I am a lover of live music. The vibrations of the different sounds does something to my physical body that makes me feel like my soul and my mind and my blood lines up – they sync, finding the purest rhythm.
Because I am an introvert to the core, I have to REALLY love a band or an artist to put up with the crowds of people, the traffic and the mayhem that can occur at a concert. The entire scene can make me spin into anxiety but I find space and zone out (or dive in) as soon as the music starts. This is why, if I have the option, I choose to purchase seats in general admission (the pit). No seats, no restrictions. I can get as close (or as far) away from the people as I want. I can pulse with the other bodies in movement or I can find a space to move on my own. It affords me the freedom to truly experience the music in the most authentic way.
So this past week I went to two concerts…last weekend was Billy Joel (not my absolute favorite but he is my husband’s favorite and we had a great seats and it was a fairly mellow experience). Plus, Pink and Axl Rose both made guest appearances and that just made my night.
Fast forward to this weekend. U2. At the Rose Bowl. The Joshua Tree Tour. And the opening act is one of my favorite bands – The Lumineers. Done and done. I purchased GA tickets a few months ago from StubHub (as U2 sells out ASAP) and even though they were a grip ($400 a piece) I felt it was well worth it to see two of my favs.
About a week ago our tickets arrived in the mail via FedEx and inside was an AMEX gift card and instructions on how to use the card to enter the venue. Stubhub assured us that even though this was a new way to enter the venue, there would be no problem and all we had to do was scan the card at the gate and we were in.
Fast-forward to Saturday morning. The hubby and I decided to pack up the bicycles and park a couple miles away and bike in, to avoid the craziness that had been promised to concert-goers. It was a beautiful ride in through the canyon and the Rose Bowl provided a bike valet free of charge. Score.
As we drank our beers out of red solo cups on the walk to the gate, we congratulated ourselves on perfect planning and epic timing. The line for gate A was starting to gain the heft of a giant boa constrictor and we jumped into the belly of the snake. Gates opened an hour and a half before the Lumineers were scheduled to start and being that we had pit tickets, we wanted to get as close to the front as possible. After an hour of waiting in line we finally made it to the front. I proudly handed over my AMEX gift card and smiled at the hubby…soon, my love. Soon we would be dancing our little hearts out.
“Ma’am. This card isn’t valid at this gate. You have to go to gate B.”
The attendant handed that card back to me and scooted me away. To gate B. Where there was another line. Another. Long. Line.
We pleaded our case with the next attendant who allowed us to move to the Express Line (not much quicker, but saved us about 20 minutes).
I handed the card over to the next ticket taker, fingers crossed. A horrendous beep sounded (one that seemed utterly familiar). The card was handed back.
“This card is invalid.”
Steam started to fill up my ears and I struggled to not run through the gates to the Pit Promised Land that was just across the way.
“What are we supposed to do?” (I asked in a not so calm tone).
Will Call Resolutions. Another. Really. Long. Line.
At this point I was pulling up Stubhub’s number and I was ready to lash out on the first poor soul who picked up the phone. To keep this part of the story short I’ll sum it up: After two hang ups (or what they claim was a disconnection) one long hold, two new tickets sent to my email, entrance in to the stadium two hours later (without wristbands), a dash around the entire exterior of the field to find more wristbands, (a random run in with dear friends), we FINALLY MADE IT TO THE FLOOR. And would you be surprised if I told you we were HELLA FAR AWAY. Like, behind the lighting and camera people. Fortunately, we arrived just as The Lumineers were taking the stage and soon we were enveloped in the pulse of the drums and the piano and the guitar and Neyla’s sweet sweet cello. It all started to melt away.
After The Lumineers finished their set, we began the wait for the main act. People started filling in around us and I could feel myself becoming agitated with the crowd and lack of view. I figured the best thing to do at this point was to step away, use the restroom (the holy fucking shit, you have got to be kidding me, the line is longer than the one to get in the stadium!) and grab a quick snack.
As I returned from my trek and handed my love his hotdog, the lights serendipitously went out and the crowd roared. And then it didn’t matter anymore. The lines, the waiting, the heat, the frustration, the emotions all came to a halt. And then this:
(the original video from Sunday Bloody Sunday circa 1971)
U2 is a band of passion. Of fight and fury. They move something so deep in my soul (and clearly, I am not alone). They are masters of evoking the rawest of emotions in people, which is why they will go down as, arguably, the greatest band in history. They are the pulse of the people. And in a time where our country, and the world, is in state of turmoil, U2 provides the hymns and the battle cries and the prayers.
And when Bono’s voice tears through – “I can’t believe the news today/I can’t close my eyes and make it go away/How long, how long must we sing this song?” It is an awakening. A call to arms. And we are all ready and willing to come together behind this foursome and go to war.
I stood behind my man, arms around his neck and I cried. Tears came streaming down my face. I bawled like a child. I cried for everything I can’t put into words. For all the injustices I feel I can’t fight against. For all of the different wars I feel like I need to wage. For the utter debilitating and crushing nothingness that overtakes me. For Chris Cornell. For love. For helplessness. For it all.
Just as all these emotions rise up through New Year’s Day and Pride, and just when I am ready to grab my weapon of choice and head off into the darkness of despair and rage against the night, the set illuminates. 50 yards of paneling across the stage casts a brilliant glow against the faces of thousands. A highway in black and white through the California desert soars out in front of us and we are all taken away on a journey to Joshua Tree, Where the Streets Have No Name.
(I encourage your to watch this as you get a small sense of the enormity of the stage and music)
And I have not stopped crying. Literally, I have spent the last 20 minutes in tears and I have crossed through every emotion. I feel like my heart and soul have been taken out, dragged through every potent piece of history, rinsed off with identity and solitude, and thrust back into my chest.
Chris Cornell was one of the artists that molded my very impressionable musical youth. I was a daughter of grunge. I can remember sitting in the darkness of my closet reading the lyrics of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden on many occasions. I felt the connection of angst and loneliness, and found relief in discovering I was not alone in my teenage desperation. So it was a continued rollercoaster of a night when Bono spoke of Chris and his musical legacy. Of his family and his sweet soul. Of the cruel reality of depression. And then dedicated a ballad of love and loss to an MTV Generation of mourners.
The night came to an end complete with a bike crash and a rip roaring headache. Neither are worth the keystrokes compared to the prayers we had just witnessed.
A few years ago, I bought a set of mala beads (traditional Hindu prayer beads) from a tiny store off an island in Stockholm. I started a tradition of wearing them to all of the concerts that I attend, keeping an account of each experience in a journal I hope to pass on to my niece one day. I wore those beads this weekend and I know that the energy from the entire event will stay with them forever. And hopefully these words can offer some dim recreation of the magic we were part of.
“You gotta cry without weeping, talk without speaking, scream without raising your voice.”