On Saturday, the stage at the Radiohead concert in Toronto collapsed, killing drum technician Scott Johnson and injuring three crew members. The band was not on stage, nor was the audience in place. This could have been yet another concert tragedy of unhappily epic proportions.
As it is, it still sucks.
From what I know from my friends in the music industry, being a tech on the crew of an international touring band is a dream job. Punching a clock to do work you actually look forward to doing, with people you like being with, who you think of as part of your family - who doesn’t want that? I mean, sure, I’m making a leap here. I didn’t know Scott Johnson. I’m projecting more than a bit.
But concerts are fantasy land. Concerts are entertainment. Going to see your favorite band play on a sunny afternoon or during a warm summer evening is the icing on the cake after the week’s hard work is done. Being an artist or a technician who creates live music for other people is to hand out blessings of the heart and soul to the secular masses.
We go to concerts to become immersed in a heightened expression of life, and the artist gifts us with music that provides a direct conduit to all our joys and pains. We relate to the words. We feel each note. For two hours or so, we are all tied together in a very raw and wonderful way. And we forget what we need to forget. And we don’t feel so alone.
Maybe it’s all an illusion. A trick of the light and sound board. But it’s an illusion many pay dearly to become a part of. No one expects the curtain to be pulled back in this worst way possible.
And maybe I’m getting a little maudlin here in an attempt to be poetic, in trying to figure out why - in a world with so much tragedy and for so many senseless reasons – these concert deaths bum me out so much in particular.
The Sioux leader Crazy Horse was wrong when he proclaimed “It’s a good day to die.” Some days are not good days to die. Most days, it’s so totally wrong.
And in a world where so much seems to be going so desperately wrong for so many people, is it wrong to ask whoever is listening out there – venue owners, the promoters, the local governing authorities…I don’t know, maybe the freaking god of rock – to fix this? To give us a break? To allow us a few sunny afternoons and a little reveling without looking over our shoulders and having to balance on the balls of our feet “just in case”?
I didn’t know Scott Johnson. But here’s a thank you for doing a job that provided so many people with so much pleasure. Thank you for the music you made happen. Thank you for our life’s soundtrack.