There’s a part in ‘Scott Street’ by Phoebe Bridgers where she describes an encounter with an old friend who’s in a band and is feeling left behind because everyone else is “getting married”.
When I heard Bridgers sing these few lines to a packed-out John Peel tent on the Friday of Glastonbury this year, a strange thing happened: I burst into tears. Obviously, Bridgers is an affecting performer whose songs have quickly become part of the official Sad Girl Canon, so it’s not surprising that a listener might cry — but I’d seen her play on many occasions before and those lyrics had never particularly stung in the past.
This time, however, the circumstances were a little different. Suddenly, after years of shuttered summers and winters spent sitting in parks, wearing my biggest coats and ensuring I was at least two metres away from all of the people I love most in the world, I found myself back at Glastonbury like I was 25 again and nothing had changed at all. ‘Scott Street’ is a song about arrested development, about slowly watching everyone else grow up around you while you stay the same. Suddenly, I couldn’t help but apply its words to myself and to everything that had happened to me during the three years away: everything I had had ahead of me when I was last at the festival, and everything I’d failed at since. I had never felt so old and so young at the same time.
It’s unsurprising that it took live music to draw these emotions out of me; it’s a stirring, mood-altering thing to experience at the best of times. But in 2022, it seemed particularly intense. At every music event I went to, whether it was a festival or just a bog-standard gig, it felt like everyone, having been kept away from these spaces for so long, was processing the previous few years in different — but equally outwardly emotional — ways.
“It was an important reminder of everything we get from going to concerts: joy that is both communal and individual, catharsis, discernment about our own lives —and a dark room to cry in, if you need one”
This year, feelings were as heavy in the musical air as ElfBar smoke and dry ice — from the many, many reports of tears at Self Esteem concerts, her take on contemporary femininity so comforting to such a lot of people, to the young fans screaming venues down at previously unheard volumes for artists like Lorde, Mitski and Harry Styles.
Indeed, these newer music fans have had it especially rough: lockdowns meant that for many teenagers, 2022 symbolised a first foray into live music, after having to make do with online footage and TikToks of favourite artists. The outpouring of emotion, therefore, is understandable and even moving. You can watch videos on your phone so much you start inflecting your sentences with the word “guys”, but it’s nothing compared to the live experience, and the realisation that screaming because you love something, in this space, this holy church, is OK. What a powerful thing to understand for the first time.
For these younger fans, then, as well as for the slightly more seasoned among us, one of 2022’s best tricks by far was becoming the year that saw live music make its proper return. As such, it was also an important reminder of everything we get from going to concerts: joy that is both communal and individual, catharsis, discernment about our own lives —and a dark room to cry in, if you need one.