On March 10th of this year, I turned 21 years old. In Britain, where I’m currently studying and working abroad, this event typically wouldn’t be celebrated more than any other birthday. However, in the United States, a young person might expect to experience a few significant birthdays, around which a particularly big fuss must be made. Depending on the young American’s culture, preferences, and perhaps and their family’s enthusiasm to celebrate, they might have a bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah at 12 or 13, a quinceñera at 15, or a ‘sweet sixteen’ – all of which in some way mark one’s entry into social ‘adulthood’. On an 18th birthday, Americans become legal adults and can vote, file taxes, enlist in the military, and more. Finally, on their 21st birthday, they can legally drink alcohol. I was personally relieved to have an excuse out of the American tradition of excessively over-drinking with one’s friends on the night of my 21st, having been able to drink reasonably, comfortably, and legally since arriving here in January.
Even though I had been in London and participating in British culture for the last few months, I knew I still wanted to do something that honoured the American cultural significance of a 21st birthday, especially since my last two birthdays came and went uneventfully under the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period of lockdown in the U.S., I was able to dive further into my own world of music; figuring out more earnestly what I liked, practising my own writing and singing, and discovering new bands and artists whom I would come to love. One such band, which popped up in my Spotify algorithm, caught my attention in the winter of 2020 with two singles in particular. “Double Denim Hop” and “Stockholm City Rock” made me feel alive, creatively engaged, and excited at the prospect that I might someday again be able to go out, experience live music in a public venue, and have a great time with other concert-goers. On March 10, to celebrate my twenty-first birthday, these wishful thoughts were actualized when I attended Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard’s live show at the Scala, London.
After acquiring two tickets online for twelve pounds each, my roommate and I arrived at the somewhat intimate venue an hour before the show began. Only a few hours later, I left feeling energised, grateful, and satisfied that I had celebrated my birthday doing something I really wanted to do – and in a way, fulfilling my younger self’s fantasies of attending a concert for the first time in years. The experience was as much a gift to my past self as it was to myself now.
Despite the band’s often nonsensical and cheekily-cynical lyrics, the joy and sense of chaotic fun that Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard provides audiences is guaranteed. The group has quite a lot to offer someone who loves classic rock, but who has felt unsatisfied with the small selection of modern rock she’d heard in recent years. The pandemic did no favours to glamorous, silly, fun music either; the situation was too serious to engage in art and music that didn’t appropriately embody the same sombreity. Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, however, follows in the musical and aesthetic footsteps of glam rock, alternative movements, and blues-based folk rock; the drums are powerful, the hooks are catchy, the vocals and harmonies are prominent, and of course, the band’s hair is long and unkempt. At one point, the frontman addressed the audience in between songs to admit that he was tearing up at the sight of everyone singing along to lyrics we all knew. I understood his sentimentality – it was a small venue, and the community feeling that came from experiencing the show alongside other dedicated fans made it intimately special for everyone involved. It was as if the private, insular experience of listening to this music and enjoying it alone in separate bedrooms was completely validated when we all came together in a public setting, dancing among others who had likely also wished to be back with ‘each other’ – with strangers – for years. To participate in live music is to participate in a collective coming-together of fandom and support between audience members and each other, as well as between the band and the audience. That night, we all felt the electrifying results of that unity.
Leaving the Scala, I realised I understood what people mean when they talk about the ‘healing power of music’ and arts. It was incredibly cathartic to scream and jump around with a group of people who, I’m sure, have also wanted to do nothing but scream and jump around for the past two years (and maybe still do). Although the global pandemic has not yet ‘ended’ (and we should be cautious in treating it as though it has), attending this Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard concert nonetheless ignited in me a heightened sense of hope and optimism. Perhaps this comes from the positive messages within the music itself, or maybe in the way that the experience validated my hopes that if people can now attend a concert again somewhere in the world, then maybe globally, all forms of arts will once again be available, providing the best that human creativity has to offer. I’m optimistic that similar experiences can and will be enjoyed by everyone who feels they missed out on or lost something during the pandemic. Whatever kind of loss that may be, concerts have the potential to give something back to artists and audiences alike, and restore a bit of joy. They remind audiences that there are reasons to be optimistic for the future – an important thought to bear in mind on one’s birthday. At the very least, my experience seeing Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard in concert has certainly given me reason to think that my optimism and hope will come to fruition.