Dave Grohl has been very prolific lately when it comes to writing. He’s been sharing a number of personal stories via his Instagram account @DavesTrueStories, and now, he’s penned an essay for The Atlantic.
Titled “The Day the Live Concert Returns,” the essay delves into the magic of live music and what it has meant to Grohl throughout his life. There are a number of beautiful moments in this essay, but here are the five most moving things about it.
Grohl has never really positioned himself as the type of rock star who's above his fans, so it should come as no surprise that he's also been cooking a lot lately, like the rest of us. "Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has reduced today’s live music to unflattering little windows that look like doorbell security footage and sound like Neil Armstrong’s distorted transmissions from the moon, so stuttered and compressed," wrote Grohl. "...Don’t get me wrong, I can deal with the monotony and limited cuisine of quarantine (my lasagna game is on point!), and I know that those of us who don’t have to work in hospitals or deliver packages are the lucky ones, but still, I’m hungry for a big old plate of sweaty, ear-shredding, live rock and roll, ASAP."
While Grohl is a fan of a big, flashy rock show, he notes the impact of seeing U2 live in 2001 during their stripped-down "Elevation Tour." He wrote, "I waited for the lights to go out so that I could lose myself in a magnificent, state-of-the-art rock show. To my surprise, the band walked onstage without any introduction, house lights fully illuminated, and kicked into the first song beneath their harsh, fluorescent glow, without the usual barrage of lasers and LED screens we’ve all become accustomed to. The brilliant move stunned the audience and began an unforgettable concert on a very raw, personal note. This was no accident, mind you. It was a lesson in intimacy. Without all the strobes and lasers, the room shrank to the size of a dirty nightclub at last call, every blemish in plain view. And with that simple gesture, we were reminded that we are all indeed just people. People that need to connect with one another."
Grohl recalled a show in Vancouver and being told Bruce Springsteen was in the building that night. While Springsteen actually went to the show to see the opening act, Grohl said, "...We chatted briefly before the gig, and I was again reminded of not only the human being behind every superhero, but also the reason millions of people identify with him: He is real. Three hours later, as I sat on a locker-room bench recovering from the show, drenched in my own sweat, there was a knock at the door. Bruce wanted to say hello. Having actually stayed for our set (cue jaw crashing to the floor), he very generously thanked us and commented on our performance, specifically the rapport we seem to have with our audience. Something he obviously understood very well. When asked where he watched the show from, he said that he’d stood in the crowd, just like everyone else. Of course he did. He was searching for that connection too."
We've all likely been to shows at some point in our lives where we're pushed up close to the stage and have wondered if a band could actually make out our faces and reactions to their performance. Grohl can. He writes, "Not to brag, but I think I’ve had the best seat in the house for 25 years. Because I do see you. I see you pressed against the cold front rails. I see you air-drumming along to your favorite songs in the distant rafters...each night when I tell our lighting engineer to 'Light ’em up!,' I do so because I need that room to shrink, and to join with you as one under the harsh, fluorescent glow."
It's going to be a while until we can all go back to enjoying live music the way we used to, but Grohl writes, "...I do know that we will do it again, because we have to. It’s not a choice. We’re human. We need moments that reassure us that we are not alone. That we are understood. That we are imperfect. And, most important, that we need each other...We are instruments in a sonic cathedral, one that we build together night after night. And one that we will surely build again."