20,000 Strong, If Only for a Few Hours
Ever since I was a little girl, Fleetwood Mac has been one of my favorite bands. I’ve always loved the song “Go Your Own Way,” which could be a mantra for so many of life’s troublesome situations. So, naturally, when I learned the band was playing in Detroit, I jumped at the chance to go. However, I observed much more on this excursion than just the concert itself.
Let me start by saying the concert was at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit. If you’ve ever been there, I don’t need to describe what an awful mess the parking and building entrances are. If you haven’t, imagine this scenario: 20,000 people in x-number of cars trying to get from the expressway to a parking garage in nothing more than two lanes. Once inside the garage, traffic merges into one dicey lane. In essence, visitors are forced into a train moving at less than one mile per hour, all clamoring for a parking spot in spaces that are much too tight for the average vehicle. Plenty of drivers during this phase have short tempers and are quick to bleep their horns, give the finger, or roll down the window with the express purpose of shouting a string of obscenities.
After actually finding a spot, and climbing multiple levels in the dark, airless garage, visitors must then trek to the arena and enter by either joining a seemingly endless line of people that is both long and wide, or actually leave the garage to walk up a flight of steep stairs and enter via one of several glass doors. Inside, women have to hand their purses over to uniformed individuals who scour them for weapons and/or sharp objects. While this is happening, everybody has to go through a metal detector. Obviously, this whole process isn't a lot of fun, and again, lots of people jostle and bump into each other in their vain attempts to cut in line.
Inside, everything is utter chaos. Some people want beers and snacks, while others are desperate for souvenir t-shirts. Groups of enthusiastic concert-goers block the walkways, so you can hardly move as you’re trying to find the section where you’re seated. And meanwhile, you’ve been touched, pushed, elbowed, and generally manhandled as 20,000 people all have the same goal in mind: to hear the music that’s about to begin (while you’re still maneuvering the jam-packed walkways with those who are too excited to sit).
But once seated, after the lights finally go down and the stage comes to life, I realize with a start that music has the power to transcend human pettiness and unite even the most unlikely of people. That rambunctious crowd, which had previously sloshed beer and tripped one another to get inside the doors, is suddenly a coherent and stable unit. We no longer mind the arena’s hard seats and have forgotten the sheer headache given by the parking garage. We are instantly changed from hostile to pleasant and friendly.
Without thought for yesterday or tomorrow, the arena sings along with Fleetwood Mac’s most well-known tunes. We keep our eyes riveted to the stage (rather than worry about what the people beside us are doing) and clap and whistle when the time is right. Even more astounding, we do this in nearly syncopated rhythm, our moves all but choreographed. We’re all friends.
Of course, by the end of the concert, our harmony is much thinner. The last few songs increasingly dampen our unity, and it’s not long before we remember a race must be won if we hope to return to our cars and escape the parking garage before dawn. As people begin clamoring for the doors and Fleetwood Mac leaves the stage, all appreciation for music is gone. We are once more in a mad dash, running into each other and jockeying for our rightful positions in the walkways. But during those three hours of the concert, the powerful vocals and instrumentation wrought a peace and accord that could not be denied. That is how I’ll remember the night, as one that simultaneously touched the hearts of 20,000 people.