On Paris, pain and the power of live music
Inside Allison Weiss’ left arm is a tattoo that reads 100%.
The L.A. indie rocker does her best to deliver on that inky promise, both in the power-pop positivity of her music, and in the upbeat and endearing way she plays it live, grinning and whipping her Telecaster as fans sing and wave lighters in the air.
But a day after nearly 100 people were massacred at a rock concert in Paris, even Weiss wasn’t sure she felt up to performing.
“It feels hard to keep doing my job when all I feel like doing right now is mourning for Paris,” she tweeted before her concert Saturday at New World Brewery in Tampa.
It took a night for the scale and scope of the madness in Paris to sink in around the globe, and for music lovers worldwide to grasp the painful and acute ways we, too, felt affected.
On Friday, we digested the news as it broke via Twitter and Facebook, in some cases between songs at concerts of our own. At his band’s Tampa show that night, country star Zac Brown acknowledged the tragedy and sent prayers to the victims. But that was pretty much it. The party went on as otherwise planned.
But on Saturday, every music scene in every city across America felt the fear, the pain, the tragedy, in its own way. One of the shooting victims at Friday’s Eagles of Death Metal concert at Le Bataclan was Nick Alexander, a merch manager who’d toured with Tampa’s Underoath. Local singer-songwriter Joel Davis of Fistful and Ascend the Hill, a man who’s played New World Brewery many times, was in Paris on Friday, staying just blocks from the massacre.
Those of us who go to a lot of concerts shut our eyes and placed ourselves at the scene. The capacity of Le Bataclan, as we all now sadly know, is 1,500 – a little larger than the Tampa Theatre. At an amphitheater or arena, you're a speck in a sea. At a venue like Le Bataclan, you’re among people, actual people, some of whom are probably your friends. You can see their faces from across the room.
And so in Tampa, as in cities around the world, artists and fans alike had to ask themselves on Saturday: Do I really feel like going to a show tonight?
Let's be honest: Allison Weiss at New World Brewery is not Zac Brown Band at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. Weiss is not a household name, and this was not a high-profile event. Maybe 50 people turned out.
But I wanted to be among them. I wanted to hear Weiss sing songs from New Love, one of my favorite albums of 2015. I wanted to hear her sing Over You, a song I’ve had on repeat for weeks. It's a song, in part, about surviving dark times with the help of good music.
They say it takes a lot of terrible days
Listen to records, they can ease that pain.
It’s a common theme in Weiss’ lyrics, this idea that pop and rock songs can move mountains. “I’m a sucker for an aching heart,” she sang on The Sound. “I’m crying at the party to whatever’s on the radio,” she sang on Back to Me. As if to prove it, she transformed Robyn’s synthy discotheque hit Call Your Girlfriend into a heartfelt, heart-rending ballad.
Weiss called Who We Are “a song about taking risks, even if they scare the s--- out of you.” She’s right: Pain and fear will always be there. And so will live music. It’s just as wonderful and cathartic an experience today as it was before Paris. It always will be.
The night ended with Weiss bringing her opening acts, Mal Blum, Winter and Kid in the Attic, more than a dozen musicians in all, out to the New World patio to sing, dance and rock out to I Was an Island.
Put your boat in my sand, she sang. Your hand in my hand, she sang. Your heart in my songs.
The bands left the stage chanting Fam-i-ly! Fam-i-ly! Fam-i-ly! The love in that room was 100 percent. You really had to be there to feel it.
-- Jay Cridlin