I’m standing in a dark Cambridge club, watching set lists being put out; last minute arrangements before the show. The mechanics, the logistics, the arranging and planning that goes into a 90 minute performance of music.

We put down our money and place our bets, hoping to reach that transcendent moment, when boundaries of stage and audience dissolve, time stops, and you’re no longer thinking about catching that last train out of Central Square, or how late you’ll get back up to the North Shore. You set out to support a band, wanting to hear new songs, or old favorites – but at the back of your mind, or in your subconscious mind, you’re yearning for that moment – a melding of minds, a merging of souls, through the power of music.

Cross-country touring in a dilapidated van… scraping together enough money for food and gas along the way through merchandise sales. Sleeping on friends’ and strangers’ floors… struggling with shifting weather patterns and improper footwear for Northeast winters… unfamiliar foods, unfamiliar places, and the absence of loved ones… unpredictable traffic and other unknown elements. Closing eyes in one state and waking up in another… the endless delights of air travel, living in airport terminals, lost luggage, beloved instruments and essential gear tossed around like sacks of potatoes by clueless transport workers… International travel and disturbed sleep patterns… club load-ins, soundchecks, radio promotion, and important people to schmooze.

Procurement of tickets, ticket fees, presales, scalpers and other unsavory types… standing around for hours in skanky clubs waiting for the music to begin. Will it be ear-shattering loud? Sonic booms from an echoing dark stairwell? The band comes on, as uncertain as you are. Tentative start; they’re working hard to gauge the mood of the room, find common ground with a few hundred strangers in a heartbeat. Musicians and audience both working at engagement. As you listen, your ears pick out something warm and familiar, something new and interesting – an inspired guitar lick, an insightful lyric that leaps out. Block out the chatty cocktail party in the back and their endless inane conversations. For them, this may as well be a poorly-tuned-in radio station in the other room. Not for you. On a good night, on a really good night, expectations slowly dissolve. The audience vibe imperceptibly shifts from a ‘show us what you’ve got’ stance with folded arms, to slow bobbing and swaying, to dancing, to bliss. Connection. When a band does this with a dedicated fan following within seconds of hitting the stage, there is no greater magic.

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