I went to my first concert when I was 6. My mom, my aunt and I went to go see X, one of their favorite punk rock bands. At the Orange County Fair concert venue, I was surrounded by crashing drums, scorching vocals, sonically cataclysmic melodies and an audience of drunk, moshing, middle-aged punk lovers. Sitting on a chair above plastic cups, beer bottles and cigarette butts, I fell asleep to the forceful, whisky tunes as different colored lights passed across my eyelids.
The first time my best friend and I hung out together was at a Cold War Kids concert. We pushed our way to the very front, Jovi’s older sister putting her arms around both of us to protect us from the guy trying to mosh by himself. We could touch the keyboard in front of us, and napkins from the bar fluttered over the crowd like cherry blossoms shedding from the most perfect tree. All together, the audience screamed the lyrics to “Hang Me Up to Dry” as Nathan Willett reached his microphone out to the crowd.
My first kiss was at a house show. The hip, genreless bands from our school, sporting bright orange beanies, cargo jackets and Anti Social Social Club sweatshirts played at some weird farm house in Yorba Linda. As the vibrato of the drum kit simmered into the night air and the last chord, strummed off the strings of the electric guitar, vibrated through the amps, a boy I had never met before pressed his lips against mine.
My first real date was a Band of Horses concert. In a Supreme jacket, he rolled up late to Fox Theater and confessed that he had lied. He didn’t actually listen to this band — he just knew that song about the ghosts. But in the foggy blue and green light that draped across the faces of the crowd, the languid, bearded ‘70s rocker songs of Why Are You Ok? consuming me, it didn’t matter that I was basically alone at the concert. Fully grown men fought over candy that Ben Bridwell kept tossing from a pail on the stage and I rejoiced as he crooned my favorite songs, from “Solemn Oath” to “For Annabelle.”
The second time I saw alt-J at the Hollywood Bowl was the first time I sat in the front row. The group’s opening song was “Intro” from This is All Yours and the stage was completely black, stark white lights flickering on and off to the “lalala’s.” As everyone intermittently stood and sat, I stayed on my feet the entire time, swaying back and forth, following every beat that Thom Sonny Green transferred from sticks to snare drum. I felt the orange spotlight on my face, felt the heat of Joe Newman’s deep vocals sailing on the Los Angeles breeze and sang along to “Taro.”
I went to Devendra Banhart’s concert with three of my close friends. We held hands, jumped up and down and whistled, “Mi amor no tiene esperanza, aunque te esperara,” along with him as he sang “Mi Negrita” under a purple, frothy spotlight. He charismatically strutted across the stage as he sang “Fancy Man,” his voice bubbly as if telling jokes rather than performing a concert, the light now blue as the cover of Ape in Pink Marble. As he began his last song, he invited the crowd onto the stage. Jovi and I pushed our way past everyone and flung ourselves onstage, two of the first people up there, circled around the drum kit as if it were a bonfire. I held Devendra as he stumbled through the crowd, feeling him breathe heavily as he worked to slip lyrics from his lips. “Me salvaste!” I screamed at him, teary-eyed. He turned and winked.
This was the first time I was ever this close to music. Close enough to touch it.
Concerts were a series of firsts for me. They started with nights at the Orange County Fair, listening to the Pacific, gritty sounds of my mother’s and father’s childhoods. Soon, I started seeing bands that I liked with people I loved, listening to the metronome of the high hat and the pitch of a guitar in the heat of dancing bodies. After that, I could even go alone. Each artist I saw, each venue they played, even the foggy multicolored spotlights shining on the stage were all different and new.
I miss concerts — the way they immerse you in sounds that your eardrums, for some reason, can’t get enough of, the way your heart pulses with the beat. The shows boil down to experiences and memories, hallmarks of growing up, hand-picked moments scored with your favorite music. Whether it be my third alt-J concert, a growling, rock-filled Pixies show or a slow and romantic serenade with Hiatus Kaiyote, whether I am alone or with new or old friends, I am excited to see what my next concert has in store for me.
Maisy Menzies writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on milestone moments experienced through art. Contact her at [email protected].