With more Americans getting the COVID vaccine and pandemic regulations loosening, we’re starting to see live music creep back onto calendars. As they do, expect music pundits everywhere to poll re-emerged audiences on how they felt the moment their first live concert in at least a year began.
We, and some friends and concert professionals from across the country, are less focused on the beginning of the show than the end. We prefer to fast-forward to closing time and all its magic. Those moments, from the last song’s final notes to whatever weirdness which follows, are some of the best and most unsung parts of the live music experience. They may be routine, like rehashing show highlights with friends over late night coffee at House of Pies. Or, maybe they’re mysterious and hazy, whatever unexpected thrill emerges from witnessing our favorite musicians live and in the flesh.
What are you looking forward to about the end of the next live show you attend? Maybe it's hearing the final song of an exceptional encore, the way the audience bonds over what’s usually a popular tune everyone in the arena knows and loves. Perhaps, it's jockeying for a guitar pick or a set list tossed to the crowd as the band exits the stage? It might be sipping warm beer with a local band as it breaks down and awaits payout following a wild set at a neighborhood bar. Possibly, it’s just the small talk you’ve missed having with a kind bartender as you close your tab and tip big for all the good work they put in throughout the night.
You can look forward to the start of your next live show, but we’ll take the end of the night, thanks.
“For me, the end of the show is the debauchery left on the floor of the venue — beer cans and wristbands and load out and house lights,” said Paige Mann, Director of Ticketing for Live Nation Southeast. Mann is among those watching shows cautiously resume in Houston, including Jim Breuer this Saturday and Dave Chappelle's approaching return engagement at House of Blues.
Mann is an avid music fan who dares social media followers to name that tune when she posts favorite song lyrics (hint: guess Tori Amos and you might frequently guess correctly). She’s happy to see crowds and smiles return with comics like Chappelle and Breuer but is really looking forward to the big show-closing payoff of live music.
“But truly the best part is seeing folks walk out together singing whatever song is still on their mind from the past two hours and, in that crystalline moment, forgetting their differences and just being,” Mann noted. “For me personally it is knowing that I get to do it again, hopefully tomorrow.”
The end of the night is great for people-watching. Spy the singles, moved by the joy and sexiness of live music, as they try to hook up in the waning moments of the evening. See who's got cash to flash for the fashion of the concert merch table. Eavesdrop on loud-talkers shuffling beside you on the hike from Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion’s lawn to the color-coded parking areas scattered a half-mile away. Having a concert ticket makes you part of a like-minded group and we’ve sorely missed being with and around these total strangers.
Josh Nutting is talent buyer at Reggie’s in Chicago. It’s his job to book the acts which bring the crowds to the South State Street venue. The rock club has past hosted acts like Alkaline Trio, The Dillinger Escape Plan, legendary rock drummer Carl Palmer and MoonRunners Music Festival, an annual, multi-day concert event Nutting founded.
"As a talent buyer, the most fantastic feeling after a successful show is the realization that none of this would have been possible without my effort. Bringing all these different walks of life together for an entire weekend and artists from all over the world, it literally gives me chills when I see the crew cleaning up and the sound crew tearing down," said Nutting.
Nutting said one of the best moments is when the crowd has cleared and he's left "just standing in the middle of the venue thinking to myself what a wonderful time everyone had.” He can also speak to what artists have missed about the end of any show. He’s vocalist and “mandolin slinger” for the Chicagoland bluegrass punk and metal band Last False Hope.
“As an artist, besides wiping off the sweat from my eyes, the best feeling is knowing the crowd was left satisfied and happy, wanting more," he said.
We do want more, more of that good end of the night stuff. We long for the audible sigh of disappointment from the crowd once the house lights go up to signal the true end of the night’s live music. We yearn for dodging the early morning drunks after late-running shows while nibbling Jack in the Box tacos and listening to Coast to Coast AM on the drive home. We wish to once again guess when the ringing in our ears from thunderous, amplified music will dissipate into a low hum.
If it’s your job to review the show for readers, there’s the rush of gathering thoughts from a scribbled mess of notes to write something comprehensible by a fast-approaching deadline. There's the thrill of reliving it all through incredible pictures emailed to you in the dead of night by the talented concert photographer assigned to the show. We even miss staring at a blank computer screen while the coffee that’ll co-create a concert review slowly perks.
Joe Maier is a music writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. His moniker, and the name of his online column chronicling the city's live music scene, is Every Show Joe. He got the nickname from seemingly attending every music event in the Phoenix area. His weekly concert calendar is dubbed "Every Show Joe Says Go!" and its video segments are enthusiastic, fun and smart encouragements to fellow music lovers to get out there and see live music. When the pandemic forced audiences to stay home, he re-tooled the calendar as "Every Show Joe Says Not Go!" and focused on livestream concerts. As live concerts slowly begin to return, Maier said he's looking forward to those end of the night moments that just can't be duplicated by even the best online music performances.
"The end of the show night brings so many wonderful times and moments," Maier said. "The end of the concert experience has been noticeably absent and I have missed from the past year watching concert streams. When I finish a stream, I close the window or app to find myself back in my apartment with no one else once again.
"The end of a show is the time after the final song that I turn to friends and we talk about our favorite moments of any given set," he continued. "At the smaller and house shows, I try to work with my nerves and talk to those musicians that I already love, or just discovered how awesome they were on stage that night. It has multiple times included adding a few more drinks to my tab until final call. Those drinks play the social lubricant to talk with many people and artists that have become many of my favorite people to see anytime now. For a couple bands needing a place to stay, the end of night extends further into my home. All of this is the end of concert performance magic that I miss a huge amount and I can’t wait for when it is safe enough to do once again."
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