Better Love - Drew Holcomb + the Neighbors (mp3)
Live music exists for the moment that superglues itself into your memory.
But certain concert moments, even if they're just a part of the nightly act... well, those memories don't leave.
Michael Stipe's introduction to "World Leader Pretend" on the Green Tour in 1989. Him, with his funky mascara, alone with a snare drum.
I've got dozens of these little snippets, but I guess they probably don't mean much to anyone else. Concert memories are, like miracle golf shots and SNL jokes, very much "guess you had to be there" stories.
But my most recent one is worth sharing.
Because I got there late, I don't know quite how the chemistry formed, but I have a few clues. First off, we're an all-boys school, and Ellie Holcomb is just about 120% adorable. Adorable singing adult women can hold 120 boys at attention with little difficulty. Second, Drew Holcomb is a pretty laid back and cool dude. The kind of singer-songwriter that adorable singing adult women like Ellie undoubtedly find irresistible. The two of them had the perfect amount of relaxed sincerity, a delicate quality teenage boys respect.
Then Ellie kicked it up a notch with a verbal gaffe. Between songs, she commented, "I've never been with this many guys before."
And with that, and her ability to live with the teen testosterone guffaws, Ellie was made an unofficial member of the class.
The chorus to "Better Love" is all too simple. And repetitive. "Better love, Better love I see." On the third chorus, Drew and Ellie kinda asked the crowd to sing along.
Um, hello? Drew? Ellie? Maybe y'all don't understand groupthink. Maybe y'all don't understand teenage boys. But, um, they don't do sing-alongs. A room of 120 17- and 18-year-olds don't start singing along with a chorus with the word "love" in it, not unless it's in some shredding hard rock or punk or screamo anthem for the age. Certainly not in the quiet hush of a single acoustic guitar and two voices.
But sing they did. At first maybe a dozen or so guys added their voices to the mix. But the numbers were enough to build on, like that first attempt at The Wave at a sporting event. By the third time around, a room adolescent males were singing a heartbreaking chorus about hope and dissatisfaction, and I was wiping tears from my eyes.
In all of our stereotypes about boys and males, it's important to remember that the forest doesn't always speak for the trees.
A moment like this one, hearing a hundred untrained and unexpected male voices join the intimate chorus, is why educators will never disappear.