or: How I Learned to Stop Fearing The Shows I Was Missing and Enjoy The Shows I Wasn’t

As a fan of live music my perpetual fear has been that of missing an amazing show. Personally this goes all the way back to my first foray into touring. I went to Phish’s Deer Creek run in 2000 with nothing but a dream and some heady trades. On day two I lucked out and scored a lawn ticket. On the way in I lost my friends and made the rash decision to trade my stub for the third night. In my noobish enthusiasm I figured they have to peak on the last night… right? That night would be forever known as the “The Moby Dick Show” during which Phish went into Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” six times and played “Chalk Dust Torture Reprise” for the only time ever. As I sat in the field where five years prior an unruly mob of Deadheads tore down the wall and listened to arguably the best Phish show I would ever be in the proximity of, I felt FOMO in a very tangible way.

Fear of missing out is a real and documentable social phobia. It is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.” It’s also an idea that jam bands have perpetuated since the early days. FOMO is a pretty remarkable way to market a scene and it requires nothing but a little creativity from the band. On November 2nd of 1998, two days after performing the Velvet Undergrounds’ Loaded in Las Vegas Phish played Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety to an undersold audience in Utah. Lots of fans opted to make the trek directly to Denver instead of hitting a Monday night show in the belly of the beast. Those that made that decision would forever be saddled with the pain of knowing they should have been there.

The fact of the matter is that you can’t hug every cat, and you can’t make it to every show. As we make our way boldly in this new and exciting century, advances in technology have enabled us to cast away the shackles of FOMO. Currently the combination of streaming technology and bandwidth capabilities have made it possible to watch live broadcasts of concerts across the planet on any device connected to the internet. Suddenly the idea of Couch Tour has become a lifestyle choice. Beyond watching shows live, Archive.org and YouTube have almost instantaneous uploads of even the most obscure events. Entire websites across a myriad of social media outlets are dedicated to setlists, show stats, and pontification of the highest order. So in short, we are covered. On the given day of any show can see the poster on Facebook, watch the set list pop up live on Twitter, and if we are lucky we can see some random dude’s cell phone cam on Ustream. This is the day we live in and it’s only the beginning.

Now we are on the cusp of the 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead. After all options for scrounging a ticket have been exhausted many fans are feeling that familiar FOMO. The fact remains this five-show run may be the most broadcast concert event in modern history. Fathom Events is simulcasting the shows to theaters across the country, you can pre-order it pay-per-view now at Dead.net, and countless attendees will be blogging, streaming, tweeting, and instagraming it as it happens. If you want to watch you can do so from the comfort of your coziest wifi connection. Yes I agree, nothing can replace being there, but a 15-camera high definition stream goes a long way.

This brings me to my final point. Since we can’t make it to all of the tropical, musical escapades, or even the majority of local concerts, I advise you to make each one count. As I hit shows in my native scene I find myself being struck by a new fear. Fear Of Not Supporting… or #FONS… Okay I suck at hashtags, but give me a minute to extrapolate. In the last few weeks I have ventured out to several shows and been almost embarrassed by the turnout. When Chicago folk freak party Old Shoe rolled into Hodi’s Half Note last month, there were about 15 people in the room. Hometown heroes Tallgrass played their heart out to a distracted crowd at Swing Station a couple weeks prior. And just recently Genetics hosted an album release concert for the ridiculously good Dr. Spookymuffin to an audience of around 50 kids. This phenomenon indicates a new issue that goes beyond not being able to get a ticket to the hottest concert. Without young and innovating bands out there grinding it out every night, we have no scene. They are bread and butter, they are the glue, and they are the place where magic is still possible on a nightly basis. So, don’t be upset that you can’t make to see The Dead at Soldier Field. You will be able to watch it live in the comfort of your own home. Take that money you saved and go support some local music. They are waiting for you. We are waiting for you.