It is always interesting attending a show on a co-headlining tour like the Alkaline Trio and Bad Religion show last week because ultimately, most people are there for either one band or the other, whether they know it or not.
We are no exceptions, although we thought that we were. We consider ourselves Alkaline Trio fans; at least one of their tracks appears on most of our personalized playlists, even my workout ones. We even featured an Alkaline Trio song in our wedding ceremony. However, as with most co-headlining tours, you can quickly separate the diehard fans from the casual ones.
It turns out we are just casual Alkaline fans—which is fine. In fact, my only critique of Alkaline’s set was that although performed flawlessly, it didn’t convert me into a diehard fan the way War on Women did despite having the advantage of me knowing the majority of the songs on their setlist. But in their defense, Alkaline Trio is in the unenviable position of having to play their set between War on Women and Bad Religion every night, talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
However, there is something magical that only seems to happen on these mega co-
headliner tours. Being surrounded by dozens, maybe even hundreds, of diehard fans as they are entranced in that almost religious experience that only live music can provide. It’s one of my favorite phenomena to observe in the wild, to be wholly immersed in a collective chorus of consciousness, yet somehow just outside of it.
We all want that transcendental experience, yet sometimes it’s beyond our reach. Perhaps we loved an earlier album or a later one that the band isn’t particularly fond of because it was overplayed or written during a difficult period in their life that they don’t want to revisit. I don’t know why Alkaline Trio didn’t play my favorite songs by them, and frankly, it is none of my business.
I do know that their setlist created that transcendental experience for their diehard fans, and I love being able to witness that live and up close. These are the people who have an intimate knowledge of each album cover to cover; they have memorized every single word, know the chord progressions, and actively anticipate every subtle change in tempo. When I don’t know a song well enough to sing along with the collective chorus, I search for the faces of those people in the crowd because the looks on their faces reveal whether the band is on point or not.
And like I said earlier, I know Alkaline Trio played flawlessly because the collective chorus of consciousness did not stop. It may have grown louder as more casual fans joined in on their more popular songs, but it never paused.
So, if you ever find yourself separate from the diehard fans in the crowd, I recommend observing these transcendental moments of magic as someone else experiences them instead of allowing yourself to feel left out. Because there is nothing more beautiful or life-affirming than hearing a chorus of total strangers crying out the song that saved their lives, or provided them with a much needed moment of catharsis, or gave them words to articulate their experience when they had none.