I did something last weekend that I haven’t done in more than 25 years. I went to a rock concert. Now understand that I am not a fan of any kind. It’s just not in my DNA to like anything so much that it starts getting in the way of liking other things I like. So while I have lots of favorite music and can normally name the band, I rarely can come up with the names of individual band members. I can almost never name the album, and I despise fan clubs, branded merchandise, bumper stickers, and anything else that serves only to make sure the world knows of your steadfast commitment and refined taste.
So why am I telling you this? Well, it’s about this concert I went to. The experience hit me with some insight about the difference between creating and consuming, insight I thought might be cool to share. To do so, however, I was going to have to tell you that my fairly recent exposure to the Foo Fighters had profoundly changed how I looked at music. I was going to have to tell you about the connection I began feeling with the band and the impact it had on my own very late entry into drumming. I was going to have to mention how much I love their music, the connection I feel with their musical roots, and the gratitude I felt when I watched their recent and very popular documentary, Sonic Highways. In short, I ran the risk of coming off as a fan and I just couldn’t have that. Cause I’m not the fan type, right? So as long as we have that clear, let me tell you what happened last weekend at the Gorge Amphitheater.
The Foo Fighters have an outstanding reputation as live performers and this show was everything I expected. Not the big stage extravaganza that has become the rule for pop performers, but a visually and sonically optimized platform to keep the focus on the music and the fans. I enjoyed songs that had become my favorites, got introduced to wonderful material that my late-comer ass had missed, and was treated to a ridiculously magnificent fracture boot guitar solo. Even more amazing, I actually got sucked into the one thing about live performances that I despise above all others: the singalong.
But as the concert progressed, I found that my enjoyment of each song came up a little short of my expectations. In terms of creating emotional connection, none of them hit my ten on a ten scale. I was ready to write it off as my general resistance to enamored artist worship (I’m not a fan, remember?). But after awhile I realized it wasn’t that at all. The problem wasn’t my inability to connect with the music. My problem was my definition of a ten on that ten scale.
About 2 years ago, after a lifetime of failure to connect with any musical instrument, I finally overcame my snooty attitude about percussion and gave it a try. Drums hooked me in a way that nothing else ever had. By blind luck, I also found something I never had in any of my previous attempts, a music teacher who really got where I was musically, and who quickly figured out how I learned (thanks Larry Mahlis!). Instead of starting out with the mind-numbing technical exercises that had put me off other instruments, we picked a handful of fairly challenging pieces and worked on them for months at at time. It was in those pieces, especially in the weeks where it all started to come together with the music at full tempo, that I found myself emotionally amped up in a way that listening had never managed. I hit a new ten on the ten scale and I think it really kind of ruined me for listening.
So Dave, Taylor, Nate, Chris, and Pat (you too, Butch), thanks for an awesome show. Just don’t take it wrong that it didn’t do the same for me as when I struggle to lock in with “Days Go By” from The Offspring, or your own “Outside” in my makeshift bedroom studio. I would have had to be up on the stage with you for the feeling to come even close, and time and talent is not on my side for something like that. This does not discourage me. On the contrary, what I get on my own little DW kit (especially when I come up with something new on my own) is putting some real drive on me. Most days playing is way better than sitting around with headphones on.
So go ahead and be a fan if you want, folks, but please don’t miss out on the bigger buzz to be had by investing time in whatever inspires you and by putting some of it out into the world yourself. You might get yourself a new ten.