The Pandemic Took Musicians Off Their Pedestal
Through the Lens of One Fan and Her Favorite Band
The year before my 40th birthday I saw my favorite band three times.
It wasn’t something I set out to do. It started with the tour following their newest album. This band came back from a hiatus with a new record and I wasn’t going to miss that concert for anything.
My husband’s parents came over to babysit. We set off to meet our friends downtown and freeze in line outside with all the other fans.
The second show was a music festival. We brought our kids. In fact, we planned our summer vacation around it, camping and all. You might call us a little obsessed at this point but hey, our kids liked them too. And it was high time they attended their first concert.
We were at the festival for one band only and we made sure the world knew it — with the song quotes and band name we wrote on our car in window paint. Our kids’ vacation souvenirs? They were from the merch table, of course. Our little fandom hearts were full. We had no plans to see another show.
Until they announced a second tour.
Enter, our third show. This second tour was nothing like we’d ever experienced before. All the marketing was based around a satirical, quirky film I’d never seen. They had said this tour was like a thank you card to their fans. It had a storyline, which included a boat and a hot air balloon for a set.
Well two sets, actually. They played an acoustic set and an electric set. The venues they chose were actual theaters — with seats. Nothing about this was standard for a rock show.
In fact, through the whole experience, these words from the Bible kept coming to my mind. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” Maybe they were trying to send a message, “don’t think of us more highly than you ought.” And yet at the same time, it was the most memorable and one of the best concert experiences I’d ever had.
My husband and I were like giddy kids on Christmas Eve. We planned a weekend getaway around the show.
Aside from a coffee shop, there wasn’t a whole lot to do in the town. We found ourselves wandering around, taking pictures — luxuries we don’t often have with three kids at home.
At one point, we were sitting in our car looking over at the river and we saw the bass player of the band riding a bike along the water. We had the conversation that you’d expect from fans.
“No, it’s not. Are you sure?”
“I’m gonna follow him to make sure.”
“Slow down! You’re getting too close. He’s gonna know we’re following him.”
“Should we try to talk to him?”
“No, let’s give him space. I’m sure he needs it.”
We came to our senses and stopped stalking the poor guy.
The night of the show, we took pictures in front of the marquee sign. We took pictures next to a giant cardboard cutout of the guys in the band. The auditorium was a sea of fellow red-capped fans. The storyline was shipwrecked sailors and we were all playing the part.
The show was unforgettable. It was both humble and hilarious. It was both beautiful and loud. It was unexpected and yet, felt just how it should have.
It’s hard to explain how they became my favorite band.
Maybe it’s because their music was the soundtrack to the lowest points in my life. Maybe it’s because their music asks the hard questions and points me towards a bigger purpose — towards Hope.
Maybe it’s because their shows are bursting with energy. You leave with a post-concert high that lasts for days. Maybe it’s because I come away from their music feeling younger and more alive and inspired.
Maybe it’s the incomparable feeling I get from standing crunched together alongside complete strangers who are all singing their lyrics as loud as we can. Maybe it’s singing with the crowd when the lead singer walks through with his microphone, wondering if he’ll get close enough to slap your hand.
Maybe it’s because when the Pandemic entered the scene and the world shut down (Well, the U.S. but it felt like the world) this band didn’t miss a beat.
On day one of the shutdown, the lead singer started playing a live song a day. Soon that turned into duets with other singers from their homes. And sometimes the whole band all sang together from separate places.
In our experience-based, minimalist culture, many of the experiences we’d come to enjoy: restaurants, coffee shops, concerts, sports, conferences, amusement parks, church, festivals, farmers markets … all those things we came together to experience.
In fact, the enjoyment factor is largely based on the fact that there are other humans enjoying them with us at the same time — even if we don’t know them. The experience is the shared experience. The experience is altogether different if it’s not shared.
And it all went away with the Pandemic.
So what’s my relationship now with that favorite band of mine that I saw three times in one year?
I see a lot more of them now than I ever used to.
The band references their “family” a lot when speaking of their team — their group of employees that help make them, them. In the absence of tours and shows, they started streaming live concerts each month. They’re subscription-based.
My little family of five, the true fans that we are, now see them play a concert a month for less than $10. We’ve never even paid for cable. But when faced with the opportunity to keep our favorite band going AND see more of them during an otherwise boring time in life, it was an easy choice.
I can’t feel their music vibrating through my heart and my bones. I’m not singing along with them in my loudest voice next to people I’ve never met. There’s no post-concert high, reminding me of my youth. There’s no celebrity stalking. One might say, I’ve matured as a fan actually.
What I mean is, I’ve accepted their humanity. I know they each have families. I know generally where they live. I know what their studio looks like and the little parts of their homes where they’ve recorded music. I know what they like to eat when they’re playing music in their studio. Silly stuff. Little stuff. Important stuff. Human stuff.
Something changed for me from month after month of Livestream shows.
That larger-than-life persona that I had once attributed to them, whether they aspired to it or not, dissipated as the pandemic spread through our world. A more human version of themselves emerged.
They could have stepped into the shadows of the pandemic.
They could have taken up other ventures and laid off their team. They could have grieved what the rest of the world was grieving, but quietly and privately. They could have waited for an easier time to be a musician — for venues to open back up, for it to be safe to gather crowds and let their spit fly past their microphones onto an unsuspecting fan.
That’s not the path they chose.
If this band wanted to stay relevant they had to keep singing their messages of hope and asking their questions and challenging us towards a better version of ourselves.
Amid the pain.
While the world was falling apart.
Or there’d be no point in singing that message at all. They had to sacrifice their larger-than-life rockstar persona. They had to show their own humanity in order to inspire a greater humanity.
So every month, sometimes multiple times a month, they show up virtually on all types of screens. And they laugh and they play music and they tell stories and they sing — and sometimes they rock out.
The pandemic helped me take my favorite band off the pedestal I had put them on.
Gingerly, I took them off the stage with the drum beats and the bright lights and set them in the proverbial crowd with the rest of us. Because, as much as I love their music and their shows, I’ve remembered they’re human like me and I’ve realized they need me as much as I need them. We all need each other.
And I wonder if that second 2019 tour was like a foreshadowing. That second tour that they called a thank you card to their fans. That second tour when I kept feeling the words of scripture, “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.”
Like God was saying, “get ready ’cause it’s ‘bout to get a lot more real up in here. All that rockstar fluff is great ’n’ all but we’re about to see if you really mean what you say.”
And they did.
What happened to your favorite musicians during the Pandemic?
In the absence of touring, the biggest money-maker, musicians have been extra creative in finding ways to both share their work and simultaneously pay the bills. But let’s be honest, not everyone is signing brand deals with Nike and Crocs or getting label deals through TikTok virality like the artists mentioned in this Rolling Stones article.
In addition to ticketed livestream concerts, some organizations are banding together to offer free, donation-only concerts. Like this collaboration with Wedgwood Circle and the Melody League Sessions that’s raising money for their Artist Relief Fund.
What musicians have made your playlists over the years? Are they still creating music? Are they doing livestreams? If this last year had a soundtrack, would their music be on it?
Let’s keep finding ways to support our fellow humans making meaningful art until we can sing it together with them again.