To me, one of the greatest pleasures in life is seeing and hearing live music. And while I do love a musical like Ellie, I’m talking non-scripted, non-costumed rock ‘n’ roll, here. When the gig is a band or artist I know and love? Well, then I’m the cat that’s got the cream. (Though, seeing My Morning Jacket live for the first time without knowing the majority of their catalog was proof that if a band is good, they’ll get you from the first note whether or not any of what they play is familiar.)
No matter if I’m standing or sitting near or far, shmushed up against some dude with a beer spilling all over my coat and handbag, or just a row from the stage with a direct line for making sexy-face with the lead singer, all I have to do is close my eyes and I’m carried away. It’s the wind on my face while sitting on the bow of the boat. It’s the rush of coasting downhill on a bike. It’s music – literally – to my ears.
Before I even had my flight booked, I had secured tickets to see two of my favorite bands: The Avett Bros. and Mumford & Sons. (Musical families unite!) The Avett’s were scheduled to play The Forum in London in March, and Mumford were touring most of Western Europe throughout the spring. At the time, I had no idea where in London the Forum was, but I figured I’d find it and just bought a ticket. Then, once I decided which date and location was best for seeing Mumford (winner: Amsterdam, Easter weekend!), I contacted their publicist to purchase tickets through the label. (Job perk.) I knew it’d be a nightmare to get them on my own since global superstardom is in full-effect with these banjo-playing, vest-wearing folkies.
I actually thought I’d see more live music before both shows. There was Dido, yes. But other than that, I’ve been eating and marketing my way around London. Then, as luck would have it, a friend of a friend who I hadn’t seen yet invited me to the Lumineers show at Brixton Academy. I actually had something else “on” as they say here, but I really, really, really like the Lumineers and can’t resist a good show — even if it was during the same week I planned to see the Avett’s. I guess when it rains it pours. This is London, after all.
I did what I typically do for both shows: arrive about 15 minutes before the scheduled set time. Like many a seasoned concert-goer, I always call up the venue to check before arriving. I have no interest in waiting in lines to get in to then stand for hours while the bands take their sweet-ass rock-n-roll-time to hit the stage. Of course, I risk the whole aforementioned shmushed-beer-spilling situation, but it often works out just fine.
This time, however, I sorta wish I didn’t do that. Both venues were new to me, and both were ripe with boys! Hot boys, who like the same music as me. Silly, silly, Sara. Not to mention that I’m a shortie and since I didn’t know the venues, I didn’t immediately know where the best viewing and sound spots were. It wasn’t that big of an Oops, though. For the Lumineers, I was with three other people and it’s usually just too difficult to get very close with a group. Plus, it was nice to go somewhere before to actually hear each other talk over a few beers. We heard the first few songs amid the crowd, then realized we might be able to see better if we went back further. Seems like an oxymoron, I know. But there just asn’t as many heads directly in your face. We also found a perch to hoist ourselves up on, which reminded me of the time I saw a show at Webster Hall and shared bum space with Chloe Sevigny doing something similar.
Since I was on my own for the Avett Bros., I decided to scooch in up front. I don’t usually do this – even if I’m with one other person. Again, just too short. You either need to be in the first or second row, or in the back on an incline. Since it was such a small venue, though, I just went for it and wiggled in.
I was surrounded, yes. But not just by fans with big boobs and big hair, taking pictures Every. Single. Second. (I’ll return to this topic in a minute.) But surrounded by sound, too. By melody and by lyrics that echo in my heart of hearts.
When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it
There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out
There’s a darkness upon you that’s flooded in light
And in the fine print they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right
And it flies by day and it flies by night
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it
Sure, it would’ve been an extra treat if the person next to me didn’t have big boobs – or boobs at all, for that matter – but it didn’t really matter. I was immersed. Nothing could divert my attention. Until actually it could. And it wasn’t the boobs. It was the constant picture and video-taking. Now, don’t get me wrong. I, too, contribute to this very annoying habit that’s become status quo at concerts ever since cell phones replaced lighters and camera phones replaced point-and-shoots. But I allow myself a few frames and that’s it. Occasionally something so orgasmically epic happens and I can’t resist reaching for it One. More. Time. (Case in point: Video below.) But by doing so, I’m not really seeing it live. I’m seeing it from behind a lens and taking photos and videos that I’ll probably never go through or watch. I swear, if you asked me to find all the photos I’ve taken at the shows I’ve been through in the digital age, my iPhoto might implode. Not to mention that it’s a nuisance to the people around you, I can’t imagine what it must be like for the artists. Here are all these fans who have paid money to come and hear you perform live and rather than actually be there in the moment, they’re so fussed on recording it for another time! Having lenses shoved in your face the entire time can’t really be that cool for them, can it?
OK, now that that’s outta my system…
Overall, seeing a band in another country is no different than seeing a band in your own. Music is such a powerful tool for uniting all kinds and I bet it’ll be even more evident in Amsterdam where English is not the first language. It was funny to hear both bands address the crowd. Aside from the fact that both are American, I’ve become so accustomed to hearing bands say, “Hello NYC!” or “It’s good to be back in the best city in the world!” and the crowd going wild. In fact, it actually made me miss home a bit. I felt myself hoping the Avett’s would ask if anyone in the house was from Brooklyn when they sang “I And Love And You”:
Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in
Are you aware the shape I’m in
My hands they shake my head it spins
Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in
But they didn’t. After all, it was London. Which was still pinch-myself-cool.
It seemed like so long ago that I bought these tickets. I guess it was, really. Time is flying, and the fact that one of the shows has now passed saddens me.
Thankfully, I’m actually seeing Ellie Goulding, last week’s Fab Mag cover girl, tonight with a co-worker, and I’ve still got Mumford next weekend in Amsterdam with one of my best friends in the world. I cannot wait. Though, actually, I can. Because once that’s over…all I’ll have are a few photos I likely won’t look at again and a ticket stub.
Unless…I just read the XX are playing an abandoned amusement park in Berlin. Wer ist dabei?