Experience fosters my appreciation
If there’s a type of music you don’t really like, try seeing someone who performs that music live.
A few days ago, I went to a concert in Cincinnati. The headliner was Janelle Monae, who was great, but the opener left just as big of an impression on me. It was a band I had never heard of called St. Beauty, a corny name for what turned out to be a great band.
It was two young women backed by a drummer and keyboard player. One of the women would pick up a guitar or bass for certain songs. Both had the energy of a 6-year-old kid hopped up on sugar.
The music had R&B, reggae and gospel roots, three types of music I’m not interested in. But for about a half-hour, St. Beauty was able to sell it to me. The singers jumped around the stage, occasionally slowing down a bit to dance in unison.
The one woman would pick up a guitar for a couple songs, playing breezy chords while the other skipped across the stage, just having a good time.
If was one of the only times I’ve ever seen a crowd so engaged for an opening act. There were one or two calls and responses during St. Beauty’s set, and the audience was happy to play along. For whatever reason, I haven’t seen that a lot.
Seeing music live is a good way to remind yourself that oftentimes, music isn’t strictly about sound. It’s about a good performance and keeping the audience entertained. For some types of music, the audience is almost just as much of a participant as the musicians. The hyper, relatively unknown band I saw this week really hit that mark well.
And it doesn’t stop at music. Try finding an accomplished painter and watch them paint. Watch a weaver do his or her work. Hell, find a plumber or electrician and ask if you can shadow them. One of the biggest themes of my life has been finding out something is more nuanced than I thought it was.
Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” I think that can be distilled: experience fosters appreciation. If you’re willing to give something a shot, there’s a good chance you’ll come out the other end a little less dismissive of that thing.
Next time you complain about how stupid rap music sounds, or how you find bluegrass unlistenable, try seeing it live. You might not come away a fan, but you might come away understanding it a bit better.
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