Music provides comfort, even in the rain

At Pentatonix’s concert Sunday at the Canfield Fairgrounds, I talked to a woman who drove eight hours from Chicago to be at the show.

She told me, “They literally saved my life. A lot of their fans have anxiety, depression. We wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for their music. They’ve created a safe space, especially for their LGBTQ fans.”

She had Scott Hoying write “Happy Now” on her right bicep and Mitch Grassi write “Loved” on her left arm at an earlier show, and she had their words turned into permanent tattoos. I got the feeling they weren’t just permanent souvenirs; they were affirmations she needed and consulted regularly.

The next day on Facebook, a friend shared a song by Youngstown band Northern Whale called “If It Weren’t for Music, I’d Probably Be Dead.” In the comment thread he said, “Seriously, Bob Mould is probably the only reason I’m still walking this earth.”

Now an a cappella vocal group and the guitar and voice behind Husker Du, Sugar and a dozen solo albums don’t have much in common. I’m not holding my breath for an a cappella arrangement of “Makes No Sense at All” on Pentatonix’s next collection of covers.

But those stories from opposite ends of the musical spectrum speak to the redemptive and healing power of music and the comfort that can be found being surrounded by like-minded fans.

That woman who came to the show from Chicago wasn’t an anomaly. It seemed like most of the fans who arrived early for the VIP meet-and-greet traveled great distances to be there. I talked to women who came from Milwaukee, Tampa, even California. And it was clear from the way they interacted with each other that they’d attended other Pentatonix concerts and meet-and-greets.

Being together under the grandstand of a fairgounds with their fellow Pentatonix fans in some state they’d probably never visited before felt more like “home” at that moment than the places they were from.

The show itself left many fans wanting more. The demands of both shooting photos and writing a feature and trying to get everything done to meet a newspaper deadline meant I wasn’t in the grandstand when the concert was cut short by lightning and heavy rain. If I’d dropped a couple bills for prime tickets and got a fraction of the music I expected, I’d be frustrated too.

Rachel Platten’s opening set was moved up and shortened a bit to get Pentatonix on stage earlier. It appeared the stage was ready for Pentatonix at least 15 minutes before the group came out around 9 p.m. That delay only added to some of the rage.

While local ticket buyers understandably were angry, the travelers — who spent far more than just the cost of their tickets — seemed less so, at least judging by the comments on Pentatonix’s social media.

The music is important, but a shortened show didn’t diminish that feeling of community. If it’s your 10th Pentatonix concert, an abbreviated concert where you sang along to “Hallelujah” in a downpour is a better story than that eighth Pentatonix show that went off without a hitch.

I’ve driven as far as Washington, D.C., to see a Bob Mould show, and I’m really hoping to see him again Wednesday at the Music Box Supper Club. Bob Mould didn’t save my life, but “See a Little Light,” “Helpless” and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” instantly can change my mood.

For those who’ve been reading The Ticket for years and for those who may be reading it for the first time in their Vindicator edition of the Tribune Chronicle, one of my goals is to tell you something you didn’t know about the acts you already love and maybe expose you to your next favorite artist.

It could be one of the national acts playing the venues in Youngstown and Warren; it could be an act that calls the Mahoning Valley home. Northern Whale isn’t a bad place to start, and I’ve never had a bad time at a show by current artists like the Labra Brothers, Hoss & the Juggernauts, Demos Papadimas and The Vindys or vintage Youngstown act The Infidels.

And one thing that’s so appealing about the local music scene is how supportive the acts seem to be of one another. Many local acts will celebrate the life of Cortland musician Jeff Welsh, who died last month, on Sunday out at Willow Lake Campground. Nearly every weekend, it seems like there is a benefit where players are donating their time and talent to raise money for one of their own battling illness.

I hope Ticket can help readers find their tribe, their musical community.

— Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at agray@tribtoday ­­.com


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