Music has the power to move us, that we might move the world around us. Last night’s concert made me feel like scooping up those I love, and lifting them up on my shoulders that they might see the beauty from a greater height.
That’s what I came away with after listening to Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford and Sons. It’s hard for me to believe that three bands of such epic proportions were all on the same stage, trading songs and harmonies, as the sun set over the Bay Bridge, in a venue never before performed in. I got to see the Bay Bridge from beneath the tall cranes of the Oakland port, structures I had only glimpsed at a distance from the I-80, and hear music that opened my heart to views of equal newness, thoughtfulness and connection.
Last night, I felt so much joy and love, as I watched my fellow longish-haired dude, Than, perform on stage with Edward Sharpe, joining all the bands for a final encore at the end of the night. There are few moments in life where I feel I’ve been able to genuinely delight in the joy and achievements of others, and I feel that such moments are one of the truer markers of “achievement” in life. After all – why do we have kids, or feel called to teach, or plant trees that won’t bear fruit for decades?
Than looked like he belonged up there, and we all did our best to let him know that he was the star of the show in our minds. According to Than, we stuck out nice and clearly in the crowd, beaming with big smiles – and not to just to him, but to all the bands who performed. I feel lucky to be part of such a beaming bunch.
It’s hard to capture the power of dozens of musicians all on one stage, all playing and singing together without a conductor. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of bands that were all so in tune with one another, that they could coordinate between three drummers, three guitarists, two accordions, two banjos, two fiddlers, a harmonica player, and a whole host of people singing, dancing and stomping. That in and of itself, beyond the music and the words, was incredible to see: people who were directed not by a baton, but by a common intention, joy and basic rhythm.
To me, that’s a dance of intention and skill – and from those two emerges a system, a song that is truly beautiful. Love and passion; skill and focus – in isolation, they only carry us so far, and something tells me neither can sustain itself for long without the other. Both matter: how you plant the seed, and where you plant the seed. The seasons roll on, and soon it’s time to plant again. When you really get down to it, we don’t know why music exists and works the way it does any more than we understand how soil came to be and function. And betwixt them both, there is a system – an underlying rhythm – that when we operate with love and skill, we can’t help but seem to find.
With my ear to the ground and heart to the sky,
P.S. For those interested, here’s a link to all the photos from the night.