I don't wish to diminish the many and lovely notions of musically-induced communal ecstacy, but examination of the matter always makes me uneasy. It may just be my psyche getting up to its usual tricks, but I can't separate any such experiences I've undergone from an essentially narcissistic impulse, and the (perhaps equally narcissistic) guilt that I feel about the whole deal when I reflect upon it. For me, much of the satisfaction derived from a really earth-rending live-music experience takes the form of self-satisfaction at being witness to a rather exclusive EVENT of serious STATURE, and one that's probably beyond the ken of regular working, sleeping, meal-eating types.
Certainly there's a strong sense of communion involved, but how much of that is informed by a sort of siege mentality? When I think of specific concerts that have really hit me, I can't help but conjure up a fiddling-while-Rome-burns image; reality is fucked but I am king of this rather excellent little shit storm. I think I already mentioned a debate I watched recently between William F. Buckley and Christopher Hitchens, in which the former fella (there's a pun on mortality in there) glibly dismissed the conspicuous end of the civil rights movement (parades, rallies, Woodstock etc) as 'masturbatory'. Hitchens, having been directly involved, did not strongly reject this notion, although he upgraded it to full-on copulative status. He IS a sort of grinning frog-man (is Andrew Lloyd Webber moonlighting as a former-Marxist political pundit and anti-religion hatchet man?), freelove champion or not, but that assessment seems depressingly close to my experience of...you know...fun.
Is all of this paradoxical?