(If you didn’t already know, I unabashedly fangirl for Frank Turner. He is my favorite artist and I am very grateful for his music. Luckily, he is also a pretty cool person; as he is finishing up his book of tour memoirs, he invited fan submissions that might make it into the publication. Mine follows….)
Music is my religion. From my perspective, the two concepts are inextricably intertwined; both cause adherents to abandon proof and logic in favor of blind and happy belief. Music and religion have the power unite many under a specific ideology, or to soothe or incite the masses into submission. The scope and power of this thought hit me full force at my first (and only) Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls show – Detroit, November 2013.
Usually at a show, I become very self-centered. I focus on the music and how it makes me feel, move, and think. But when the band charged into the powerful opening of my favorite song “The Road,” I had an out-of-body experience. I realized that, along with everyone else’s, I had unwittingly put my hands in the air, palms facing upward in a decidedly worshipful fashion. Prior to that I had only ever seen such body language in a church. As I looked around at the beatific faces of those who know they are in the throes of what everyone would certainly agree was a first-rate show, I was struck for the first time by Music’s overwhelming uniting power. Whether it be the sounds or the sentiments that listeners identify with, a musical fandom creates a strong sense of camaraderie. I realized the full force of this unity after a chance encounter with a kind stranger at the show. I forget how we started talking, but when I asked him what his favorite song was, he responded without hesitation, “I Am Disappeared.” This slight admission gave me what felt like a disproportionate amount of insight and understanding into his life. I pictured him the restless, reckless type and wondered where he kept his carefully stored bag of clothes in case of necessary flight. I will never forget this seemingly inconsequential connection; it taught me that mutual love for a specific Music is like meeting someone abroad who happens to speak your first language.
Leaving St. Andrew’s Hall that night, I felt as though I had been baptized. I was soaked in beer and sweat, but I felt dazed, refreshed, and inspired. I know people who report a similar sensation only after leaving a particularly potent church sermon. I regard song lyrics with a reverence most reserve for bible verses; I use them to comfort me during difficult times and, once those have passed, to remind me of the values for which I strive. It is empowering to know that some human difficulties transcend space and time and that it is possible to create unity, beauty, and strength from the struggle. While I agree with Frank about there being no god, the Music brings me as close to nirvana as I think I’ll ever get.