“I just bit my tongue open,” was something I heard come out of the mouth of a girl with blood stained all over her shirt. She ran out of the crowd during Citizen’s set to her friends that were admiring the band from afar. She drank a lot of water, stepped outside for a few seconds and deliberately immersed herself back into the crowd.
Any bystander would have been worried, but I didn’t find anything too unsettling about this situation. This isn’t the first time something like that has happened at a show I’ve attended. In fact, it’s one out of tens of situations. And I think it has everything to do with the type of people who attend shows, who love live music more than most things in this world — the people who are willing to sacrifice their comforts just to see their favorite band play in the flesh. And I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed so many sacrificial music lovers in one place.
Personally, I am a bundle of anxiety, and through my experience, I have come to find that a lot of avid concert attendees are bundles themselves. Walking into a venue filled with hundreds of people standing shoulder to shoulder makes my heart beat out of my chest, my breath starts to shorten and I regress to my nail biting addiction that I thought I kicked in tenth grade. I play it cool by babbling about irrelevant things with friends, but my eyes scan the room to find other people fidgeting in place spewing word vomit too.
So, why would I pay to be this anxious? Because once that first strum of the guitar hits your ears the anxiety disappears.
I was standing among strangers biting my nails as punk rock, grunge band, Milk Teeth took the stage. Coming from the UK with a badass front woman, Milk Teeth rocked so hard my hand was too busy tapping my leg to be subject to nail biting. However, openers are always a rough spot because people are still awkwardly standing in place.
After an anxiety-filled set change Sorority Noise took the stage. During the set front man Cameron Boucher expressed his diagnosis of manic depression and created a peace of mind in the crowd by acknowledging the reality of mental illnesses. The Connecticut-based band opened with “Art School Wannabe” and the anxious skin shed off the crowd as they went from awkwardly standing to jumping, pushing and screaming “Maybe I’m my own greatest fear/ Maybe I’m too scared to admit that.” And when the band played their last song the crowd was chanting “Encore!” displaying the evidence that Sorority Noise was an absolute crowd pleaser.
The air began filling up with word vomit again until Virginia-based Turnover started to play. Turnover created a sensual experience with their indie, emo kind of vibe and the music commanded everyone to sway left and right. During their set full of songs from their dreamy new album, Peripheral Vision, strangers became friends after singing emotional ballads to each other. Vulnerability and comfort replaced the anxiety because something about live music eliminates the fear of judgment.
By the time Citizen came on stage, the level of discomfort in the venue was almost completely stripped from the crowd. Opening with “The Summer” off of its debut album, Youth, Citizen’s live presence wiped every ounce of awkward anxiety out of the Crofoot. With no exaggeration, almost everyone in the venue, besides about three rows of outside bystanders, were pushing and shoving each other enjoying the live music experience at its finest. The crowd was a collective wave of movement and not only did people voluntarily experience their mental discomforts to see Citizen, they experienced their physical discomforts as well.
Neck veins from strenuous singing have never been so visible. The frontman, Mat Kerekes handed the microphone to crowd surfers creating a personal show while the rest of the band slammed on their instruments. I’ve never seen a more engaged and alive crowd experiencing their discomforts for the love of music.
So, why do anxiety-ridden people sacrifice their mental and physical comforts for something? Why am I totally OK with that guy’s sweat dripping on my shoulder? Because being able to see a favorite band play live gives me a high that makes me feel normal, even if it’s just for a little while.