A note from Joe Molineaux: I have known this week’s Listen Up guest columnist for a number of years. The most amazing part of getting to know Jen Wildman and her husband, Chris, is that my wife Allison and I see the two of them at so many of the same concerts, shows and music festivals. Jen is a music person. I hope you enjoy her Listen Up guest column.
Thank you, Joe, for the opportunity to write about my favorite subject. If asked, most people will say they enjoy music. However, a music lover might not just like listening to music — they actually feel it. Are you a music lover? Do certain songs give you goosebumps or bring tears to your eyes? Are you annoyed if somebody interrupts when you are listening to a favorite song? Does your life have a soundtrack? You are not alone.
Music has gotten me through extremely difficult times, and been part of the most joyful moments of my life. Listening to my music library on shuffle feels like flipping through a photo album. Music is a time machine. It is a therapist. It is a Zen garden. It is a stress relieving punching bag.
Music has, as long as I can remember, been a part of my life. Growing up, we had one of those big stereo consoles with the turntable inside. Oh, the joyful memories of decorating for Christmas while listening to Johnny Mathis Christmas albums! My parents played Elvis Presley, Englebert Humperdinck, Neil Diamond, The Oak Ridge Boys and Bob Seger and later became big Jimmy Buffet fans.
As the youngest of three children, I was fortunate. I was also immersed in the music of my older sisters. Among others, I vividly remember the Blondie "Rapture" 45 purchased from Sound Odyssey in Shore Mall playing on that turntable. Our parents allowed my teenage sisters to turn the basement into a music clubhouse of sorts. The Kiss Army art was painted on the back of the basement door, and a Frampton sign made in woodshop adorned the stairwell.
Thanks to my sisters and their friends, I started attending concerts at the age of 7! Amazingly, our parents took us to our first couple of shows, Kiss and Van Halen. This is still a little hard for me to believe and quite cool in retrospect! Kiss was more than a live music performance, it was theater. Seeing Gene Simmons being hoisted up in the air to "fly" over the crowd with fake blood dripping out of his mouth — wow! I've since attended hundreds of concerts of various genres. I've only been disappointed a few times. Listening to a professionally engineered recording and experiencing an immersive live performance are two very different things. More often than not, the live performance is far superior. I am often left utterly in awe of the talent and passion on stage.
My husband and I try to pass on this appreciation of music to our boys. We've been taking them to family friendly events since they were toddlers. Now teens, I do not always like their choices, but I listen with an open mind. It's an insight into their world. And, after all, music has historically been a healthy expression of rebellion. Don't tell my boys, but I look forward to being introduced to new music! Although, I secretly hope they will come around eventually and have my "good taste".
"Your vibe attracts your tribe." This is a common saying, which does not, specifically, have to do with music. But for me it has a lot to do with music! The first time I witnessed a music community was at a Grateful Dead concert in 1987. There were fans of all ages and ethnicities, feeling the music and looking out for each other. It was an inclusive atmosphere with a lot of kindness. Plus, the music was exponentially better live than the studio recordings. I was hooked.
Attending a music performance is an amazing way to commune with like-minded people. Generally speaking, everyone is in a good mood and positivity abounds. The crowd and the artist have a symbiotic energetic relationship which has the power to transform the experience. "Your vibe attracts your tribe" has proved true for me. My husband and I first connected through mutual music tastes. Over the years I've made friends, locally and globally, through the love of music. I've made friends by seeing the same people repeatedly enjoying local music performances. A friend was even made at jury duty! Social media groups have facilitated and maintained these friendships. I've seen real relationships form from these unorthodox fan communities. The Pearl Jam fan base is one such group. Music is the common thread, but there is also great mutual respect and generosity. This fan base really lifts each other, emotionally and even financially in times of need!
Recently I've seen articles citing research regarding music's positive health effects. Listening to music not only raises your level of happiness temporarily, but has positive long term health effects as well. Music helps keep dementia and Alzheimer's disease at bay. There are indications that seeing live music often may significantly lengthen your life expectancy and improve your quality of life. The human connection is an important aspect of this well-being.
Get out there and support artists, especially local talent. Take your family with you, whether it is rock, rap, country, pop, EDM or anything in between. Visit a small venue or large, multiday festival or open mic at a local coffee house. Stop and appreciate street musicians. Throw a dollar into the busker's guitar case. Music is good for the body and soul. Let the music move you. Get up and dance, sing along or listen intently. Watch every move and interaction on stage, or just close your eyes and feel the music. There is no right or wrong way.