I'm off the tour circuit, having just returned from treks with my daughter to bask in the splendor that is Ozomatli, catching them in Portland, Boise and Salt Lake (I didn't do the Seattle gigs...dang!). I'm exhausted. I'm asking myself, "Why not just savor the incredible diversity of their musical genius in the comfort of my living room?" Gosh, I have the brown suede couch, the nice hardwood floors, the wonderful vintage landscape photos, the thriving plants, the attentive golden retriever, the okay sound system...why would I trade this all for a live gig? What am I, nutz?
The answer lies, I think, in the exchange of facial expression and gesture between artist and appreciator. The sounds I hear at live shows aren't substantially different from those in my living room...in fact, they may be of lesser quality. They may be hampered by rowdies (like the big guy singing behind me last night...Give it a rest, Dude). They may be diminished by ear plugs, kind of a given at most live shows. For me, the plugs make the show more comfortable, but they cut out some cool stuff I'm used to hearing. The sounds may be limited by the acoustics of the venue: super last night, but not always the case.
Why, then, do I want to trade my serene salon for the sticky-floor, giddy-chick, pushy scene that is a live concert? Connection. Yeah, that's it. The immediacy of these artists magnifies the music. The percussion is the same; guitar the same; lyrical cantos the same. It's the presence.
These artists are right in front of me. If I were rude, I could touch them. They are creating, just for me. The aesthetic process is unfurling before my eyes and ears. Their reason for being is vivid: they live to perform. I am so grateful for this commitment. I can see joy in their eyes as they watch the audience roar in a tsunami of appreciation. I can see true agape as they work with each other to cover little mishaps that might mar the show. I can see the crescendo of satisfaction that each has as he plays a "solo" that stamps a five-star rating on the evening.
I think of my other artist friends: the lovely quilter from Beaverton, the beautifully strange print-maker and potter from eastern Idaho, the Viet Nam vet who writes "manly" novels AND romantic poetry, the stained-glass genius who builds rock walls in her spare time. I ask myself about aesthetic commitment. "I live for my art. My art IS my life." The artists who are Ozomatli give up normalcy in their lives so I can enjoy the connection of gesture and expression that is a live concert.
I am truly blessed by their willingness to do so.