It’s been an incredibly hot summer in Los Angeles this year, and it makes my behavior unusually suburban. Proximity to an air conditioner becomes an overwhelming priority, driving beats biking or walking, takeout food beats turning on the oven, and television becomes infinitely preferable to anything outdoors. The exception to this is that I still seem to endure extreme conditions to go to concerts.
I am not really exaggerating here. Many of the new music spaces in L.A., especially the fledgling ones, are not air conditioned. Before the concert, with the windows open and the fans blowing full blast, things are temperate enough. But when the stage lights go up, the windows go down, and the fans go off, before long the concert hall becomes a fiery crucible more suited to doing Bikram yoga or baking a pizza.
Invariably, this makes the musical experience more intense than it would otherwise be. Often, the surrounding warmth makes me nod off for minutes at a time. Maybe this is heresy, but some of my most memorable musical experiences are ones I was only half-awake for, where in my delirium I allowed the music to seep into some previously inaccessible stratum of my consciousness.
After the concert, too, there is generally a strange sense of camaraderie between audience members, having gone through something together. I used to think that extreme temperatures in a venue was an environmental flaw, but I am starting to wonder if it’s not a secret feature of some kind. After all, the phenomenon is not unique to L.A. (as anyone who has been to The Stone in New York City can attest). Why do we tolerate such punishing conditions, and what does it say about new music concertgoers? I am not sure if it is a redeeming quality or a sign of simple masochism.
At any rate, it’s the exact opposite of going to a movie theater just for the air conditioning.