I was recently talking with Ryan, a college student who, as a middle schooler was one of the charter members of The Coffeehouse Project, back when it was an after school program. We were discussing the annual end of the school year rock concerts we staged and how I would be particularly hyped up and intense during the run-up to a show.
Ryan said “Oh, yeah, Mr. Fitz, we used to say that you were in ‘gig mode’!” I never knew about this and I am honored that middle school kids would actually have noticed my increased intensity, given all of the other things that were going on in their lives.
What is gig mode? It’s my excitement in anticipation of a particular musical experience… an excitement I felt when I saw The Ramones in a multipurpose room at Rutgers and the sound from Johnny Ramone’s Marshall amps almost knocked me off the folding chair I was standing on. It’s the excitement of hearing Elvis Costello’s voice channeling John Lennon while he sang Hide Your Love Away. I guess I wanted the audience in the middle school gym to be knocked over that same way, to be excited that same way when Ryan’s band, The Smithertweens, hit the stage and cranked out Behind the Wall of Sleep.
I’m pretty sure most of you can remember being thrilled by a performance of a favorite band. Maybe you waited in line overnight to score tickets for The Stones, The Dead, U2, Bruce. Maybe you felt that adrenaline rush when the lights went down at MSG or Brendan Byrne or The Spectrum and the waiting was over. There is a reason that we remember these moments decades later: the passion that music can evoke gives us some of the best experiences of our life. The setting can be an arena, a club, a school gym, or even our own homes – experiencing and making music allows us to feel alive in the moment and those moments make life better. I personally guarantee it!