The power of music is undeniable, but a live performance can change your whole outlook. Particularly when it's held on a beach during the "blue time."
I attended a concert last week at Jones Beach in Wantagh, N.Y. It's this amazing venue for live musical concerts, right on the water, with the best acoustics I've ever heard.
After grabbing a $5 cup of pop, I joined the crowd to be warmed up by Splendor, a new alternative band. They were decent, a typical garage band just starting to hit it big.
Twenty minutes later, the sun set and the crowd's mood changed. You could feel it in the air. A mixture of anticipation and good humor pervaded, and it combined with the cool breezes blowing off the water.
It was the "blue time" -- those 10 minutes when everything in the world takes on a lapis hue. The sun had gone home while darkness was rushing to join the party.
The air became a tangible presence, thick with oxygen and the scents of the season. Voices seemed muted, but distinct and clear when you concentrated on them.
The lights slowly came up, and the members of Vertical Horizon ran onto the stage. You couldn't miss 'em. They were nonchalant and eager, but more concerned with getting into the music than putting on a "dramatic performance."
The crowd went wild.
The lead singer of VH, Matthew Scannell, is a man with a great deal of charisma. Young and lean with a shiny bald head, he sang from the heart with a huge smile plastered on his face.
The smile wasn't fake though. It was obvious he hadn't sung these songs a million times. Though the band has been playing in smaller venues for a few years, their first big song, "Everything You Want" only hit the radio and video charts this spring. That smile was genuine and it looked like he was just thrilled to be playing to such a large crowd.
The rest of the band's members were amazing as well. They all played their instruments with heart and pride, yet with a sense of disbelief that we were enjoying their performance so much.
Like me, it seemed many in the crowd actually came to hear Vertical Horizon, regardless of the fact that they were an "opening" band. As the first song drifted past the orchestra and into the stadium seats, hundreds of people leaped to their feet to dance and clap. Songs that hadn't even hit the air waves were sung with vigor and energy. And when VH played their hit song, they didn't even have to sing the whole chorus -- the audience sang it for them.
A brief intermission didn't dispel the mood of the revelers. The average age was about 21, and T-shirts and jeans seemed to be the norm. Though people drank and I'm sure a few got high, the crowd was amazingly mellow.
No one was unruly, violent or rude. There seemed to be an unspoken pact to simply enjoy the energy of the music and avoid ruining the show with misbehavior.
By the time the headliner group made its entrance, the audience was well prepared.
The blue time ended and darkness arrived. With it came the pounding drumbeats and searing guitars of Third Eye Blind. Like rocking pied pipers, the band weaved the music through the air and simply infused everyone who heard it.
The crowd, myself included, screamed and swayed. It sang and danced. When the lead singer, the hunky and playful Stephan Jenkins, jumped off the stage and ran into the crowd, everyone just went nuts.
For a few moments, he was lost in the throng of people crowding the aisle to get a look at him. Then, Jenkins popped back into view on a makeshift stage in the middle of the orchestra section (incidentally about 20 people away from me). Once there, he not only gave the nosebleeders a better view, he also increased the level of awe and energy.
When he bounded back to the main stage, Jenkins tossed out flowers to the audience, then joined drummer Brad Hargreaves on a song that had the two of them pounding out separate rhythms on drum sets while being rolled across the floor by dark-clothed stagehands.
After they played the last song of the set, the audience pounded on chairs, stamped their feet and catcalled for more. The group returned and played another full set, including a song with the first two bands.
Music reigned at Jones Beach for three solid hours.
Before the concert, I had not been a huge fan of Third Eye Blind. Sure, I'd heard "Semi-Charmed Life" and "Graduate" before, but I never expected the group to simply radiate energy. Now I'm an official convert. Amazing how one live performance held on the beach during the blue time can do that.