By Merisa Sherman
I am lost to the beat. I can not only feel the rhythm of the drums washing over my body, but I can feel the beats coming through the earth and into my feet. My arms fly out- ward to the sky and out to my sides, swimming through the air with the movement of the song. I am simply swaying in time to the music, caught up in the energy that is flowing from the stage. So close that I can feel the wind coming from the speakers, I am practically breathing in the sounds of the band. I am no longer myself, but instead an extension of the sounds that envelops me. I am lost.
The lead guitar begins to weep and I can feel my body elevate until I am no longer touching the ground. My feet are in constant motion, matching exactly the beats of the drum so that I, too, am part of the band or at least an extension of it. My heart skips a bit at the stops, my body changes rhythm as the musicians trade measures. They, too, are lost in the moment and you can feel the song of the solo sweeping over those on the stage and beyond. There’s no disconnect. As the musicians lose themselves in their music, so do we.
All of us. For it’s not just me, dancing by myself. I am surrounded, by friends and strangers alike. All of us trapped in this moment in time and space, our bodies moving wherever the song might direct us. In some ways, its difficult to tell where I end and the stranger next to me begins. We are not touching in any physical way, but something else. There are no individuals in the crowd only a sea of bodies sharing their joyous energy with each other and the world.
Honestly, I thought I would be frightened. After 16 months of dancing with myself, I wasn’t sure if we would get this far. I thought that perhaps people would be reserved, hoarding their energy tightly to themselves and not allowing their souls to fly. But there was no resistance, perhaps a bit of hesitancy for the first few breaths, but then the music simply took over. As it always does.
To feel the fingers flying over the keys, creating a grand melody that blends in with the songs of the guitars all set over the combined rhythms of the bass and percussion. Resistance is futile; the music is too powerful, too overwhelming, and we can do nothing but be embraced by its magic. But all of us, together. A web of energy is created as the band weaves its instruments together and we become lost in the festival itself.
We cannot stop this together- ness, this one-ness. It is what French sociologist Émile Durkheim called “collective effervescence,” a feeling of belonging and assimilation produced by collective ritual action, the euphoria that comes when humans are united in a collective ritual. After 16 months of dancing by myself, I am overjoyed to be surrounded by strangers and lose myself to the music and to be a part of some- thing. I dance alone at home but something is missing. I twirl around in my house but my energy cannot break free and instead weighs me down. There is no one with which to connect.
I cannot get enough live music right now. I want to sit on a blanket on the lawn, drink wine and eat cheese while I listen to some dueling banjos behind the library with my mom and the Active Seniors while kids run around everywhere. I want to get lost in the sounds of the Ver- mont Symphony Orchestra with the Green Mountains as the backdrop. I want to be under the stars, dancing through the night on a lawn with my best friends while the seven members of Squirrel Stew fill the valley with music that blows our minds.
I want to shout out the lyrics to my favorite dance party hits at an old friend’s wedding celebration, with dance moves passed down from generation to generation. I want to drive in a car with a bunch of idiots to go see a punk rock show in Boston. I want to sit in the front row and joke with the local band while they play our favorite songs. I want to help the band load out after last call, covered in sweat from dancing all night but not willing to let it all end. I want to get lost in a sea of people en- raptured by the light show, bouncing beach balls and throwing glow sticks in time to the music.
I just want to get lost in the mu- sic. All of it.
“We need music, I don’t know why.” – Jerry Garcia