I noticed a phenomenon sometime last year where unfortunate souls who considered themselves fortunate started going to concerts held by people no one had ever heard of. Most of the people in our grade were so excited at the prospect of getting to see someone live, with their friends, away from their parents, that they clung with bitter desperation to the notion that the performer they went to see was the best thing to grace the earth since Sir Isaac Newton.
I have no clue who or what Hardwell is. It could be a velociraptor disguised as a banana with pompous frills and bowties and I’d still have no clue who or what Hardwell is. But it doesn’t really matter; my musical appraisal ends after 2006 and my favourite bands are from the 70s. I’m very much a grandfather with regard to teenage music. But I would atleast have heard of this Hardwell, just as I’ve heard of countless other musicians. But I hadn’t. Once, last year, our class convinced our history teacher that reputed rich guy and software pirate Steve Aoki invented Japan. Yes, “invented.” And she believed it, so there’s that.
But this post’s reason is to swim and swallow through the depths of perpetual ignorance and fallacy and delve into the sumptuous, juicy fields of insight and observation. What makes someone want to spend a moderate amount of money to visit a man whose music most of us (and probably even they) have never heard of, to try and get inebriated or stoned and return with a hangover that lasts three days and false nostalgia that lasts a lifetime? It’s the prospect of trying new things, which certainly is exciting, coupled with the thrill of being unsupervised, and of course, the frisson and atmosphere being at a concert with friends.
Let’s tackle these silly actions bit by bit. Drinking. I understand why a sixteen year old would want to do it. I can even pretend to understand why someone would attend another college’s fresher’s party and get pissed after attempting to drink straight from the bottle. What I don’t understand is why someone would attempt to do it after weighing in the risks, unless they haven’t. Taking alcohol makes you feel grownup and important, like a coming of a age ritual which certainly shouldn’t be. I don’t despise alcohol, but I think personally, I’ll always be late to that party. I once tried to have a glass of wine; two sips later I was forced by both body and mind to throw it down the sink. All alcohol tastes the same with the exception of single malt whiskey. I can certainly imagine enjoying sitting in an armchair with some single malt reading a nice book. What I can’t imagine myself doing is jumping around like cornflour on bass speakers with sixty other sweaty and deluded people, desperately trying to make my lips meet the mouth of a precariously situated bottle and chug down a litre or two of poor quality alcohol, with music louder than a Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 jet engine. All just to prove a point.
Concerts are a thing only because people go to them. Since the time of the prodigious child Mozart to our beloved Bieber, concerts have always been something to look forward to. For many people, it’s not about the music at all, but the secondary experiences and the aftermath of it. But the sheer amount of people I know who went to this Hardwell thing must mean that either he’s a very good artist, better than the likes of Metallica or Guns and Roses, or that this event was ridiculously hyped by word of mouth, and many of us were urged to attend because of friends. There’s a certain word for it, and even though all the Hardwell attendees will deny it, it all comes down to peer pressure. I’ll refrain from making comparisons with sheep for now, but every concert of a new musician that arrives to this city is blown out of proportion. Two weeks from now it’ll be someone else, and if I start listening to Hardwell now and go up to them and tell them that I like his music, they’ll probably ask, “who’s Hardwell?”
The Beatles haven’t faded from public consciousness in the last 50 years, and won’t for atleast another 50 more. Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Eric Clapton, Thom Yorke, Chuck Berry, BB King, Keith Moon and David Gilmour are just some names of musicians who have made waves in the sea of music; they will be remembered for a long time to come. Swedish House Mafia? Avicii? Hardwell? They won’t make it past the decade if they stop coming back to BKC to play a gig once a year. I envy the people who saw The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan nearly show half a century ago; I would have loved to be at Glastonbury ‘03 to watch Radiohead at its peak. You’re not going to sit down and tell your grandchildren that you went to see Hardwell in the summer of ‘13.
But I guess that’s where the fun is. For many of us, music is not the life defining force that it can be. It’s simply a background aura that emanates desire and passion; creating the tendency to have a good time. I can understand going to a concert like this because of its fleeting glory. It’s just one night of madness which you’ll look back on fondly for years to come, even though you’ve forgotten the name of the artist who played the gig. And people require experiences like these to grow up, so if you want to go and get wasted at Hardwell, be my guest. Just don’t die in the process.