Concert Atmosphere

Concerts aren’t entirely about the music.  Other factors are often at least as important in determining how noteworthy the night is.

A friend and I went and saw Atmosphere last night at Dallas’ House of Blues. It is a great venue and it was my first time to see a show there.  The sound quality was superb.  I would rate the concert very high in many categories, although I will say Atmosphere has a big enough catalog that they could have hung around long enough to play an extra four or five classics.

But for some reason, it didn’t feel “special” like some other shows have.  So I started wondering why.  I came up with ten criteria that make a show speical.

1.  Sheer star quality of the artists.  Imagine attending a Beatles show.

2.  The intense energy generated by the passion of the artists.  Seeing Rage Against the Machine in 8th grade taught me plenty about this one.

3.  Musical virtuosity.  Watching Phish jam for hours would be hard to forget.  If you were sober that is.

4.  Happiness.  It doesn’t matter whether its some frilly pop music or Bob Marley.  Any show that makes you want to hug and be best friends with everyone around you is special.

5.  The show that’s so good you wonder how there can be so few people there.  Guru at the Granada Theater in Dallas was excellent in this regard – I walked out feeling lucky that I got to take part in something so awesome in such an intimate performance with the artist, and yet I was astonished that I was one of less than 500 people in Dallas who realized that this show was going to be the shit. A corollary to this is when the small attendance is a result of catching the band before it catches its “break.” My brother rarely misses the opportunity to remind me that 25 years ago he saw U2 play a wet t-shirt contest at a Dallas hole-in-the-wall.

6.  Seeing one of your favorite songs (of all time, not the jam of the month) performed live for the first time.  Seeing Nas crank out “If I Ruled the World” at Rock the Bells brought this one to light for me.

7.  The artist does something crazy.  I will never forget Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace climbing up a 25-foot speaker tower at Stubb’s in Austin, TX, turning his back to the crowd, raising his arms by his sides, and falling backwards into the crowd with no warning before being crowd-surfed back to the stage.  That fool just expected people to catch him, and, well, they did.

8.  You do something baller or something cool happens for you.  Hooking up with a good-looking girl or going backstage to hang with the artist makes for a memorable evening.

9.  Setting/circumstances.  Musically, the Insane Clown Posse don’t blow my socks off.  But going to Detroit with my best friend when I was 16 to see them rock their hometown for three days at the first annual “Gathering of the Juggalos” convention?  That was tight.  So was catching Bone Thugs-n-Harmony at a private party they played at my friend’s frat house in college.

10.  Seeing somebody before he/she dies young.  I didn’t see Tupac or Nirvana and I often lament this.  I can’t really blame myself for missing Jimi Hendrix or Mozart.

Atmosphere is a great storyteller.  His songs are a personal journey into his relationships and what a wonderful odyssey many of them are.  But it is a personal experience.  His strength does not lie in being an amazing entertainer of mass groups.

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