[Editor's Note: A little while back, I gently asked my friend Travis if he would do a guest post when he hit his much-anticipated 100-concert milestone. I couldn't be more excited about what he wrote (if the benediction at the end doesn't leave you a little verklempt, you may want to check your pulse). Without further ado...]
By TRAVIS HOFFMANN
I had to say goodbye to my horses. It just had to be done. Buffalo Bill would be proud.
A few years ago, I was trolling through my stack of concert ticket stubs (I’m currently working my way through a mild case of hoardism), nostalgically reminiscing about each concert fondly as I thumbed through. Or in the case of one particular show, where a particular tween high on ecstasy (not as high as whatever this guy is on though – yikes!) kept wanting to incessantly hug me, maybe not so fondly. Out of pure curiosity, I decided to count them. I ended up with 66. Shit, I thought, as I looked at them again, I really haven’t been to that many shows in the past few years (8 shows in a 3 year span??!!). What the hell had happened? Had I lulled myself into some kind of boring and pathetic 9-to-5 routine? Had I stopped participating in one of the pure enjoyments that gave me such great pleasure? Fuck dat, I knew what I had to do. I had to put my thang down, flip it and reverse it. And the only way I knew I could ensure that I actually got back at it was to set myself a firm goal: 100 concerts before I turned 30. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was guaranteed to be a whole whopping load of fun – I’d essentially have to do about a concert a month for the next 3 years, but I was excited like all get out. I didn’t really care about the actual number – the 100 or the 30 – they were just both nice even numbers that my tiny brain could remember easily. Hell, in the past month since show 1-0-0, I’ve been to three more (200 by 40 anyone? Just kidding honey).
Concerts are time capsules of unique musical goodness, snowflakes of the stage – each their own little piece of individuality. Along this journey I’ve learned that attending a show is the epitome of being able to completely immerse yourself in the moment. Something it seems we rarely get to do in this day and age of instant-gratification-need-it-now-no-I-will-not-wait-5-seconds-for-this-to-download culture. For as long as I can remember, music, and more specifically being at a live show, has been my preferred vice when I need/want release from all the worries/concerns/stresses that happen to creep up in the course of everyday life. The band Reptar sums this construct up perfectly with their Twitter bio: “we play music that makes you wanna dance and feel all your emotions.” Like any good vice, it’s a balance – wavering on the edge of an addiction – but that’s a battle I’m more than willing to address when the time comes. Or maybe I’ll just go see a show and leave that worry behind.
Alright, enough with all that mumbo-jumbo, let’s talk about this 100th show.
If there’s anything I love as much as seeing a good show, it’s being able to share the music I love with others. I had been anticipating this show for several weeks leading up to the actual event. The Lumineers were one of the few exciting new bands I had been listening to a lot since their self-titled debut album came out earlier that month. We rushed to get to the venue, fully expecting to only make it there for the main act, but were pleasantly surprised when we made it in time for the opening band – Kopecky Family Band from down home Nashville, TN. And boy, what a treat. Kopecky Family Band has 6 members and used every damn instrument they could get their grubby little hands on – trombones (2 at a time!), tambourines, accordion, cello, chains!!, slide guitar, marimba, jingle bells, and on and on and on during their tag-team battle royale of a show. The night was off to a good start as the Family worked through an assortment of songs from both of their EP’s and one full length, as well as a number of songs that they are currently working on. Their playful vibe, heartwarming presence and whimsical approach truly made you feel like you were part of the family indeed. Check out their haunting song “Howling at the Moon” from their NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert performance here.
The Lumineers sauntered their way on to the stage and were more than happy to keep the family style feel of the show headed on a constant trajectory forward. Band leader Wes Schultz started off the show by proclaiming, “Here’s to making Sunday night feel like Saturday night.” They roared through song after song from their rolling-piano-saloon-style debut album and even peppered in some that didn’t make the cut along with several choice covers of Bob Dylan and “their friend from Denver,” Solomon Joe (who I have yet to discover through hours of interweb searching – who are you Joe?!). Their infectiously catchy anthems had the crowd whipped into a familial frenzy. Just like when you’re hanging out with those you love, the time flies by fast, and next thing we knew, their frenzied set was over. The band was back out for their encore, working their way into the crowd to perform a song while asking all of us anxious onlookers to not video tape or take any pictures. Not for copyright reasons, but because they wanted us all to just live in that moment and experience “human interaction.” They jumped back on stage, performed a tribute to the then recently deceased Levon Helm of The Band by playing “The Weight (Take A Load off Annie)” and ended their show with lots of hugs and smiles – leaving one on my face and heart for sure. I’ll leave you with one of my personal favorites, “Stubborn Love.”
Here’s to feeling all your emotions. As often as possible. And preferably as loud as possible. For as long as you can.