Playing drums in rock bands for the past 25 years taught me many things. But one thing is certain—there is no substitute for performing live. A visceral collaboration between audience and musician, each show is unrepeatable, made up of moments together which will never unfold in quite the same way again. When it's good, there is a palpable energy shared between band and crowd, both with feeling invested. The more engaged the audience, the better the show. Sharing the emotional highs and lows of a performance, we bond. These real experiences, as our lives become increasingly cyber, make us feel connected to each other in ways the internet simply cannot replicate.
Moments before Sunday night's tip off, as I sat waiting in a sold-out Moda Center, it struck me that a Blazer game is not so different from a great rock show. My anticipation, along with that of 20,000 feverish fans, was tangible. The sheer volume inside the Moda Center was overwhelming. The Blazers' player introductions, a high tech explosion created specially for these playoffs, drops like a freight train. The stadium is electric—screaming, cheering, stomping fans, seemingly all of them decked out in red and black. It is an exhilarating scene. And like at a concert, the audience wants the team (band) to play hard and the players expect the crowd to get on their feet and make some noise.
This has been an absolute tornado of a series, the fans becoming intense as Sundayâs game heats up. When Dwight Howard missed an easy dunk, the ball bouncing high off the rim, the crowd erupted in a joyous cry. Batumâs three pointer to tie the game instigated a deafening roar. The fans rode the hair-raising roller coaster that is game 4 as if they were the ones on the floor. After the refs made what appeared to be numerous bad calls, the entire building spontaneously chanted âTHESE REFS SUCK. THESE REFS SUCK.â This is why they call home court an advantage.
As a media person sitting in a press section, however, I am not licensed to behave as a fan. Cheering is frowned upon. The other writers are frantically typing on their laptops, monitoring tweets, checking stats, observing but not participating. I found it almost impossible not to jump to my feet when remarkable Wes Matthews took a strong Harden charge. I quickly learned to howl and yelp without moving my mouth, and chant DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE into my hands. This game is all-out playoff basketball, stressful, traumatic, surging. But without physical stress relief, the clap alongs, the rallying calls, the whooping, I felt out of sorts.
The anxiety-inducing game ended after five tense quarters, Portland finding a way to win it 123-120. Elated and relieved, the crowd celebrated under cascading streamers. As I exited the stadium with hordes of Blazer lovers, there was a bona-fide sense of togetherness in the air: We survived. Strangers hugged, high fived, yelled, honked their car horns as if the team just won a championship.
When asked what I love most about playing in a band, it is that feeling of being onstage, the crowd entirely with you, like you can do no wrong, completely in the moment, totally alive. I'll bet the Blazers feel the same way.