By: Kyle DiRaddo
Back when going to a concert wasn’t a way of potentially contracting a life-threatening disease (cue the Wook Flu joke), my favorite part of going to an outdoor show in the summer was that special time just before the sun had completely set. Above your head the sky would turn the most gorgeous array of golds and auburns and pinks and dark blues while all around you people were breaking out their various light-up contraptions to enhance the visuals for the evening…whether they be natural or enhanced in some way. Some would spin while others would change color regularly or blink to a seemingly never-ending steady cadence. Looking out over the crowd of people as the totems and hula hoops and glowy-finger-glove things began to light up always instilled excitement in me. Soon the sun would go down and since the freaks come out at night, I could always anticipate a little freakiness coming my way.
Far and away the most popular item of the glimmering persuasion used at shows is the glow stick. Invented in 1913 by German aristocrat Sir Edward von Glowstickenstein to help him with his snipe hunting endeavors, the glow stick was taken up by the burgeoning rave scene of the early 1990’s and then by the jam scene as a whole later that decade. While the glow stick is not everyone’s cup of tea (I’m looking at you environmentalists), they have the capability of creating incredible visual effects when at just the right moment, a large group of people toss them in the air simultaneously to watch them come crashing back to Earth in a hailstorm of all the colors of the rainbow. Truth be told, they can be an amazing accent to the peak of a killer song or the filling-rattling drop of the bass at an EDM party. The problem, however, is this: no one is doing it right.
Whether Trey Anastasio is ripping up the apex of “Run Like an Antelope” or GRiZ is putting the finishing touches of “P.S.G.F.Y.”, there is inevitably going to be the moment where the song hits its peak. The lighting director is going to throw those huge crowd covering lights on and those so inclined are going to hurl their glow sticks into the air. And you know who is going to see those glow sticks and their dreamlike colorful streaks through the air? No one. No one is going to see them.
Why, you ask? Because the lights are turned all the way up, dummy. That is the conundrum that appears automatically when the peak coincides with the lights being blasted across the crowd like a bucket of red paint from an animal rights activist on some chinchilla fur coat wearing douche. Do you throw your sticks when the music hits just right or when the lights are set appropriately for visual stimulation? Glow sticks don’t work as well in the light, but when is there a better time to throw them when the song has reached its zenith? Sure, you might catch a smattering of the colors if the lights come down in time, but you certainly aren’t getting the full affect.
Your body’s natural instinct is to launch those bad boys when it feels like the song has taken over your person and is working you like a marionette, but I urge you to fight that instinct. I urge you to wait until the lights are back down and everyone is back to finding their simple groove. I urge you to surprise the shit out of some dude eight rows behind you whose third eye hasn’t blinked in over an hour. Neither one of you may know it at the time, but it just might be what he needs to come back from wherever his cosmic mind adventures have taken him.
Simply put, if you are going to glow stick, make sure you glow stick the right way. Make sure you glow stick when everyone around you will be able to enjoy the visual before being pelted with what seems to be an endless barrage of glowing nuisances. And most importantly of all: if you are going to glow stick, clean up after yourselves.