I’ve started to find that going to concerts has become my way of escaping the everyday stress of college life.
Putting aside all responsibilities for the night to go downtown and hear some of my favorite artists play some of my favorite songs live, right in front of me, has been able to fill me with the sense of the “sublime” (as my ethics professor would put it) and I leave feeling like a new person, like I can conquer all that the following week of work will throw at me.
Many times at concerts, artists like to use their power over a very captive audience to tell stories. Sometimes they’re funny anecdotes about something that happened on tour or an embarrassing thing they did, but more often than not the story is emotional, motivational, inspirational. Something to get the audience to feel. That’s the beauty of music. It opens you up to countless emotions that those little stories and speeches make ten times the impact. They stick with you.
The Bleachers concert was no exception.
Bleachers is currently a lesser-known band headed by the all-talented Jack Antonoff. Some may recognize him from being the lead guitarist in the band Fun., others may know his name because he’s worked with countless artists to help write and produce some of their best work (i.e. Sara Bareilles’ “Brave”, songs off of Taylor Swift’s 1989 and Reputation , and the entirety of Lorde’s Melodrama). You can imagine that he has some great music inside of him that he’s saved for his own pet project, which is exactly what Bleachers is.
And that is exactly the story he told us.
I can’t find a recording of the speech anywhere so I hold on to the fragments of it still in my mind. But I’ll try my hardest to do it justice. Jack started off his story by quieting the audience down and having one of his keyboardist’s play a single low tone.
“Do you hear that note? That sound is the beginning of Bleachers. Years ago I was traveling around the world playing all of this music and writing all of this music, but at the end of the night I would go back to my room, to silence. There was so much silence and so much music inside of me that needed to come out. You see, there’s a lot of anxiety in silence.
No, I’m serious.
There’s so much anticipation, there’s so much uneasiness in the quiet. It’s overwhelming. While I was hearing all of this music while traveling, I started hearing this one sound in all of these songs. And it was calling out. I searched everywhere for the specific keyboard that makes this sound and I ordered it from Malaysia and when it came in I set everything up and sat down and put my headphones on and played this note. There’s such a heaviness to this note.
It’s so sad and melancholy and I knew I had so many sad songs to come out of this, out of the silence that was in my life. So I started playing a melody, letting the note wrap around me and rest on me. But then I closed my eyes and started thinking.
What if, what if this melody is being played on stage and there are two drummers, two keyboardists, lights swirling above.
And it slowly builds up from the singular note until it’s an all-out cry. And I started realizing, maybe the sad songs don’t have to be so sad. Maybe they can be moving and they can be hopeful and they can acknowledge the pain and the loss and the hurt but they can do it as though the sadness is a friend and you want to go out with one last bang. And so began this song.”
Jack and his two keyboardists and his two drummers then went on to jump into “Rollercoaster”, the fan-favorite song from their first album he had us belt together at the top of our lungs, friends on each other’s shoulders and hand in hand.
Jack reminded us that no matter where we are in our lives, there can always be silence. No matter who we are or who we have around us or how privileged our lives look, we all have moments of emptiness and hurt and we are all allowed to. But if we embrace the silence, lean into it, and search for ways to make beauty out of it, we can make some of that silence go quiet for good. Or at least have an answer to it when it comes around again. You just need to keep searching.