Author: Karsemeyer, John

To Be There, Or Not To Be There? That Is The Question

After watching a computer “live stream” of the tribute concert to Warren Hellman on February 19th, my thinking-cap suddenly appeared. Should I have gone? Would that have been better than staying at home and watching it on a sixteen inch computer screen? Did I miss something by not going? Would I have missed something if I hadn't stayed home and watched the live stream? Perplexity raised its indecisive head.

Okay, let's say you went. The estimate was that there were ten thousand people at this event, held near the ocean in San Francisco; live men walking, standing, and stretching, along with women, and children (dogs?) for over six hours (if you stayed for the whole event). If you were fortunate enough to be within thirty yards of the stage (think camping out the night before, or arriving at 5am in the morning), you had a musical jumper cables for your brain experience. But if you were at the back of the 10K pack, the performers would visually be an inch tall, and who knows what the sound quality would be? Depends on how far back the speakers are and how they project. An unknown.

What about food, beverages, and “comfort stations.” There was nothing like that in sight on the streaming computer screen. Bring a lunch and drinks, hope for the sanctuary of a group of trees where you can be alone, and you'd be okay. If youth is on your side it's not much of a risk. If you travel on the “Grey Highway,” well, you know.

Okay, let's say you stay at home, and watch the live stream. Is it better? Worse? Somewhere in between?

Watching the computer screen you get to be close up, not personal, but visually you've arrived. The bling outfits that Gillian Welch and David Rawlings wore were definitely in sight, real close. And you can see that she played a Gibson guitar, and he played his old F-hole arch top guitar. And you can see her dance. Almost like being on stage with them.

It is possible, you know, to transport yourself inside that screen you're watching. Join the performers, with you mind. Fool your mind. Part of your mind will actually believe that the images you are seeing are real, and that you are there experiencing what you are viewing. If that is so, what you see is what you get, in what you think is real time. Like if you were actually there. And if that is so, why leave the privacy of your screen and attend the event?

Now if you had actually gone to this event you may have been at least a hundred yards away from the stage, and couldn't have had the aforementioned screen visual focus. Emmy Lou Harris is the size of a chess pawn (for you), and you definitely couldn't have seen what kind of guitar she was playing (if you care), or if she had on designer boots or Wall mart sneakers (if that matters).

“Binoculars,” you say? Sure, okay, if you remember to bring them. But try holding them up for the six hour event. Thinking about it, you could endear the crowd around you by letting them borrow your visual aid. New “friends” would abound.

Be that as it may, attending an event in person brings about the full palate of the senses. The actual sight, sound, smell, touch, and well, all of the rest, and more. That tantalizing infusion of all those things that are hidden in the realm of reality, waiting to be discovered and experienced. The interactions with real, live people. Unmatched, an unequaled bombardment of sensory delight. That's great, definitely, but enter ambivalence.

Gotta drive there, gotta drive home (how about those gas prices!). It's too cold, it's too hot. The sound is too loud from the speakers you're standing next to, or not loud enough. And you can't move because you're in the crowd, locked in like sardines in a tin container. “Okay, so what. It's worth it just for the experience,” you may be saying out loud while reading this.

So what do you think? What makes you go, what makes you stay at home? Does it depend? On what does it depend? Used to be it was no contest; just go, no doubts. Now, I don't know. The times they are definitely changing. I just wonder. Do you have the answer? Blowin' in the wind?

All I know is that I'll see ya at the Grass Valley FDF in June. Unless they have a live stream (the water ditch doesn't count). And if they do, well, right now I just don't know....

THE DAILY GRIST…"“hat would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”--Dorothy Parker

Posted:  3/10/2012

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