I looked up at the stage. Lights were flickering all over, changing colours from red to orange to white to green to purple. With each change in hue, one of my favourite bands gleaming as their music sets the tone of the entire field, overcrowded with people swaying together, not a care in the world. The city was Pune, the festival was VH1 Supersonic, and the band was alt-J.
That was when I first looked back through the last two years. I was backtracking to the first live gig I attended. I remembered it.
It was October 2016 and my friends, and I was at the JLN Stadium attending the Grub Fest. The reason I was there was that Prateek Kuhad was playing that evening. I loved his music. I liked his style. This was my first chance to see an artist live.
Most of my friends weren’t keen on both Prateek Kuhad or attending the gig. They left soon after he started playing. Two of eight, we kept swaying as everyone else around us swayed similarly. It was beautiful to see so many people just moving to the music, slowly rocking their bodies with the mellow tunes that sang of love, heartbreak, longing and so much more.
Then, the DJs entered, and the vibe just flipped over. That was also the first time I saw a DJ live, and so, it naturally was the first time I jumped along with hundreds of others. Strangers, making every beat drop count. It was enthralling on multiple levels. This was the first time I was seeing all of this and absorbing it all was no less than amazing.
Since that autumn, I’ve attended countless gigs. A friend joked a couple of weeks ago how “live gigs are just music you can listen to at home, in private” and I couldn’t understand why someone would say that. However, I learned that a lot of people prefer not attending concerts and live gigs. I’m not here to change that. I don’t have that kind of power, intent or writing. All I can do is tell why I make an effort and time to attend as many as I can.
It isn’t just about the music while it may sound like it. Music is obviously, the essential bit. However, there’s more to it than just that.
It is about sitting on the grass with your friends as you look at a small stage in a free festival called Qafila. About fifty other people, moving about, all around you; some of them standing near the stage, some of them eating noodles like you. It is about feeling the air where there is nothing but good music, lights and a crowd that, unlike the usual, is completely happy.
It is about having so much alcohol in your system that you can’t do anything else but dance and jump to every single time the beat goes up and it goes down. Singing your favourite songs along with people you’ve never met before and probably, never going to meet again just cannot be put into words.
It is about being part of a crowd that knows all the words to all the songs, so the artist just looks at the gathering in awe and stops singing. It is about that epic feeling where you know you can be a part of something bigger than yourself. Not just that, it is about actually being happy about it.
It is about watching all the names and faces from your glass displays come to life. Then, taking a thousand pictures of them because you know you’ll be unable to describe the moment later. Catching someone looking at you, smiling and walking up to them and introducing yourself not knowing where that little encounter might take you. Then, losing touch because the only thing common to the both of you were your playlists.
It is about screaming and looking at lights and all sorts of effects adding to a moment already worth a million and wondering how life is all but great and that all your issues are just issues and can be worked through. It is about experiencing so much in such a short while that the sheer overwhelm of it makes you laugh.
In a life where you’re otherwise looking forwards or backwards, it is about being in the moment for a change.
All of that and more. So, the next time someone tells you a concert or a gig is just music that isn’t even as good as it is on your phone or iPod, don’t say a word.
It’s their loss anyway.