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Jeff Miers: The live music ritual just might add years to your life – if you can stand the company

I've wanted to get into yoga for the past several years, but I just can’t deal with the pants. They look like something Richie Sambora would have worn, circa 1986. The hair-metal haberdashery conflicts with the Eastern philosophy at yoga's heart in a manner that I find off-putting.  Laziness and lack of motivation, of course, have nothing to do with it.

Still, I've had the nagging feeling that I need to do something to marry body and mind in a way that might bring me some peace and contribute to my over-all health.

Turns out I've been doing so for decades, sans spandex.

A study conducted by UK telecommunications giant O2 and Patrick Fagan, a Behavioral Science expert and Associate Lecturer at Goldsmith’s, University of London, has found that attending concerts improves mental and physical health and can lead to “high levels of well-being and a lifespan increase of nine years.” This is the best news I've heard in ages, and I'm sure many of you are breathing a similar sigh of relief.

In a press release announcing the results of the study, Fagen proclaimed that “our research showcases the profound impact gigs have on feelings of health, happiness, and well-being – with fortnightly or regular attendance being the key.”

So if I go to a show at least once every two weeks, I'm actually likely to live longer? Hallelujah! That means I can go to even more gigs.

Pushing to the side the fact that O2, which initiated the study, owns London's O2 Arena, one of the busiest concert venues in the world, and therefore stands to gain from propagating the idea that "more concerts equals better health," the results underscore an idea that most of us in Buffalo have long been familiar with - live music enhances and enriches life.

Another piece making the rounds during the same period as the O2 report boasts the intriguing headline "Brain waves of concertgoers sync up at shows." That piece cites a Canadian study conducted by cognitive neuroscientists, the results of which suggest that the brain waves of concertgoers synchronized with those of other audience members, and when that happened, a sense of connection to the performers led to an intense feeling of enjoyment.  I've felt this, from my first concert in 1980, through the present day.

You're feeling it. Is your neighbor? (Getty Images)

But I'm an idealist, admittedly, a truth that was driven home when I conducted an informal social media poll on the topic and was slightly surprised by the number of responses very in much in line with the infamous maxim attributed to Jean-Paul Sartre, "Hell is other people." (My poll, focused on Buffalo-area concertgoers, consisted of these questions: "When you attend a concert do you feel a connection with other concertgoers? If so, does that deepen your sense of connection to the performers making the music? Is the ritual of shared experience part of the attraction? Or do you get just as much out of music when you're listening at home through a good set of headphones?")

The majority of respondents claimed to feel a connection with the performers but not much of one to their fellow concertgoers, a group derided as, among other things, "obnoxious," "stupid," "drunk," "cellphone-obsessed," "clueless" and given to singing along, loudly and in a different zip code than the actual key of the song. Ouch.

The groups that broke with this general consensus in my survey? Dead-heads and Phish fans. For them, the perfect concert experience consists of a triangle of energy transferred between, and fed by, the individual concertgoer, the collective crowd, and the musicians performing on stage.

Interestingly, that's a concept in keeping with yoga's general tenets. Make of it what you will.

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