What a Live! show is.

Written by Mark Meneses

Walking into PAX on June 2nd was one of the most impressive moments I've ever had in my time at Live!

There was never a stage better suited in Miami for our show than the one under the limelights that day. Outlined with timeless rock memorabilia, incandescent light projections, and an elaborate stage setup, the venue made the audience question, "Are we here for our kids, or is U2 in town?" And yes, I actually heard someone say that.

Live! concerts had been big before, but never had they been as excited as the one on June 2nd. With over 50 performers—a total of 18 bands—we expected an exponential crowd. That's what we got. Family, friends, neighbors, they were all there—even some ex-students and passersby came to see what the show was all about—and when the show began, I was wondering from where all the people were streaming in. Everything was fully tuned and ready by the time we opened the show, and it couldn't have gone smoother. 

I'm sitting down to write this with all sensation and not enough words. I could write about the music, but it wouldn't do the show justice to talk about such talented kids—young musicians, really—to be playing at such high skill levels (and such young ages) in a concert review. It wouldn't do any of it justice to call this a "review" at all. It wouldn't be fair, because we don't put on these shows to be reviewed. I could talk about Michael Taddeo's killer guitar solo or David Lehr's impressive bass lines or even Max Cohen's adorable rendition of "Jar of Hearts" (nothing written about that performance will do it justice). Those have to be experienced firsthand, in an audience. There's nothing to review when you attend a show put on by a group of Miami's young musicians, ecstatic and thrilled, to perform the songs they love. Sagacity is, simply, unfair.

Mark Meneses and Valeria Ayala

Instead I'd like to focus on the general feeling of the show—the "zeitgeist," so to speak—that enveloped the crowd that afternoon; the feelings and emotions that passed through there from the stage to the audience and back again. As a musician and an advocate of the arts, I think these sensations is the most important thing about our shows. It's nice to look forward to having a showcase at the end of each term, but that's not the reason we do it; it's not a matter of showing off. We do this for parents, for the audience, yes, but not nearly as much as we do it for the kids on the stage. It is first and foremost for them.

That's what brings me to the main point of this article, and why I decided to write such a personal piece for this month's Cadence. As soon as the show began and I saw what I've been seeing so long but never quite understood (was I too young? Perhaps) was what it's like to give breath to something so explosive. Retrospectively, I realized it's impossible to give a proper account of what happens at these concerts. It's a personal discourse, nothing short of surreal for these young musicians. You realize that narrating this personal connection you have to these kids and the songs they play is just terribly conveyed in something deemed a "review". Everything was much more than that. It was as if it were too good to be true. In memory, it became fiction.

Most impressive was the show's sincerity. As soon as you experienced those kids walking out onto the stage, some of them with instruments taller than their own bodies, you realize what kind of a place Live! really is. It puts people somewhere, and it puts people somewhere together. There's a stigma with after-school programs and art schools, that they're just there for kids to have something to do, to wait for parents to get out of work or to keep the kids off the streets. I'm happy to say Live! never reflected that agenda; sure, we may do those things, but what's great about the arts—and what's reflective on these kids' faces when they walk onstage and plug in—is how much they actually want to be there. It would be obstructive to call a show like this a recital at all; there is so much more to what the kids did on June 2nd than just perform.

From first to last song, there was a narrative on the stage. It was simultaneously a breaching of convention and a slap-on-the-forehead gesture that said "Of course, how can these kids not perform?"

Even first time performers gained higher ground at PAX. Kids in private lessons practiced for a few weeks before the show, but they performed like they were true stage experts. The stage presence was reverberating with poise and maturity, from Angelique Rose's Zeppelin cover to Keren Yunger's soulful Valerie rendition—it was obvious these kids knew what they were doing, and they were doing it well. Some of these musicians hadn't ever been on a stage before, and you ask yourself how that could be. And then you realize that it's never going to be a lost dream for these kids, to never be musicians and play in front of a crowd and hear those applause and cheers. No one at Live! is ever going to say "I wish I would have done that," because they did.

Sounds like something you'd like to be a part of?

Max singing "Jar of Hearts"

Max singing "Jar of Hearts"

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