Saturday, August 21, 2010

John Mayer at Shoreline

After work yesterday, I went to watch John Mayer perform at the Shoreline Amphitheater. Owl City opened the concert with a bunch of their favorites like Hello Seattle and Fireflies.

I first heard Owl City on Pandora a couple of years ago when they were still not widely known. I remember finding their style a bit eclectic, but fun. Seeing Owl City live was interesting for two reasons:

1) Owl City is actually just one person (Adam Young) who started out playing in his Minnesota basement. I had heard that before, but seeing it for myself was a whole different story. It was really quite amazing to see what Adam was able to create on his own.

2) The songs had very distinct beats that made it easy to move to the music. Seated on the lawn, I got a chance to practice some of the isolation moves I'd been learning in my beginning hip-hop classes.

After Owl City finished, there was a forty-five minute lull before John Mayer took the stage. I passed the time people-watching, digitally and otherwise. On the large screen in front of the lawn, there was an announcement inviting viewers to text in messages to a Shoreline number. These messages then scrolled by on a ticker-tape on the bottom of the screen.

It was almost like a live Twitter stream of people's thoughts except with some amount of anonymity. There were the expected shout-outs, the "I love you"s, the "happy birthday"s, and the "me + John Mayer = lovers"s. There were also some anonymous come-ons and snide comments: "to the boy in the green sweatshirt, I think you're cute and you could do much better...". 

Besides being an entertaining way of passing the time, these snippets got me thinking. To the casual outside observer of these messages, the names are faceless and may as well be characters in a story. For any given message, there were probably only a handful of people who knew the context and stories of the people featured in the message. To the rest of us, it was just an anonymous blast, a stream of consciousness that probably would never get shared in person. How much of our days are spent internally voicing such thoughts that never get aired in public? And when they are aired in such anonymous mediums, are they still genuine or fictionalized?

Anyway, I stopped pondering such weighty questions as soon as John Mayer burst on to the stage with Vultures. My first impression of John was that he looked slightly crazy with his unkempt hair and old-school headband, but that he was also completely comfortable and at ease in his own skin. His musical improvisations and impromptu, unfiltered comments in between set pieces only made him appear more genuine and strengthened his connection with the audience.

I'll try to recount some of the ridiculous things he did, but probably won't be able to do them full justice. In the middle of one song, he broke off to do a series of faux rocker-poses "for the photographers" since every picture of him playing makes him look "like a damn fool". In the lead-in to Who Says, the first song he played from his new album, he asked us how many people in the audience thought he was high at the moment. "I'm not high... but that's what a person who's high would say..." And "I've done nothing but arouse suspicions... and myself...". And near the end of the concert, he unabashedly admitted that he'd had too much tea and had to go to the bathroom.  Seriously, I can't make this stuff up.

John also gave the audience a bit of advice that resonated with me. "Eighty-five percent of the weight on your shoulders", most of what you worry about every day, is nothing. Burdened with self-consciousness, we often spend so much of our time fretting about little, inconsequential decisions, about how "our worst enemy" would rip us apart for it. Just let it go.


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