I wouldn’t consider myself someone who normally goes to concerts. I love seeing my favorite bands, but months apart from each other — truly, I don’t want to be on my feet for three hours. A girl’s knees need time to recover. And there’s always that one extremely inebriated fellow who no longer feels pain and thus makes it his dying mission to mosh with great and unsolicited thrashing. Yet this past semester, I found myself traveling to see more artists than I could count. These trips and long, late nights can mostly be chalked up to good timing and opportunity. From alternative rock to country pop, the scene and sound were always changing.
When my high school sophomore sister’s friend bailed on a Girl in Red and Conan Gray concert in San Francisco, I was the next point of contact (naturally). She called me to explain her plight, and I, taking pity, agreed to take her. The scene that night was funny; it was a relatively small venue but was packed in the center, as the mass of teenage girls present all wanted to be as close to the stage and the pink and yellow colored lights as possible. My sister cried out indie pop ballads by Girl in Red, written on Girl in Red’s relationships with girls. Gray’s melodramatic pop style was clever and catchy. I hadn’t heard many of the songs that night ever before, but it made me glad to see my sister letting the sounds she’d played so many times in the car through the stereo rush over her.
But a concert I could really get behind and push my way to the front for was The 1975. A few weeks after seeing Gray, my sister and I BARTed back into the city. I knew exactly what to expect from the band; I’d been in the same location more than a year before for its last tour. The crowd was soft, apart from the nude man whom security carried out in the middle of the concert. We stood in the middle and swayed, looking at each other to mouth quick dark lyrics that nobody else near us could recite as seamlessly as we did. Onstage, the lights changed from a sinking shade of blue to that sleepy red from traffic lights that always finds you waiting silently for green in the middle of the night.
The next month, my mother asked me if I wanted to see Carrie Underwood for my 20th birthday. I responded with a quick and resounding “yes” in the chime of a 10-year-old version of myself, ever fiercely loyal to the “queen of country.” My mother, sister (my forever concert companion) and I drove up to Sacramento for the concert, wearing the clothes of someone who’s used to going to alternative rock concerts in the Bay Area. But at the venue, I couldn’t help but feel out of place without cowgirl boots on. I used to have a pair that looked like the one a girl my age was wearing as she passed by, searching for something — and like that, I realized how much I’ve grown.
I realized how the clustered, kissing cities of the Bay shape me into a whole other person — sometimes, like the powerful but slow wobble of the tide, gradually receding from the sand; other times, like the sudden change in the asphalt’s shade of gray as one city border meets another. The places and people I revisit are to answer for so many of the sounds and styles and “oddities” I love. Driving cities away to see an artist who defined much of my childhood, my sister and I witnessed a cultural expression of character we understood like the backs of our hands but no longer experienced as regularly as we used to, like freckles that only come out for the summer, as if to remind you that they’re there and will never cease to be a part of you. It’s in and after the change of season when you realize what you’re made of.
Skylar Sjoberg is the assistant blog editor. Contact Skylar Sjoberg at [email protected].