The other night I ventured out for my first concert in I don’t know how long. I use to be a concert junkie back in my day; always making it a point to see any artist I deemed a “legend” or who produced music that just spoke to my soul…and hips. I’ve seen The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Elton John, Billy Joel, BB King (4 times), Dave Matthews, Plant and Page (the closest thing to Led Zeppelin I’ll ever get), Pearl Jam, Blues Traveler, Harry Connick Jr,Tori Amos (3 times), Alanis Morissette, ZZ Top (long story), Widespread Panic, Lenny Kravitz, Pink, and the list goes on.
I slowly stopped going over the years, not only because of time dwindling and kids multiplying, but because I started developing a sort of phobia about being stuck in massive crowds. Now, just thinking about being on the fringes of a mosh pit at Pearl Jam sends my pulse racing and not in a good way.
I’m pretty sure the fear solidified when I was at a convention back in my home town of North Little Rock. I was standing against a fence line listening to Bill Clinton speak. I knew that I’d get to hang out with him later (it’s good to have connections) so I was just enjoying the speech. But he decided to walk down to where I was and the crowd behind me all rushed forward, crushing me against the fence. It was horrifying and I had a massive panic attack complete with hyperventilating and tears. It culminated with the President holding my hand and looking at me like he was sure I was crazy, dying, or both, and one of his secret service agents wrangling me under the fence and getting me to safety.
That experience taught me three important things: the secret service are good folks even if they do like to party, a crowd of 50-year-old liberals is more dangerous than drunken ZZ Top rednecks, and I would never set foot in a crowd like that again.
But last night I bit the bullet and went to the Coldplay concert. I’d be prouder of myself but I have to be honest and admit that it was purely because my husband had received suite tickets for the show. I decided I could handle that scenario because the crowds are thin in the platinum levels of the AA Center.
So I put on my rock-n-roll hooker shoes, headed out, settled into the suite with our $50 nachos, and relaxed…seriously relaxed.
By the time Coldplay took the stage, I was already in my happy place. Every audience member was given a wristband to wear. When the lights went down they all lit up, blinking and flickering to the beat. The entire stadium looked like it was full of multicolored fireflies. Then the confetti canons exploded and huge balloons dropped down. It was a complete celebration of joy and Chris Martin said something that really struck home with where my thoughts had been earlier that day. He said (and I’m definitely paraphrasing), “I hope you have a f*cking great time tonight because you sound great. If you don’t, that’s ok because we’re going to have a f*cking great time tonight because you sound great!”
And you saw that in every moment of the show. They were having a blast. It was “play” for them and every moment was a moment of pure joy. And what this got me thinking about was a small epiphany I’d had earlier that day. I was recently asked to be in a music video for a friend’s band. They have a minimal budget (meaning actors will be paid with credit and a craft table full of Little Debbie’s) but I didn’t hesitate to take the job. And that’s what brought on my “lightbulb” moment. I don’t have to be paid to do something I love.
I’ve been paid to act and I’ve done it for free. In fact, I often prefer the free gigs in community theatre and independent film because every person involved in the production is there because they LOVE what they’re doing. I’ve invested hundreds of hours in productions knowing I wouldn’t receive a dime in return. Why? Because when I’m standing on a stage or hanging out on a film set, every synapses in my body is ignited. It sets my soul on fire. It’s those moments that I experience pure joy. It’s those moments that I feel completely and fully alive.
So while I watched Chris Martin and the rest of the band run and jump around, I knew what they were feeling. They were completely submerged in their art and feeding off the energy of the audience. Nirvana. But I also wondered if someone walked up to them today and told them they’d lost all funding and would no longer receive any money for performing, if they still would? Would the need to share their art and live in their “joy” outweigh the need to be compensated for it? I think it would.
I think that when an artist–a true artist– walks away from their craft, their soul dims. We’re built to express and evoke emotions through the gifts we were given. When we’re cutoff from that, part of us wilts and shrivels away. There are probably millions of people trying to make it as an actor, musician, or artist; and I imagine for many it’s the lure of fame and fortune. But I think there are many that do it because they have to. They have to because that is the only way they feel whole. Proof is the simple fact of how many artists are willing to scrape by on pennies just to do what they love. I bet there are very few people who would be willing to live off Ramen noodles and wait tables while they try to get their big break in accounting or the insurance industry.
So what did all of this do for me? It made me look at some of my pursuits and ask,”Would I do it for free?” I think it’s a good gage of what’s important to you. I think everyone needs something in their life that lights them up without any promises of providing anything else but joy. I’m curious about what ignites the people reading this. What would you do for free? What sets your soul on fire? If you don’t know, then for God’s sake, find it! You owe it to your soul. It’s hungry, so go feed it. Now!! And when you figure it out, I’d love to hear about it…even if it’s accounting.
Wicked wishes- Ash