Live Music

by Karen Zhang

Summer has arrived! From Bangor, Maine to Austin, Texas, from Berkley, California to Asheville, North Carolina, outdoor musical scenes spring up everywhere across the country. No kidding. Americans enjoy outdoor activities in summer. Attending live performances in the open air seems to be a favorite American pastime.

I had never been to a live outdoor concert until I got to America. Concerts in China regardless of genres are usually held indoors or in a stadium. When I watched American movies in China, I didn’t understand the joy of swarms of Americans carrying lawn chairs, portable ice-boxes and blankets towards the same direction—a gig. Now I see why after my visits to several musical venues including Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York, Tanglewood in western Massachusetts, and Wolf Trap in northern Virginia. How convenient it is that a concert is held just around the corner in a neighborhood! (For instance, Wolf Trap is only 15 miles away from my home in Virginia.)

I also notice that the lawn tickets are usually much cheaper than those in house. For thirty bucks on average one can have a gratifying evening—both acoustically and through the taste buds. People usually bring along snacks and beverages, picnicking on the lawn prior to the concert. Or simply, just bring dozens of bottles of beer and binge. That’s the point! I wonder if the music or the drinking brings people together. I have an impression that Americans consume lots of alcohol—youngsters go for beer while the sophisticated for Chardonnay. During the concert, the clinking of bottles occasionally accompanies the live rendition of a masterpiece. Or the booze has taken effect in the wild cheering from the fans.

The outdoor gigs provide the performers and the audience with the most casual platform to appreciate music. Musicians seem to be more improvised and playful in an outdoor setting. The audience of course feels more at home, at least the attire for outdoor concerts is more casual. Can you wear a baseball cap, a home team jersey and sandals to an indoor symphony? Or can you flip your glaring cell phone every twenty minutes during the concert? Or even taking off your shoes and stretch your feet while listening to the music? Apparently, you can have all this freedom if you appreciate a gig on a lawn.

There is no boundary in the music world. The outdoor concerts certainly have spoken for themselves. This is how epidemic music can reach individuals in America. If someday this form of performance is popularized in China, I think it’ll be a relief for tens of thousands of smokers and serious drinkers who love music but feel restricted by the dos and don’ts at an indoor concert.

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