This magic moment

Picture if you will, a standing-room only club circa 2005. The walls are painted black, the house lights are up, the shadowy stage is empty except for a collection of glittering instruments resting on music stands, and the room is packed to the gills with anxious spectators all waiting for their free rock show to begin. The crowd is restless from standing outside in the pleasant Arizona spring for the last several hours, jockeying for line position and waiting for the doors to open. The buzz of not-so-hushed conversation fills the air. As the clock ticks its way past 7pm, the noise level rises.

No longer content to stand and wait for the opening act to take the stage, the questions begin to circulate. When are they starting? What’s the hold up? (It is amazing how impatient people can be when waiting for something they didn’t pay a cent for.) Everyone is tired and bored and ready to get the show on the road. But there are no answers from their fellow concert-goers, the occasional roadie strolling across the platform, or even from the disembodied soothing voice of a tech over the house speakers. So the assembled mass continues to stand, fidget, and stew.

Suddenly, the house lights lower and a previously unnoticed bank of televisions on the wall behind the stage dimly blinks to life. There is a sudden hush as every head turns expectantly and the whispering begins. Something is happening! Is that supposed to happen? Is this part of the show? But no… It is only a parade of music videos meant to sooth the impatient room. A collective sigh is issued and for a time it seems like this gesture of generosity on the part of the venue will fall on deaf ears.

And this, of course, is when it happens. The opening scenes of a familiar music video appear, multiplied in miniature across the many screens of the massive wall. The first acoustic guitar chords echo throughout the suddenly quiet nightclub. The first verse begins and the transfixed crowd watches the screens as if in a dream. It begins almost haphazardly, a few mumbled words here, a line hesitantly finished there. And within moments, without prompting, without orchestration, without even conscious thought, the whole room begins to sing.

Maybe it is the familiarity of a song released 9 years before? Perhaps it is the bittersweet loss of a talented singer before his genius was fully appreciated? The cause of this spontaneous musical interlude may never be explained, but no one in the crowd seems concerned. As the song progresses, the voices get louder, until the whole building echoes with a chorus 150 strong. After a few minutes, the song comes to its inevitable end and the room reverberates with a mighty cheer. Goths, punks, and even emo kids grin widely at each other. High-fives are exchanged and the overwhelming pretentiousness in the room takes a nose-dive. Peace and goodwill bubble up and overflow, leaving the room awash in positive energy. In time the opening act comes on and while they do their best to wow the room, they do not receive even half the enthusiasm inspired by this unscheduled sing-along.

Fatigued by the long hours of waiting and feeling like the headliner–a newly emerged group by the name of The Bravery–is not important enough to wait another hour for, my sister and I head towards the exit. Walking out into the cooling desert air, we take with us the memory of one musical, magical moment.

Though it does little to replicate that amazing, impromptu experience, here is the song that so inspired the crowd and myself that evening: Santeria by Sublime.

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2 responses to “This magic moment

  1. That was an awesome crowd melding. I usually have to wait until the headliner that everyone is there for to play until that moment can happen. Actually, there was another example of that at KFMA Day last year- not identical, but certainly everyone around me was singing. Between sets was taking a long time, and regular music was playing over speakers, and then Float On by Modest Mouse came on. A song I had heard a million times was transformed as all of us started singing, including the group of drunken bros in front of me. All of us were smiling at each other by the time the song finished.

    • It was a truly magical feeling, like something out of a musical. I think at least part of what made people so sentimental was that (at the time) Sublime’s potential had been cut off at the knees. There was this bittersweet element because we all believed there would never be any more music from them. There is now new music from Sublime, but it is arguable whether it really counts.

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