When I was 14, before I ever went to a concert, I’d fall asleep to Sufjan Stevens. Mostly ‘Romulus’ and ‘Casimir Pulaski Day’, sometimes ‘Jacksonville’ but really only the sad songs. On the way to school, I’d skip class to sit on the sidewalk and keep listening. I always hoped I’d see Sufjan Stevens live.
Instead, my first concert was The Killers at Red Rocks. If you haven’t been to Red Rocks, imagine an outdoor concert venue carved into the Colorado Rockies, with giant boulders all around you, a bright night sky and the city of Denver sparkling in the distance. Now imagine, peak of his career, Brandon Flowers, standing on top of a piano singing “I’ve got soul but i’m not a soldier”. Imagine being 15 and screaming alongside him. I didn’t even love The Killers, I was more of a Bright Eyes kind of teen, but to this day, it remains an example of what a big live show is all about.
Remembering being 20, and taking the BART from SF to Oakland to go to a Grizzly Bear concert alone because my boyfriend didn’t want to come. I accidentally got seated seats so I sat there and cried. I didn’t cry because he wasn’t there, but because it was so nice to sit by myself and listen to something so lovely as “Shift”.
Remembering that same year, that same BART route, but going to see Animal Collective. For the entire show, I was in the first two rows in a soft mosh pit. Afterwards one of the mosh kids shouted, “Thank you all, this was amazing” and he wasn’t saying it to the band, he was saying it to us.
Remembering being 22 and being very late to a Neutral Milk Hotel concert in a town called Portchester, and running directly into the crowd, to the front, to meet my friends and then hugging and dancing and screaming: “The only girl I’ve ever loved, was born with roses in her eyes…” . I don’t remember exactly who was there, only the bodies, the lungs, the jumping.
Remembering just turning 24 and biking in a new, quiet city called Zurich, to see Angel Olsen. It was a small crowd, and someone offered me a spot in the front row because I was “too short”, in their words. I used that spot too stare too much at Angel Olsen, I was amazed. I biked back elated, thinking this was just the beginning of even more solo concerts.
Remembering just a few weeks after that, a guy I met at work invited me to a Caribou concert but I didn’t go. He turned out to be my husband, and I wish I had gone, and I wish we’d danced to “Can’t Do Without You”.
But instead our first concert was Glass Animals the week after that, but in my mind our first real concert was Courtney Barnett in December. It was at a grungy place near the lake, where we made out by a beam, her new song “Avant Gardener” playing in the background.
The last concert I went to was Animal Collective in an open field near the ocean in Northern California. It was cold, I was 28 and pregnant. There was no soft mosh pit, and if there had been, I wouldn’t have been part of it. We huddled by a fire where I saw someone I went to college with. I didn’t say hi. I didn’t know it’d be the last concert for a while.
It’s been two years since then, and I finally bought tickets to a concert again tonight.
This was written in early 2022.
Here’s a playlist with the songs mentioned here:
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