Memorable Concerts: Madalyn Wasilczuk

Madalyn always discovers it first. This former music editor of The Eagle has an ear for new and interesting music, and she’s here to share a few of her most memorable concert experiences. Madalyn’s an incredibly intelligent woman and a close friend, so we are honored to have her share her perspective on live music…

Picture yourself in a vast auditorium. Bright red, yellow, blue and white lights shine down on you in the darkness. An impatient, rowdy crowd murmurs at a dull roar, with an occasional cheer for the show to start. Whose name are they chanting? No, not yours. Theirs. That multi-platinum band that’s emerging from backstage looking like the size of ants. Or, at least, you think it’s them anyway.

Does that sound like your most memorable concert of all time? Mine either. Yeah, I’m one of those ‘I discovered it first’ kind of people when it comes to music, but I don’t think that’s my aversion to big stadium shows. There’s something electric about the community created at a small venue show when seemingly every member of the audience feels intimately connected to the band.

My two most memorable concert experiences both relate directly to the community the bands created at their shows. They did it in different ways with different venues on different continents. But to me, they exemplify what a great concert can be.

Anathallo played a show in Spring 2008 at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C. The club is small and dimly lit, with flying guitars adorning the upstairs bar. I arrived early that day for an interview with one of the band members, Bret Wallin. He and Matt Joynt proceeded to talk with me for 45 minutes and invited me to stick around afterward and hang out with them and the rest of the band until the show started.

Not only was the band incredibly inviting, so was the crowd. I had come alone, which can always be awkward at a show, especially in the down time between the openers and main act. However, a nearby group of concertgoers co-opted me into their circle, openly sharing their passion for the band and filling me in on their life stories.

On top of the collegial atmosphere, the band played new material from a then-upcoming release, Canopy Glow, peppering it with Anathallo’s characteristic exuberance. The band’s lively show, complete with choreography and a plethora of band members playing keys, horns, guitar and various household products, did not disappoint for a moment.

A world away, in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, community overwhelmed me again. This time, it was Fall 2008, and I was watching Wafalme, a Kenyan hip-hop group, perform at local youth group beauty pageant. Surrounded by swarms of children and standing in the hot mid-afternoon sun, I watched as they rapped in Sheng, a hybrid English/Swahili language, about issues that grip Kibera every day.

The group was good, no doubt, but my limited Swahili impaired my understanding of their message. Nevertheless, I could see that the crowd was enthralled, fully invested in the performance. And, as always, in that place, the sense of community was palpable.

For me, community is what makes a concert. Not the venue, not band’s perfect execution, but the feeling that each and every listener has invested himself in the show. At an unforgettable show, all the fans silently conspire to make the experience great – not only for one another, but also for the band.

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