I know of a long string of seemingly disparate art forms which, at some point in my short life, I’ve seriously considered pursuing as a permanent career.
A few months ago it hit me that what unified them all was that they were live performance of some description. It always involved a physical display of some art or skill for a living, breathing audience that could react instantaneously and be there with you in the moment.
First it was to be an artist writing and performing music, then a comedian, then a stage actor, then (finally and most tenacious of all) a stage magician.
So I thought I’d lay down what it is (as a regular consumer of live performance) that I particularly enjoy about attending shows such as these.
First comes the excitement of finalizing the ticket purchase; that email which says something a long the lines of: “you are going to see ________ live!” just crystallizes the fact that this is no longer a ‘maybe’; you are going to see this show and there’s a seat with your name on it. This starts to build excitement and suspense at a low level, and as you note down the date of the show subconsciously it sets a far off marker in your future timeline as something to very much look forward to.
In the intervening period whatever troubles or tribulations that may arise, it’s reassuring to know that no matter how tough things get you can think about how much fun you will be having at the upcoming show and this motivates you to tank through whatever is troubling you in that moment.
Then the long awaited day arrives! You arrive at the venue a few hours earlier than the scheduled start time just to gauge where everything is and maybe grab a bite to eat or a drink. Then, with nothing to do but wait, those of us who do not naturally turn to technology to pass the time are afforded a wonderful opportunity to reflect on life and the many luxuries being experienced in that moment. Namely that you are calm, relaxed, enjoying a lovely meal and/or drink and waiting to see one of your favorite performer(s) ascend the stage and fill the venue with their art.
Next you’re in your seat, eagerly awaiting the show to start. You may have had to sit through a few opening acts which do not really tickle your fancy, but they serve to distract you from the wait time. The most tense period of the whole thing is the last 10 minutes leading up to the scheduled start time for the main act (assuming all is on schedule). Knowing that within 10 minutes you’re immediate perception and experience of life will be transformed in its entirety, seems to make the time drag on all the more slowly.
Then it finally happens, after all that waiting, the main act ascends the stage. Your immediate environment and perception shifts from an ordinary venue to a place in space and time where you are part of something bigger than yourself: you are in the presence of an artist and are sharing time and space with them as they share their art with you.
Assuming the show you witnessed resonated with you on some level, the coming days after the show will prove to be quite tough. Like a pseudo-grieving period and post-drug high you utterly crave to be back where you were merely a few days ago, experiencing first hand art and enjoying every waking endorphin-filled moment of it.
Soon you will be time-stamping. For example: “this time 3 days ago I was in line at the drinks stand waiting to buy my first drink for the evening. That would have been 2 hours before the main act came on” and so on. A very normal reaction to a show that you witnessed and very much enjoyed. Soon, however, you will get distracted with the struggle of every day mortal life and this will mark the first step away from the post-show blues.
Over time you will forget the specific details of the particular performance, but hopefully what will remain is a distinct memory of what you felt and specific moments from the evening that really stuck with you and inspired you; thus motivating you to try and create those moments and memories for other people, and also secretly committing yourself no matter what to seeing them again when the next opportunity pops up onto your dashboard.