March 6th I went to a concert. Now, I’ve gone to concerts before, it’s what differentiated this concert to all the other ones before that has stuck with me. It’s the reason I’m writing about it on this blog. It’s revitalized my perspective on fandom. If I wax a bit nostalgic about this experience it’s because it has imprinted itself in my memory just enough to make me wonder if it was actually a dream. So, here’s a retelling of that experience and some very interesting things that I’ve learned because of it. All the videos and pictures that I included are credited to their owners. Crowdalbum was a huge help in re-living the concert.
I bought tickets last year, as soon as they were available, to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Frank Turner’s music had played a big part in getting me through a rough period of time in my life. Hell, he’s the only person to which I’ve ever written a “fan letter” and he wrote back! At the time I purchased the tickets I hadn’t asked anyone to come with me so I just bought one for myself. I’ve never gone to a concert alone, but I figured I could find someone in five months. At some point I heard that they had sold out the venue (I misheard, there were still tickets available at the door) so I gave up finding someone to go with me. At first, I hoped I could work up the nerve to go by myself. That nerve didn’t seem to come. The day before and the day of I really considered not going. The tickets were less than $30, so chickening out wouldn’t cost me too much and I had to work the next day. (I know, I know. Excuses, excuses) More than one person told me that not going was a stupid idea and to just go. They said that I would regret not going.
I showed up at Union Hall about 5:45pm assuming there would be a line already forming to get in when doors opened at 7:00pm. The last concert I went to at the same venue there was a fair size line an hour before. This time there was only one person. She had been there since 4:30pm making sure she could get a spot at the barricades, front row center. A year ago I would have shut up and sat there, in silence until she said something. Instead, we made small talk almost right away; talking in line at conventions gave me some confidence and the conversation helped us ignore the cold and rain.
My original plan was to get a spot on the second level overlooking the stage, but that looked far less interesting in the face of her spot by the barricade. She had seen at least 10 times the number of concerts I had and hadn’t been scared away from it. I had always been scared to stand in the mass of people (on the floor, general admission in bigger venues) given I am not good with people in my physical space, and I thought things like crowd surfing and moshing would terrify me. I had heard horror stories about punk shows. I didn’t know what to expect and as a general rule, the unknown scares me. I put some non-committal words together when I was asked where I was going to stand. Doors opened and ten minutes later I’m leaning against the barricade right next to front row center. Big, bold choices, thanks improv!
The show started as it meant to go on with Mo Kenney, an acoustic act who was amazing (and from Nova Scotia!) This was followed by Northcote originally from the Prairies playing with the heaviest bass and drums I’ve ever felt in my life. I had seen them as an opener for Gaslight Anthem at this same venue last year, and while they were good from my spot on the second level, they were amazing up close. Being at the barricade means every beat feels like it could restart your heart, in the best possible way.
People were having fun and I joked with my line friend in between acts. The people at the barricade were close together but the people standing behind us were politely an arm’s length away. Even when Frank Turner took to the stage, there was enough space behind me for another person. This would close up as the concert got going but everyone was still super respectful.
Union Hall is intriguing in the fact that there is very little room between the stage and barricade. There’s enough room for security to help people who were crowd surfing get off the crowd safely, but that was it. The close quarters reminded me of a small bar performance just with way more people. As if it wasn’t intimate enough, there were two speakers turned on their sides to allow Frank to get toe-to-toe to the barricade on either side of the stage. He doesn’t shy away from interacting with the crowd. He said at the very beginning of the show that the performance was equal for every person in the venue, regardless of where they were sitting or standing and he lived up to that promise.
You can see the speaker turned on its side near the end of the loop.
There was crowd surfing, even Frank participated.
Now, I can’t say that I know music or even understand why I like what I like, but I was in complete awe for the first two songs. Looking at the videos that surfaced I look like I’m in a daze, which I was. As much as I was fangirling over just being there, and seeing him and the Sleeping Souls perform, there was a part of me that couldn’t comprehend the amount of energy the entire band had, both musical energy and physical energy – those guys can move! There was always something to watch and I can’t imagine trying to see that on the second level looking down. There was a passion in the words and it quickly turned into a sing-along nearly every time. I’ve since come to learn the Sleeping Souls have been the band for Frank for a while and that partnership dynamic shows in the smirks and interactions between them.
Between some more than others… He just wanted to dance…
Above the passion and the fucking amazing music I believe that there’s a message. It focuses on coming together because of a shared interest, making friends with strangers and having a great time. Does that sound familiar, fandom? He spoke in between songs, impressing on the fact that there’s enough bad shit happening in the world right now that dragging it into a show is stupid. I completely agree. At one point, he asked the whole floor to sit and do something together. Everyone sat without any real hesitation. Now, I’m poorly paraphrasing, but he said that if we (the crowd) don’t come together here then it’s pointless and we’re just adults shouting at each other in the dark. So, the song Photosynthesis was cued up and when the drummer signalled, everyone was to jump up, sing if they knew words (and sing even if they didn’t) and dance their hearts out. We did just that, myself included, and I didn’t care how stupid I looked because I wanted to be a part of that experience.
So, there was a point to this post other than just reliving that wonderful concert. The music, the energy, and the experience unexpectedly helped to remind me of the spirit and influence that fandom brings to my life. You can learn something through the experiences fandom brings you, you just have to be willing to open your mind and when necessary make those little leaps. Go to the concert or convention alone and make friends with strangers. Take up a hobby just because your favourite actor enjoys it. Maybe you’ll hate it but there’s always the chance that you will find a new passion. If you see something lacking in your fandom and have ideas for something like a podcast or fanart, then don’t wait for someone else to do it, just do it.