After a lengthy hiatus, live music events are finally ringing in their grand return.
Before live shows were put on pause, concert-goers frequently used the expression “post-concert depression” (PCD) to describe the melancholy experienced after the thrill of a concert.
“Pre-pandemic shows had such an energy,” Emma DellaVecchia, a 24-year-old UF alumna and frequent High Dive attendee said. “Having to return to the reality of the world while still having the adrenaline of a concert, trying to hold onto those moments, it hurts.”
Home to musicians like Tom Petty and Stephen Stills, Gainesville is more than well-known for its music scene. When unforeseen closures of venues and tour date postponements took place in March 2020, the live-music world was left in shambles.
This summer, local venues like High Dive and Heartwood Soundstage began holding socially distanced in-person shows with masks and temperature checks required at the door. Music festivals like Tampa’s Sunset Music Festival have also returned this season.
DellaVecchia said she is excited for live venues to come back to the community.
“As the pandemic worsened, I worried about the fate of all the small venues that give Gainesville such personality,” DellaVecchia said. “I’m vaccinated and hoping to go to a concert in late summer.”
While it’s no question that the days following a great live show can feel mundane, one researcher started to wonder if the words “post-concert depression” were giving the social-syndrome undue psychological influence.
Last summer, Lyen Krenz Yap became the first professional to conduct a formal study of PCD. Until July 2020, the social science community steered clear from any attempt to analyze the psychological merit, or lack thereof, behind PCD.
Yap, a registered psychometrician at Ateneo de Davao University in Davao, Philippines, used a quantitative and qualitative survey to put PCD to the test.
The survey examined concert-goers’ experiences immediately after the event and again two weeks later. Yap constructed a preliminary clinical description of PCD based on the participants’ perspectives and mood alterations.
“The study was a pioneering attempt at a clinical description for an unexplored psychological phenomenon experienced by a niche group of individuals, so I wasn't hoping for a specific hypothesis, and I didn't really know what to expect going in,” Yap said.
Yap’s concluding definition states PCD consists of “the sudden, overwhelming, and rapid downward crash, characterized by a feeling of recurring emptiness, disappointment, longing, and heartache, after a very long-awaited fulfilling high moment.”
According to Yap’s study, many concert-goers undergo an intense elation that abruptly comes to an end with a curtain call. As attendees yearn to relive the experience, they often become discouraged by the return to normal life– even fearful they will never have that kind of emotional high again.
Sebastian Sayavedra, a local musician and engineer, reflected on the pandemic’s impact on live performances.
“I was very distraught about the absence of live music in my life, both as a musician and a music lover,” Sayavedra said. “Now with more small-scale shows and festivals coming back to life, it has certainly raised my spirits!”
Sayavedra’s last performance was on May 8 at Heartwood Soundstage. The bassist and guitarist also said he’s no stranger to the sentimental experiences of a concert-goer.
“I would describe it as more of a nostalgic feeling with elements of sadness, but also with elements of inspiration as well,” he said.
Yap’s study revealed that 90% of survey participants, ages 19-25, expressed feelings of great euphoria immediately after the concert. Two weeks after, nearly 60% expressed feelings of separation anxiety from the event, with 68% of the concert-goers also reporting the anxiety lasted beyond two weeks.
Her research provides insight into the psychological influence concerts can have on attendees. The controversy around PCD is less about its existence and more about whether the wording chosen to describe the syndrome and the attempt to legitimize it clinically is disrespectful to people who face serious chronic depression.
David Carlson, professor of rock ’n’ roll and American society at UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, said although post-concert crashes are real, the term PCD is something to warrant concern.
"Some people, regardless of age, experience strong emotions during and after a great live music show,” Carlson said. “I have had those experiences myself. "But to attribute these emotions to a psychological syndrome and to name it something that could seem to equate it with experiencing war or childbirth, to cite just two examples, seems farcical to me.”
Carlson is not the only one who feels the word “depression” should be approached with caution. Yap said that while PCD is endured by many, the term itself could use some revision.
“My study concluded that PCD is a normal experience under DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) standards, and it may pose as a possible identifier in the future (with more research),” Yap said. “But if it's possible to find another term to describe the experience, the community as a whole would benefit.”
Jamie Robinson, a concert-goer from south Florida, traveled to Gainesville every Fall for the past six years just for The Fest, an annual punk rock music festival.
“I’ve never said ‘post-concert depression’ really, but a lot of people and I would say we had ‘post-Fest’ when we were driving back home,” Robinson said. “The days after Fest, I always felt really groggy, and it’s definitely sad when you realize you have to wait a whole year to go back.”
Removing the psychological terminology from the short-term emotions of PCD is something Yap claims to be the more fitting route to take as live-music returns.
Yap concluded “psychological perspectives should be considered and welcomed, but Psychology looks more into the individual (their background, education, coping mechanisms, upbringing, etc.)” while PCD is a result of Fandom Culture and should be looked into using a more collective and ethnographic context (social effects, connection to the artist, relational philosophy, etc.).”
Yap’s study evaluated the after-effects of concerts on avid music-lovers and dedicated fans, people whose social lives and personalities are heavily influenced by live-music events.
While chronic depression is something that can affect any person regardless of their personal interests, Yap said PCD differs because it provides a fundamental understanding of the concert-going experience and its influence on fandom culture.
“I think the experience has a lot of psychological components to it, but honestly, after doing my research, it's an event of a more cultural and sociological nature.”
If you or someone you know has a mental illness, is struggling emotionally, or has concerns about their mental health, there are ways to get help. Use these resources to find help for you, a friend or a family member.
Contact Brenna at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @BrennaMarieShe1