Dan Hansen at Blind Pilot in Charlotte, N.C.
I don’t envy music critics. As much as getting paid to attend concerts sounds like a dream, I don’t envy their work. My perception (with the arbitrary acknowledgement that I don’t really know the ins and outs of the music critiquing world) is that the requirement of being impartial towards music is just not how music should be experienced. Music is more than some quality – some single standard to be achieved.
Take the idea of music. Take what you take from it. For everyone, different things come from music they care about. We look to define the meaning of songs through what ends up being important to them. I’d like to think that what people look for in the music – the justifications for the meaning they find – tells a lot about them. Pseudo-psychoanalytical bullshit aside, the meaning of music, whether it’s the beat, the lyrics, the soul, the substance, the melodies, or the popularity, lets the listener feel whatever they need at the time.
This separates fans — not into groups, following different bands or songs — I’m talking about separating the fans themselves into slices of who they identify as. Each artist specializes in bringing out one slice of the listeners’ identity, in tapping into the meaning that drew the listener there in the first place.
Concerts, then, become sort-of-segregated events, with the only commonality between everyone in the venue being the extraction of meaning from the same type sound. Everybody but the fiscal-masochists pay to see a concert to experience at least part of the meaning taken from the songs they listen to in person, to make it more special, to get more out of it.
Blind Pilot is not a big draw. They (sadly) don’t tour the East Coast often, and, when they do, they only go to bigger cities. Every concert, everyone in the venue has been waiting for this — for them. Everyone in the venue had to search out Blind Pilot to know that the concert was even happening. There’s a level of action each person needs to have taken just to get to the event that distinguishes them.
I got to cover their concert in Charlotte, N.C. on the 21st of October. With my camera, I skirted around the outside of the small Mcglohon Theatre like a rookie zookeeper feeding the gorillas for the first time. I took as many pictures as I could during a limited number of songs, all-the-while afraid of disturbing the intimate atmosphere created by the band. At a Blind Pilot concert, I stuck out. There are no cameramen circling the halls, no people there to fulfill work assignments. There is no objectivity at a Blind Pilot concert. Everybody is there for a specific reason and they were passionate about that reason.
From the stomps, to the whistles, to the calls to come back, the crowd got as into the music as one could be sitting in plush seats of a converted church. It was a shame that the venue was sit-down. By the end, the band got everyone to stand, and it was evident just how much of a standing-venue band Blind Pilot is. Sitting creates a separation, and makes what you’re watching more of a spectacle, a show. But when you stand, you’re sharing an experience, you’re a part of a collective.
This band has an absurd percentage of concert-goers that know all the lyrics from songs released 9 years ago. Most people come to this concert because they have been wanting to see this concert for a long time, and for those who just discovered the band, blending into the emotional intimacy of the venue is seamless.
Blind Pilot doesn’t just play their new songs. It’s not an album tour, trying to promote a new style or substance to lovers of the old. For Charlotte, they opened with White Apple, and played a kaleidoscope of their discography for the remainder. Stories accompanied every fourth song. Details on a specific event that touched lead singer/songwriter Israel Nebeker’s life enough to create a song around it. Personal touches like that pepper the performance.
Look them up. Mark the next Blind Pilot tour. Figure out when they’re coming near you. Wait the year. Five years. Go to this concert. See the atmosphere and the acoustics, the chemistry and the connection. I recommend this concert wholeheartedly. If you are any level fan of their music you will enjoy their concert.