Out of all the concerts that go on in a city over the course of the year, only a fraction of them are the world tours that megastars put on to fill stadiums with fans. The rest of the concerts feature lesser-known artists who bring together their devoted followings and attempt to win over the venue’s regulars who attend concerts simply to discover new music. For me, the second kind of concert has a much greater potential for intimate performances that leave a lasting impression and connect you to a city and an artist. Below are just some of the reasons why the real magic happens during concerts featuring indie artists.
- You get to feel a sense of belonging, even in a crowded city.
To get to concerts, I take the train from my northern New Jersey town to Pennsylvania Station, then take the subway during evening rush hours. It feels bizarre when I commute into the city going the opposite direction of people anxious to get home and leave the city behind them. Yet by the time I squeeze into a subway car and reemerge on the ground, I remember my trip’s purpose. I have a destination somewhere in this city that questions nothing and accepts everybody, no matter how long they choose to stay. When en route to a concert, I have a mission in the city that only a few hundred other people will share. For that brief period of time, I am a New Yorker like everyone else next to me, but also part of a small and special group that will only come together for one night of music.
- Concerts allow you to see parts of the city you would never think to visit.
Both concert venues I went to are located in chic corners of Brooklyn I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to visit: Rough Trade NYC is next to so many hip stores, while Elsewhere Rooftop is secluded among factories and storage houses with graffitied walls. Sitting in a garage-like restaurant, facing a green wall decorated with flowers and seeing the rain drizzle outside made for a memorable half hour. I even found the Radiohead records I had been searching for in Rough Trade NYC while perusing their collection.
- Sometimes you get to chat with the artist before her show.
I was one of the first audience members to walk into Rough Trade NYC for indie-pop singer pronoun’s show. Thinking it would be difficult to find physical albums for a smaller artist online, I walked to the table by the entrance to buy her two albums. A young woman with short, dark red curls greeted me by first cheering, “Yay, my first sale of the night!” I congratulated her, complimented her hair and discussed the playlist that was on, all without any idea whom I was talking to. It wasn’t until I saw her reappear in a white jumpsuit and begin testing guitar on stage that I realized she is the voice behind pronoun; her trusting, lively character complemented by her pixie cut. I am so glad I had the chance to tell her how beautiful her hair is in person.
- The volatile summer weather creates an opportunity to find beauty in any situation.
Summer has its own allure that immerses you more in the music you love. My memories of pronoun’s concert will always feature the heavy rain pouring that day and my half-soaked shirt. I’m not exactly a fan of getting rained on before standing in a crowd for hours, but something about being at the mercy of the weather for the sake of hearing new music made the rain more tolerable. Similarly, the summer showers made the audience wait twice as long during the sound check before Norwegian chillwave singer Jakob Ogawa’s concert at Elsewhere Rooftop. The rain was to blame for the malfunction of a pedal, Ogawa explained. The music was enchanting despite this setback. Better yet, during the wait I got to see the sky slowly darken and saw the full lighting potential of a rooftop stage, with its shimmering silver disco ball reflecting each light that hit it once the storm cleared up. Maybe rain is not so bad.
- Above all else, you get to hear an artist play their music live.
It might seem obvious that music would be played at a concert, but this paired with the fact that independent artists can be harder to find online and stream on demand makes each concert feel even more special. In a city like New York where diverse musicians from all genres openly share their art, that brief moment of contact between performer and fan always presents one of the more beautiful parts of our increasingly global and connected world. Just go if you can, and be ready to keep your mind open for what might be thrown at you.
Ellie Yang is a junior in the College. This will be the final installment of Tune In, Zone Out.