What is music really about?

Going to a concert has a unique way of promoting happiness. When your favorite artists announce tour dates, what makes you want to buy tickets as soon as they go on sale? Why is seeing a live show different than just listening to music on your drive to work?

Because when it comes to concerts, it’s not just about music.

It’s about relationships, no matter the size of the show. Between the music and the lighting on stage, and how the lighting design enhances the lyrics. Between each of the performers on stage, who keep things interesting with their stage presence by moving around. Between the lead singer and the fans, with their arms reaching toward them. Between you and the fans next to you, who could either be your best friends, strangers, or both.

Music forms relationships

It’s so easy to form interpersonal relationships at concerts because everyone is there for the same reason. I met my best friend, Charlie, through our love of music. We live on opposite sides of the country so if it weren’t through our shared connection through music, we would have never met.

“I go to concerts because it’s a way for people with different backgrounds and stories to be together for the same reason. I know it sounds corny, but you can escape from reality and you don’t even realize reality is back until the lights come on at the end of the show. It gives me an adrenaline rush when the artists sing directly to a person in the front row or grab their hands, ask them to sing along or clap along, or talk to them about what a song is about.” -Charlie Swanson

Music tells visual stories

Sometimes, visuals like lighting and backdrops can provoke a bigger meaning behind the music. For example, The 1975 projects a rainbow flag on the screen behind them as they sing “Loving Someone,” a tradition they started last summer in honor of the Orlando tragedy. The lyrics hint at LGBT+ issues, and in this case the visuals push the meaning further. A girl I met while photographing The 1975 drove up to Charleston, SC from Orlando so she could hold up a sign that says “Orlando Strong” during the song. I will go into more details with her story in my next post.

In Charleston, 1975 fan from Orlando holds up a sign in response to the song “Loving Someone.” Photo: Sophie Harris

As a photographer and a frequent concert-goer, I realize that concerts would not have the same atmosphere without these visual and interpersonal aspects. I challenge you to pay attention to aspects like this that may not be as obvious. Don’t just listen to the singer and the instruments. Look for emotions.

All photos above by Sophie Harris