The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted just about all walks of life, but for music lovers it’s an especially hard time as that means touring has been wiped out for the time being as most entertainers find other avenues to reach their fans online. But there’s something about the live experience we could all use, as Dave Grohl attempts to explain in a new piece for The Atlantic.
The Foo Fighters frontman is bummed just like the rest of us, because not only is he a performer, but he’s also a fan, and he loves the shared communal experience of a live show.
Grohl spoke about the band’s now shelved plans for a special 4th of July bash in Washington, D.C. “I know exactly where I was supposed to be: FedExField, outside Washington, D.C., with my band Foo Fighters and roughly 80,000 of our closest friends. We were going to be celebrating the 25th anniversary of our debut album,” says Grohl, calling it “a red, white and blue keg party for the ages.”
He adds, “I know that those of us who don’t have to work in hospitals or deliver packages are the lucky ones, but still, I’m hungry for a big old plate of sweaty, ear-shredding, live rock and roll, ASAP. The kind that makes your heart race, your body move, and your soul stir with passion.”
“There is nothing like the energy and atmosphere of live music. It is the most life-affirming experience, to see your favorite performer onstage, in the flesh, rather than as a one-dimensional image glowing in your lap as you spiral down a midnight YouTube wormhole. Even our most beloved superheroes become human in person,” says Grohl, recounting what it must have been like to see Queen at Wembley Stadium for Live Aid or recalling his own experience watching U2 on the Elevation Tour as a fan, getting lost in the show.
He also recalled Bruce Springsteen checking out a Foo Fighters show, watching from the audience and later sending Grohl a note. “I received a letter from Bruce, handwritten on hotel stationery, that explained this very clearly. ‘When you look out at the audience,’ he wrote, ‘You should see yourself in them, just as they should see themselves in you,'” recalls Grohl.
“Not to brag, but I think I’ve had the best seat in the house for 25 years. Because I do see you,” says the singer. “I see you pressed against the cold front rails. I see you air-drumming along to your favorite songs in the distant rafters. I see you lifted above the crowd and carried to the stage for a glorious swan dive back into its sweaty embrace. I see your homemade signs and your vintage T-shirts. I hear your laughter and your screams and I see your tears. I have seen you yawn (yeah, you), and I’ve watched you pass out drunk in your seat.”
He continues, “I’ve seen you in hurricane-force winds, in 100-degree heat, in subzero temperatures. I have even seen some of you grow older and become parents, now with your children’s Day-Glo protective headphones bouncing on your shoulders. And each night when I tell our lighting engineer to ‘Light ’em up!,’ I do so because I need that room to shrink, and to join with you as one under the harsh, fluorescent glow.”
Grohl concludes, “In today’s world of fear and unease and social distancing, it’s hard to imagine sharing experiences like these ever again. I don’t know when it will be safe to return to singing arm in arm at the top of our lungs, hearts racing, bodies moving, souls bursting with life. But I do know that we will do it again, because we have to. It’s not a choice. We’re human. We need moments that reassure us that we are not alone. That we are understood. That we are imperfect. And, most important, that we need each other.”
“I have shared my music, my words, my life with the people who come to our shows. And they have shared their voices with me. Without that audience—that screaming, sweating audience—my songs would only be sound. But together, we are instruments in a sonic cathedral, one that we build together night after night. And one that we will surely build again.”