Why Concerts Are No Longer Just About The Music
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Why Concerts Are No Longer Just About The Music

How music festivals turn concerts into communities.

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Why Concerts Are No Longer Just About The Music

When 400,000 people flooded to Grant Park in Chicago this summer for the 25th anniversary of Lollapalooza, they were expecting plenty of things–musical acts for hours on end, large crowds and the city sun. What attendees weren’t expecting, however, was the community that would form over those four days. I believe that the atmospheres of each concert throughout the weekend fostered temporary communities for the people in the crowds. Lollapalooza is just one example of how hundreds of thousands of people come together at music festivals for one thing--music--and end up finding much more.

From my personal experience, the travels to and from music festivals (cough, Megabus, cough), as well as the highs and lows of whatever misfortune is thrown at you (rain delays, venue evacuations, hotel room mishaps) form a tight bond unlike any other, with the people you attend the festival with.

Starting from the first moment of Lollapalooza, where flocks of people are pushing to get through the gates of Grant Park, right arms raising in unison with the same silver band strapped to their wrists, the only unifying feature is what they all wear to get in. That first day, when half of the attendees are still getting prepared in their hotel rooms and the rest wait patiently at their stages, ready to push to the front row, is where it all begins.

Once the concerts start, you can see people singing along to every word of their favorite songs, looking around to see that yes, everyone is singing along with them. You see people chat and then get raised onto shoulders, and others simply bonding based on their close proximity. Girls in chokers and crochet crop tops dance around, smiling and laughing behind the crowds, even if they just met. It’s the close quarters, the same passion for music, and the individual roads all headed towards the same destination that unifies this temporary community.

Another reason for this feeling of community is a lot less of a fluffy, perfect, “we love everyone just because” scenario, but equally as prominent. The mass amounts of drugs used at music festivals also foster the feelings of happiness and unity among those who are using them. Does this mean that the integrity of the temporary community of the festival changes? Do dilated pupils, delirious smiles and excessive gum chewing distract from the fact that everyone is hugging each other? Well, yes and no.

Just as you see happiness and coming together, you can also see quivering and sweating people, girls stroking random people’s hair just for the feeling, and “candy beads” being passed around like they would between toddlers. The distortion of reality while on the drugs shifts the dynamic of the crowd, and once the drugs begin to wear off and the anxiety-filled come-down kicks in, the people that were once sharing water or a piece of gum with each other have to stay in the corner away from the crowds.

Sharing is also a key aspect of what unifies small groups of strangers, through the act of passing a water bottle, letting someone go through the crowds to find their friends, a tall man shooting a video so the short girl behind him can have something to watch over and over again weeks after the festival is over, or allowing a girl you don’t know to sit on your shoulders just so she can witness her favorite song from a killer spot.

In a modern society where phone flashlights are held up instead of lighters, this sense of sharing is what cements the feelings of community among concert-goers. I have learned more about a person while waiting in a crowd for a band to play than I have being in class with them for an entire semester.

The constant connection to social media also has allowed Lollapalooza-goers to connect and build that community even more, using Instagram accounts, Snapchat stories, group messages, and Facebook groups. Through this technology, we see people making human connections, exchanging numbers, and meeting at shows, excited to see where not only one weekend will take them, but to follow these people after it’s all over.

Flash forward to the final day of a music festival. The nervous excitement is gone, sadness of going back to reality begins to kick in, but most importantly, the contentment of each person as they leave shows just what this festival meant to them. To many, these festivals are their social events of the season, the place where they come back to to meet up with old friends after moving, or to make new friends in an exciting yet welcoming environment. It’s a place where people get to see their best friends, dance around, and be their favorite versions of themselves. Lollapalooza and music festivals like it are their own little refuge where everyone, whether they know each other or they don't, all get to be themselves and be free, and by the end of each set, you feel that much closer to the people around you.

This is the feeling within the air at music festivals: when the music starts, the rest of the world stops, and you and the rest of the crowd are all together in this momentary, moving community.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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