Why Live Music in Small Places Matters

Music is intimate. Seeing it should be, too.

Vanessa Torre


Photo by author — Better Oblivion Community Center at Crescent Ballroom — April 2019

There’s no huge stage. No major lighting design. The green room is probably weird. There’s most likely a smoke machine and a hand written set list taped to the floor.

You know if they’ll play your favorite song because you can see the set list. They’ll give it to you after the show.

A couple years ago, I remember everyone posting on social media about the U2 show at a huge arena in town. Now, I have nothing against U2 but I have a lot against arena shows. I come away from them cold. There’s no intimacy.

It’s loud and crowded. You can’t see the band, even projected on a big screen. If there is any nuance to the performance, you miss it. I don’t want to miss that. I want the good stuff.

Jason Isbell was playing at a few hundred person place the same night. I know where I would rather be.

There are moments you get to experience at a small concert that you will never get in an arena show. There’s a feeling of being part of something bigger, and much louder, than you. It’s art. It should be seen up close.

The best show I have ever seen was played to a group of 200 people. It was general admission and standing room only.

In a small venue, you can stand three feet from a speaker and come away with your hearing intact and your soul freed.

It was American Aquarium at Rebel Lounge in Phoenix and I had never seen them play before. But, damn. That music.

I will say one thing about BJ Barham, the band’s front man. That man plays music with such god damn joy that I would travel great lengths, anytime, at whatever cost, just to see him do it.

I’m not talking about just having a good time. I’m talking about getting to see him look at the guitar player and smile as if to say, “Yeah, they pay us to do this.”

It was like they were little boys who just got away with stealing a piece of candy and no one was ever going…



Vanessa Torre

Top 10 feminist writer. Writing, coaching, and relentlessly hyping women in midilfe. linktr.ee/Vanessaltorre Email: vanessa@vanessatorre.com