Today I went to a concert with my boys who are 8 and 6. The Fresh Beat Band were performing at a great venue called Wolf Trap, located in Vienna, VA. However, who we saw and where we saw it are only a small part of this conversation. It should be noted however, that this concert is geared for the younger crowd.
From the moment the concert began (only five or ten minutes past the planned start time), kids were standing up, waving, their arms, singing along, and demonstrating how strongly genetics plays a part in a child’s natural dancing rhythms. The adults were a little more reserved overall. While some stood up to join their kids, most were participating with aggressive head nods, hand-to-knee slaps, and subdued finger waggling.
This level of activity continued up until intermission. At that point, the performers went off stage to change costumes, rehydrate, and most likely update their social media statuses. A significant percentage of parents made the journey from covered seats and lawn seats alike to one of two places: the concession stand or the restrooms. I could usually tell if it were the latter by the wild eyed look of panic in the parent’s eyes. Long lines awaited all, but only one had an element of risk that proved whether or not an adult had chosen wisely when contemplating packing a change of clothes.
After intermission, everyone settled back in for the second part of energetic dancing and singing. For the kids, this was like watching two episodes back to back of their favorite show. For the adults, however, it meant something different. It meant that it was time to calculate.
I had asked a mom towards the end of the break what she thought of the show. She responded that she was pleasantly surprised. The music was better than she anticipated and she was happy that there weren’t just a bunch of costumes moving around to recorded music like she had seen at some recent children’s shows. Immediately after expressing this though, she commented that she was trying to decided the best time to leave.
She wanted to avoid the crowd, beat the traffic, and get to where she wanted to be next without any hassle. The hard part for her was that she had never been at this venue before and didn’t know what to expect. As the concert continued and we were two or three songs into the second half, I looked around and realized that she hadn’t been alone in her thoughts.
All through the lawn there were pockets of adults slowly packing up coolers and baskets, folding up chairs, collecting trash and dropping hints to kids that they would be leaving soon. By the time the next song finished, I had three times the space around me that I had at the beginning of the concert.
There wasn’t a single child that I saw who led the way in this migration. In fact, there were many kids who balked at the idea. Why would they leave before the people were done singing? I confess, I don’t understand it either. It’s like asking someone to tell you a story, then walking away before they can finish it. This wasn’t because there were children involved, because the same thing happened two weeks prior at an Emmylou Harris and John Prine concert at the same venue.
It seems that somewhere along the way, the mindset of the live sporting event crowd has infiltrated the concert crowd. I’m not fully behind it, but I can at least understand the thought process of fan who is attending a baseball game that is a runaway or going much longer than they anticipated. In those cases, there is an change in game, either in enjoyment or duration.
However, for most live concerts, the spectator has a fairly good idea of how long they are supposed to last. And in the case of a children’s concert, there is an even better idea because the people that put those together know they have a shorter time frame to work within for their audience to stay engaged.
It must be disheartening to be on stage and seeing an audience slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) become smaller and smaller as you build to what you consider to be your showstopper. Those that believe the performer doesn’t care, because they already have the money, really don’t understand why someone performs.
I still hold that the idea of a concert, play, show, or event is not an appointment but an experience. There are positive and negative aspects of that experience. Sitting in a parking lot for half and hour while waiting to leave isn’t always fun, but I consider that part of the cost, just like the money I spent to attend. It’s like going on vacation. There is a lot of work before you leave and after you get back. But that shouldn’t take away from its pleasure.
There are enough interruptions in our lives taking moments away from us that we don’t have control over. When you have an opportunity to carve out a little bit of time for yourself, don’t cheat yourself out of it. By now, I’ve lost some readers because this has gone on too long. Fortunately, as it’s the written word and not performed live, I didn’t see when they left.