My semester abroad in Ireland started off a little rough. I had an especially good time the previous semester when I was still at my university in New Hampshire—good roommates, good friends, good classes. And while I looked forward to going, I was apprehensive to leave. It was my first time out of the country by myself and I wasn’t all that great with big changes. I was struck by overwhelming homesickness the moment the plane landed. I mean, I cry a fair amount anyway (especially if puppies are involved). But I was homesick in a foreign country, thousands of miles from home, so I cried an unreasonable amount. Just ask my mom about the time we tried Skyping and the audio wouldn’t work, so I just cried the whole time…
There were few things that helped me feel better. I tried to focus on classes. I tried going to the gym. I tried to do all of the things that had made me feel at home before. I wasn’t home though, at least not at that point. I still cried in my room and sat alone during lectures and kept to myself because it was easier. Eventually, I did find my groove. I made good friends, settled into school, explored my surroundings. Day by day, it all got a little bit easier. And through it all—the low and lonely and high and happy points—I had music to fall back on too.
About eight months before I went to Ireland, I discovered a folk-rock band called The Lumineers. Their first single, “Ho Hey,” was upbeat and happy and perfect for singing along to. I knew only a few songs, but I found myself listening to their self-titled album often during my time abroad. While I studied. While I walked around campus. While I traveled. While I lay in bed and missed family and friends. From the country and folk sounds of “Flowers in Your Hair” and the quiet tune of “Slow It Down,” to the alternating soft and loud drum melodies of “Stubborn Love” and the raspy vocals of “The Dead Sea,” each song was better than the last. Eventually, the music started to feel just like home.
The Lumineers released their second studio album, Cleopatra, in April of 2016 and I was immediately enamored. I even found myself dancing to the music (which I never do). I must have had the album on repeat for a week straight before I listened to any other music again. Even then, I still played the album nearly every day. It’s been nearly five years since I first fell in love with their music, and last week, I finally saw The Lumineers in concert.
Pack yourself a toothbrush dear
Pack yourself a favorite blouse
Take a withdrawal slip
Take all of your savings out
‘Cause if we don’t leave this town
We might never make it out
My friend Jaclyn drove down from New Hampshire last Friday for a weekend visit. We took the train into New York City on Friday afternoon, walked around, and had dinner and drinks at an alehouse we stumbled upon. They had at least one vegetarian dish on the menu and hard cider on tap, so it met all of our basic standards. While we ate and drank, we were entertained by some interesting people, including an Australian and/or Russian woman and a group of possible swingers. It was different, to say the least, but Jaclyn and I were just happy to be reunited after a few months.
The last time I was at Madison Square Garden was nearly a decade ago, when I stood outside with two of my friends and our homemade posters as we tried to win meet and greet passes for the Jonas Brothers. On Friday, Jaclyn and I were settled into our seats (and ready for a nap) before the opening act had even taken the stage. But by the time The Lumineers took the stage later that evening, we were both ecstatic. Wesley Schultz’s constant foot-stomping was contagious. I even pulled Jaclyn up to dance with me (which, again, is something I never do) because I couldn’t just sit there and listen. The sound, the energy, the mood—it was everything I had hoped it would be.
They played all of my favorite songs. They sang and we danced. I even cried a few times because I was just so happy. Happy to be in that arena, to hear those songs after all this time, to feel the music in my body. As I’ve said before, live music is magical.“[It] 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.” I think that I’ll always feel that way when I hear live music, at least I hope I will.
In Ireland, my friends and I used to listen to the song “Classy Girls” while we got ready, or we would hear it on Friday nights at the pub, and we always sang along joyfully—with one minor adjustment. In the lyric, “She said, ‘That’s pretty cool, but classy girls don’t kiss in bars, you fool,'” we replaced “classy” with “Plassey” after the name of the student village where most of us lived. When The Lumineers played the song at Madison Square Garden, and every other song, I was taken right back to my time in Ireland. I was home again.