(There are a lot of “firsts” in life, and I realize I talk about those quite a bit on this blog. Some things just stick with you though, and for me, that includes a lot of “firsts.”)
When I was an itty bitty wee little soon-to-be college student, I drove up to New Hampshire with my parents for one of the first times. I had been there a few months prior for orientation and the previous November for an open house, but this time I would be leaving home and moving to campus to begin a new chapter. We drove up on a Sunday, spent the night in a hotel, and I moved in on Labor Day. That morning, while everyone was getting ready and I was nervously pacing around the room, a video came on one of the music channels on the hotel TV. I was instantly intrigued. The single had been released the previous year in the United Kingdom, but had only been out in the United States for a few days. Instantly, I knew would love this random band from England and their catchy folk song.
I saw Mumford & Sons perform three songs at The Secret Policeman’s Ball in 2012. I had heard about their performance while eagerly searching online for tour dates and eventually convinced my sister and father to join. The event, which took place at Radio City Music Hall, was an Amnesty International benefit for human rights that was being hosted in the United States for the first time. It featured a number of British and American comedians, plus performances by Mumford & Sons and Coldplay. Even from high up in the balcony, I was completely floored by their live performance.
A couple of months ago, after the band ended their hiatus and subsequently released their third studio album, my friends from school and I agreed that it was necessary to see them in concert.
After a long pre-concert wait and an even longer Monday at work, I quickly showered and headed off for Massachusetts. Even though I took a different route than normal, my drive was met with the many of the usual things: unnecessary traffic, bad Connecticut drivers, and people who do not use their turn signals. I had been awake for over thirty hours by then (save for two naps that equaled no more than twenty-nine minutes) and was nursing an iced coffee as I crawled through traffic in the Constitution State and sang badly to Whitney Houston with the windows down. While I cruised through Rhode Island, I realized my air conditioning had stopped working. (I have since deemed it very, very, very broken because my whole car shakes if I try to turn it on.) I watched the minutes pass by, eager to get to Mansfield.
Despite hitting concert traffic for the final two miles, I made my way into the venue to find Jaclyn, Kim, Craig, and Pete with minutes to spare. Mumford & Sons took the stage while I stood on a grassy hill–surrounded by friends, hard cider in hand, and beaming smile spread across my face.
Loneliness and all
I was stuck to the spot without a friend
And I hunger and I thirst
For some shiver
For some whispered words
And the promise to come
And you saw me low
Didn’t they say that only love will win in the end
Aside from listening to Anna Nalick perform a few songs at a tiny venue at the mall, my first concert was New Jersey’s Bamboozle Festival as a freshman in high school. From then on, I was hooked. I listen to music when I drive, when I write, when I work. It becomes easy to associate songs with specific memories as well. Good Charlotte’s The Young and the Hopeless album played constantly on my CD player in 2002 when we visited my aunt’s farm in Florida. Take It All Away, Ryan Cabrera’s sophomore album, was my personal soundtrack during one trip to visit Nonna in California. I heard “Falling for You” by Ronnie Day for the first time on the way to school one morning as I sat in the backseat of the Celica (back when it was still my sister’s car).
There is a song or an album for every mood and every moment. And then there is live music. It seems impossible to describe the beauty of live music with mere words. Live music fills you up. It courses through your blood and tickles the hairs on your skin and grabs hold of every muscle in your body. It makes your heart beat fast and slow at the same time. And to sing aloud to a beloved song surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of other people who all know the song in their own way? It is magic.
I stood on the lawn Monday night, laughing, dancing, and singing with friends and strangers alike. After only a few songs, my face hurt from smiling so much. I was filled with such happiness. I will not forget screaming along to “Believe” alongside thousands of other people or soaking in the feeling of each beat of music or asking my friends if every song was “Wilder Mind” because I can never remember song titles. By the time we made our way through post-concert traffic, drove to Kim and Craig’s apartment in New Hampshire, and I went to sleep on their ridiculously comfortable couch, I had been awake for forty-three hours. But those couple of hours of live music, of hearing Marcus Mumford strum the heck out the banjo, of feeling so happy and lucky to be a part of this world—it made all that exhaustion completely worth it.