,” because he knew how good it made them feel.
Let’s Feel Better Right Now
Through college, I came home and cut trees for the Swingle Tree company every summer and went to every concert I could get tickets to. A couple guys I pruned with would work security at night at Red Rocks and Mile High and Folsom Field. Each day we’d compare notes about what we saw and what we heard.
Matches said the heavy metal shows were his favorite as everyone came “all dressed up to rock.” Reno liked country and said, “They keep singing about whiskey, but those folks take the best care of themselves.” I said I’ve always been more of a Deadhead, “with Sugar Magnolia and the twirling skirts and long hair.”
But I’d go to any one of those shows right now and fall a little bit in love with everybody there. In fact, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than let some good music move me across a grassy dance floor this June.
It does feel like a good summer to go all in. Like maybe a better summer than any other ever to buy the tickets and dress up for the show. To put on that old mint ABBA t-shirt that says “Japan Tour 1980” and recharge your groove. Or camp out for the three-day festival, driving home in a happy daze of sight and sound while trying to remember who you let paint your face red, white, and blue. Or invite a first date to see someone you never saw before, and first hear that song you can’t stop listening to.
You see, I know there are a lot of things wrong in the world right now. But music isn’t one of them. And I think maybe if we take a little more time to celebrate the things that make us feel better about us, we’ll have a little more for everything else.
I’ll see you at the show.
— Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of the God of Skiing. The book has been called “the greatest ski novel of all time.” Buy it here and read it now: amzn.to/35AfxlL