Sociologists have long understood the importance of what are called “weak ties.” That is, those social connections that are juxtaposed with the “strong ties” of immediate family circles and close friendships. These weak ties form a set of dispersed social bonds that are important for individuals’ feelings of belongingness, acceptance, community, and so forth. They can everything from identity formation and re-enforcement, to job opportunities, to the establishment of deeper friendships, and so on. Mark Granovetter wrote about them in the 1970s in “The Strength of Weak Ties.” Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000), explored similar ideas amidst what he saw as a decline in face-to-face personal interaction and the changing landscape of civic involvement.
Music scenes are almost wholly predicated on a multitude of these weak ties. Those people we see at shows, meet on gigs, musicians in pickup bands, stage technicians, bartenders and servers, audience members, and so forth make up a broad network of associations. We’re not all “best friends” and we often don’t see each other outside of these contexts, but when we do, these transient experiences really matter.
So I just want to say to all those folks who I would have normally seen in the course of playing music live, those sound techs and band members waiting in the wings on a festival stage, those audiences and servers at a bar or theatre, those fellow musical travellers at jam sessions or checking out a band:
I miss you!