So there I was, in the drive-thru of McDonalds, ordering something that I hoped would take the dreariness of my second job of the day away. When I see my phone buzz in the console with the subject Join Us For Something Special, I know what it is without reading the email. It is an invitation to a Harry Styles listening party. Something I waited for at the start of my second year of college but it never arrived until three years later.
I scream in the car. I want to tell the cashiers “Harry Styles emailed me!” but it is 3 pm on a Monday and we are all dreading the life we have. I RSVP. I begin hatching a plan of how to get to LA in two days without breaking the bank. I will spend money on this. But without being able to know the location until the day of, my planning is at a standstill. What if I stay in west Los Angeles, and hundreds of people beat me to the line when it is announced it takes place across the city? It was a waiting game I could easily lose if I wasn’t fast enough. I wished for a follow up, but as the hours passed it dawned on me that it would be financially irresponsible for me to attempt to stay in Los Angeles for a first-come-first-serve event. Like karma, I was not invited. And I could not attend. Another lucky person filled my place and listened to Harry Styles’ new album and also met him.
Post Fine Line Live
It is now Monday at 4:30 pm. This past weekend I took a bus to and from Los Angeles to attend Fine Line Live, where Harry Styles played his album in the order of the songs on the album and said it was the only time he would ever play that repertoire, ever. Then he ended with an encore of Sign of the Times, Wonderful Christmastime, What Makes You Beautiful, and Kiwi. In the middle of his set, before the encore, Stevie Nicks appeared and sang “Landslide” with him. Sometimes I wonder if I am living the experiences meant for my parents. I have seen Diana Ross before.
Ellen showed up with Stevie Knicks and the gigantic mosh pit of girls moved backwards to get a closer look. I was at the opposite end of the Forum from them and even I could hear “Niall?” which was the funniest moment of the night considering Niall has not been blonde for years now.
I did not have GA seats, thank god. I was in 227, which had a nice view of the stage. The pit looked scary. I am not a GA person at all but getting firsthand confirmation that everyone was getting smashed down there and people needed to be pulled out in the middle of the show because of the smashing was insane and I will never buy a GA ticket ever.
That was the crowd when the middle barricade was removed. The crowd grew. The seats eventually filled in.
The most miraculous part of the show, to me, was the crowd not really singing along to “Cherry” or “Falling,” 1) because no one knew the words to the album quite yet and 2) they are his very personal breakup songs about Camille <3. I felt like the crowd managed to silence themselves for once in this decade of boyband pandemonium, to learn something new about Harry Styles and his sadness.
I was somewhat tired during the concert. Maybe it was because I had just gotten my period on my way to check in to the hotel, maybe it was because that was the last week of school and work for me, or maybe I felt the heaviness of life in the midst of Harry Styles again.
I tried to reflect back on my experience watching Harry Styles in concert. The first One Direction show that I went to was the summer before I was a junior in high school. The year that followed the first concert was tumultuous. It was the first time where I felt major stress that manifested into physical symptoms and ruined a lot of me. I pulled out my hair, I picked at my face, I felt overall horrible for the entire year. Then the year after I saw them at the Rose Bowl, and the year that followed was a waiting game to see if the stress turned into something better, like my top choice college. Then I saw him on his first tour at the Greek Theater, where I was already two years into college and having a wonderful time living in Los Angeles and working a decent college job. I didn’t know what I was doing with my career but I had made it into UCLA, which was all that mattered to me.
Now here I am, watching him at The Forum, his second solo album, I am done with grad school, I am ready to find some steady full-time job in a better city and not feel like I’m not worthy of things. It was around his farewell that I felt my emotions swell. I remember screaming so hard at the first concert. I remember the taste of blood. I remember knowing that there was nothing bigger than what I was witnessing in 2013, and then in 2014, and I knew I was so lucky for all of us to still be here when a song like “Watermelon Sugar” is something so good that came out of post-One Direction, when it seems like sometimes I am so directionless in the world. I am still surviving. I am still undergoing bad stress and anger and sadness but I am still here and there is still pieces of One Direction that pulls me up when I need to keep moving.
Everyone dresses so amazing when we see Harry Styles. You can be who you want. You can dance how you dance. You can love who you love. You can scream and sing and cry and dance in a circle and mosh in a pit. You can say that Harry Styles and his music keeps you where you are and helps you move forward. This is true for me, but what is more powerful to me is that this fandom experience of knowing that a trillion other people sit at home and listen to music to get through their day, tweet all night and daydream all day about music is what unites me with the world. That unity has never been with me at school or in my career. I’d love to have that and feel that way in my outer-world experience, but Harry Styles is such a personal experience for all of us that I don’t know if international fandom unity will ever translate to the real world. Maybe that’s how it survives. Maybe fandom exists so that we have something to look forward to at the end of a job where we can’t have fandom-like experiences. There is so much good in the experiences I have at concerts, online, everywhere where people just love One Direction and everyone else.
I stayed at the Holiday Inn LAX, and pre-gamed with my new favorite hard cider Rekorderlig. It is a berry fusion hard cider and tastes wonderful. I ordered room service and changed into my concert clothes.
Days later, I am listening to Fine Line and creating new observations of what I relate to. These are the songs that I think are good:
- Watermelon Sugar
- Adore You
- Lights Up
- To Be So Lonely
- Canyon Moon
- Treat People With Kindness
- Sunflower, Vol. 6 (specifically for the ending with “boop boop, boop, boop boop, boop” that everyone sang along to and Harry laughed).
I have to say that I don’t really like “She” that much because it’s too boring and I can’t relate. I have this feeling like it is about Kendall Jenner. Also I get tired of long instrumental solos unless it’s Lorde scraping metal against metal.
I have to say that “Treat People With Kindness” became a good song to me after I listened to it for a day, heard it live, understood the performance of it, and then listened to it some more. It had to grow on me.
I like that this album is about a breakup and being lonely. Not that it has happened to me, but I can relate for the most part. I think I have said this before but I feel really alienated in general in this grad school experience that I have been living. I know I need to change my life but I can’t do that when I have a tuition contract and thesis that has to be completed before I can graduate. I think I am going to start applying to jobs now, in case some company has a five-month interview policy. I hope to present myself as someone with a lot of confidence outwardly, even if my blog reveals that I am kind of lonely in this grad school life. I say “grad school” like I’m attending some rigorous, prestigious program, but the truth is I’m not. I just like to use that term because its invisible, inflated meaning makes me feel justified in my boredom and agony. Again, how do I solve grad school boredom? I just go to work. Also, what I mean by alienated and bored is that I can’t have these concert and movie experiences that I want because it doesn’t exist here. Social media gives me movie trailers and behind the scenes scoops but I couldn’t even see something like Lady Bird until it came out on DVD.
Okay back to Harry Styles. When I was in the parking lot for Uber pickup, Ben Winston walked in front of me and all the girls said “Hi Ben!” I almost fainted because I saw him walking towards me and wondered, “How do I know this very tall, very adult, with this well-sculpted face, this man?” And it was the godfather of One Direction, everything, Ben Winston. I have written before that we owe so much to Ben Winston. Ugh. What a good man for bringing us One Direction in their prime and still being here for them afterwards. Being here for us. How funny.
Okay, well, I have exhausted my exploration of Fine Line. As a result of my travels and sitting in a bus that smelled like fuel for two hours, I have gotten a cold where I feel like there’s something stuck in my throat or between my ears but I can’t get it out. I don’t know if I am going to see Harry Styles on tour because my plan is to move away from here and I don’t know if his tour dates will match up with my moving schedule. Then again, I just got to witness all of Fine Line played in order for the first time, and it was wonderful.