Two nights ago, I was standing in a sold-out show at Saint Andrew’s Hall, surrounded by an odd assortment of alt young adults dressed to the edgy nines and middle-aged dads in NFL hats and iPhone holsters. It was a cold night, and my legs never really thawed after standing in line outside for over an hour.
Mother Mother is an indie rock band—one of the best and most popular artists hailing out of Canada. It’s a family-ish act, led by Ryan, his sister Molly, and their friend Jasmin. Mother Mother is, for some reason, hugely popular with the realm of alt/emo/goth young adults, but I first discovered them through more conventional means via Maggie Stiefvater in 2018. Despite being generally labelled as “indie rock,” Mother Mother varies wildly in their sound; they’ve got a lot of weird songs and noises—many of which I’ll admit I still don’t like—but they traverse the spectrum of humanity in a way that draws you in and holds you close. I feel my cosmic smallness in “Infinitesimal” and I know I’m not alone in “It’s Alright.”
But back to Tuesday night. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like cold dark Michigan nights. I don’t like moving my body to music when there are others around to see it, or trying to fight for breathing room in a packed room when there’s a worldwide pandemic on. But I do like Mother Mother, and I found myself enduring a cold night to stand in a crowd and move to music because of it.
Finding myself at a concert after such a long period of pronounced social isolation made me ponder its meaning. The way that people come together as strangers in the night for a prolonged moment around music is kind of bizarre. We spend a lot of time pseudo-connecting over shared interests in virtual spaces, especially with the current state of the world. (I mean, the art of Spotify is a complex one where one must plan and curate the exhibition of their aestheticism for the annual Spotify Wrapped.)
But connecting in person is an entirely different playing field. Everyone gets together and agrees to be civil in order to cheer and stomp and spray spittle together under the auspices of a group of people on a stage. And what about the band? They’ve agreed to be the centre of all that concentrated human energy. Even when they’re self-purported introverts. Standing in approximately the third row from a small stage like I was, you get a good look at the faces of the people who are baring their souls so you can bare yours too.
What I’m trying to say in a circuitous way is that concerts are a meeting place for people who would otherwise be passing each other like ships in the night. There’s a camaraderie as people shiver in line together and headbang together. It’s a unique feeling, the way hundreds of strangers can share a space that goes beyond just their discrete characteristics. Differing tastes aside, music includes metaphysical elements and, in my opinion, can be imbibed with distinct spirituality. Put enough people together who feel this spirituality and you end up with something that is divine (albeit a secular divinity in the case of Mother Mother).
Even though concerts exhaust my feeble introverted self—the driving, standing, and jostling—I wouldn’t trade my recent encounter with Mother Mother for anything in the world and the brief moment I got to be a part of when strangers in the night became friends.