I remember the first time I left the country to watch a gig. It was in 2006 and I tagged along with a group that flew to Singapore to watch Franz Ferdinand. It seemed like a fun idea.Though it wasn’t part of the plan, the same group headed for Bangkok to attend a music fest that featured Oasis, Ian Brown and other big-name acts. I didn’t go but later wished I did.
2010: The third time I saw MUSE.One month later, I received an invitation to watch Pat Metheny. Despite budget constraints,I found ways to be able to return to Singapore. Pat Metheny is a jazz legend and even if I wasn’t a musician, I learned a lot during the workshop he conducted before his gig.
Soon after that, we found ourselves being invited to interview musicians abroad or take photos of their gigs. I’ve seen MUSE three times, interviewed Kasabian in Kuala Lumpur, taken photos of Red Hot Chili Peppers in Hong Kong and cried to an Oasis song in Japan.
Why go abroad when foreign acts play here?
But with the recent influx of international acts to the Philippines, people wonder why I still choose to travel for gigs every now and then.
One obvious reason is that some of my favorite bands don’t get to play in the country.
Take Radiohead, for example. I challenged myself to attend the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan last year even if I knew very little of the language and didn’t know how I’d go around the country.
Same with watching U2 in Toronto.
Feeling closer to home while abroad
The experience of watching bands abroad is strange. On the one hand, you’re out of your comfort zone because you’re in a foreign land. At the same time, the experience of seeing your favorite band makes you feel even closer to home.
You get to realize that, yeah, music really is universal and you begin to understand how music is capable of uniting us all.
Then, there’s being able talk to these artists and finding out what goes on in their head. Then, sharing it with the rest of the world is an empowering responsibility.
Or if you’re part of the audience, you dream of making eye contact with the artist while they sing your favorite line in a song. You hope that the eye contact will enable you to understand what those lyrics mean a little more than what you already know.
The real school of rock
They say travel is the best education. Indeed, there is no school of rock and the only way to learn it is to explore and experience these great bands live, whether near (here) or far (abroad).
To the normal traveler, it’s like seeing the Great Pyramids, the Grand Canyon, or the Aurora Borealis.
To me, the comparable experience is being in Japan and seeing Radiohead’s Thom Yorke’s jittery dance or laughing to Noel Gallagher’s spiels in between sets.
To me, it’s being one of 60,000 fans at the Roger’s Centre in Toronto all doing a synchronized “wave” to show how excited we were for U2 to play during their 360 tour.
And that connection is appreciated even more because I am so far from home.
The lessons I take home
All that changes the way you see things.
You hope all the artists you know back home will be given the same chance in the global spotlight.
You learn things out there, which you take home with you.
And this eagerness to absorb all that you’ve seen and experienced makes you realize that the world you revolve in back in your comfort zone can’t be just good enough.
You simply want to make everything around you even better.
That’s why I keep going out there.