I promised when I last wrote that I would dedicate an entire post to the concert that I’ve been waiting for–pretty much ever since her last concert. Especially so since her newest album, Skin & Earth, was released. The concert was a week ago, and I’ve been meaning to write, but I felt that I needed some time to process before getting it all down. This is a very long post I realize, so I will section it off and you may read whichever parts you would prefer.
HOW IT BEGAN
Okay, so to give you a fuller picture of my love for this woman and her music, I’ll have to go back to the beginning. Back to middle school. I first heard her music in the car while my mom was driving and listening to a CD someone from church had burned for her. He put some of his favorite artists; all of them I had effectively tuned out, until I heard Lights.
Side note: if that guy ever sees this (I’m pretty sure you’ll know who you are), please know I am eternally in your debt.
The first song was “Pretend”, which caught my attention. But it was when I heard “Saviour” that I fell in love. I immediately went home and onto YouTube to listen to all of her music and watch the music videos. At that point, her first album The Listening had been released, and you better believe I knew those songs by heart in almost no time. My family, especially my sister, can attest to how I played a fast rapping-type part of the song “Ice” over and over until I had it memorized (I’m still proud of that). “Face Up” got me through some of the hardest times of my life, especially when I was self-harming. Her acoustic covers of her songs were equally captivating and her talent has always blown me away.
I’d say that my high school years were defined by her. There were other artists of course (notably Paramore), but she was the one I identified with the most. I remember hoping and praying for Lights to have a collaboration with Owl City since their sounds were so similar (when they finally did, it was an acoustic version of one of her songs, which I love). I remember when she legally changed her name from Valerie Poxleitner to Lights; I remember squealing when I found out she was pregnant through the sweetest pictures of her and her husband. As she grew musically and reached different milestones in her life, I grew up too. I can see where I was personally during the times she released each of her albums.
My major goal in terms of concerts was to see Paramore and Lights, and later Twenty One Pilots was added to that list. I got to go to a Paramore concert before moving to NorCal, and I saw a Twenty One Pilots concert with my sister. When it came to Lights, she announced her tour for her album Little Machines and I was shocked when it said she was coming to Sacramento. I frantically bought tickets the soonest I could. During the time of this concert however, my little brother was severely sick. He was the only other person I knew who liked Lights’s music, as he grew to like it while I became mildly obsessed.
Another side note: I always freak out when I meet someone who knows of Lights, and even more, who enjoys her music. It’s too rare, and my friends can tell you that I always try to get them into her music at one point or another.
Anyway, I was heartbroken that he wouldn’t be able to come with me. He was still dealing with the effects of HLH (hemophagocytoic lymphohistiocytosis); to give you a scope of the severity, he was on chemotherapy and steroids while being under constant watch and care. It was a scary time. Thankfully he recovered, but I had to go to the concert without him. I learned that the first forty people who go into the venue and buy merchandise would get to meet her after the show. My patient boyfriend at the time came with me in the morning to wait for hours until the doors opened, for that chance to meet her. In preparation I made her Wonder Woman comic shoes (glued pieces of comic to the shoes and sprayed to seal) and wrote a note that I slipped into one of the sneakers.
That night was surreal. It was my first intimate concert, in that I was right at the front and even close enough to touch her. Her set was mostly from Little Machines, which isn’t my favorite album, but the experience was still stunning. She sounds even better live than in studio. I took videos and pictures, as many as I could, so that I could give my brother some of the experience.
Meeting Lights herself was even more surreal. I was wracked with nerves as I waited in line for my turn. I had a tote bag on which I had painted the insignia from the album with the sneakers inside, as well as a physical copy of the album. Honestly, I don’t remember what I said to her. She smiled widely and gave me a hug. I know I asked her to write the lyrics “Gotta keep your face up” from the song that got me through so much; I’m pretty sure I didn’t plan that ahead of time. She hugged me multiple times, and I feel like she said something about being happy to meet me. Before leaving, I told her about my brother and how much he wanted to be here. She said he’d have to come to the next one, and that she would love to meet him. I was on another planet.
PRE-CONCERT (& disappointment)
Over the next couple years I kept track of her music, saw her daughter grow, and worked through my own struggles. As Lights revealed that she was going to release a comic (written and illustrated by herself) in tandem with her album, I was already impressed. I also lamented a little over how talented she is, and how unfair it is for the rest of us. But that always passes very quickly.
This album is incredible. I personally think it’s some of her best work. Each part in her comic corresponds to a song from her album, so that you can listen to the album while reading it and it syncs up. I waited in anticipation for the tour dates to be released. I was disappointed that she wasn’t coming to Sacramento again, but I saw that she would be coming to The Fillmore in San Francisco. I also saw that they had VIP tickets, which included a pre-show acoustic set, Q&A, photo op, and exclusive merch. I knew I had to get these tickets for me and my brother.
They went on sale while I was in my art class, but I just pulled out my laptop in the middle of it (we were only drawing, it was free time, and the prof knew I was a hard worker so it was chill) and bought two VIP tickets. The only thing I could foresee as a problem was getting there, since I don’t have much experience driving in aggressive traffic or steep hills. That didn’t matter at this point though. All that mattered was that I was going to see Lights again, talk to her, and have her meet my brother.
It was a few months between buying the tickets and the concert date. In that time I finished my semester which included public speaking (a true feat), my brother suffered a concussion due to an injury during a soccer game, us kids visited SoCal to see our grandparents, and a new year began. The concert was always in the back of my mind, but it didn’t feel real until about a week before.
That was when my dad realized my brother had a soccer game that day. I thought about it as much as I could, seeing if I could find ways around that fact. Maybe we would leave later, except the game is at the exact same time we need to show up. What if he just skipped? But as captain of the team, a senior in high school, and finally playing after recovering from the concussion with only a couple more games left, he couldn’t afford to miss this. I was crushed. I even teared up.
With this disappointment, I scrambled to make other plans. Luckily a new friend of mine was free and able to help drive on the day of the concert. I was still excited, but definitely upset that my brother wouldn’t be the one to join me for this special experience.
I’m going to do this in pictures, partly because I’ve written so much already, but also because it’ll do more justice to the experience than I could convey.
What I really appreciated about her setlist was that she included music from each of her albums. I was so pleasantly surprised (this makes it sound proper; in reality I was screaming) that she did a couple from her first album. It was a special moment when she sang “Morphine”, which is arguably the most beautiful song from Skin & Earth.
Overall, it was an amazing day. Completely exhausting, and apparently everyone in SF smokes pot so I was rank with it, but worth it. I even drove the SF hills and wasn’t too terrified. I got some great merch, along with a sweater for my brother. While he was definitely bummed that he couldn’t make it to the concert, I knew that he made the right choice to stick with his team.
There’s always next time.
- I have been working on my second quilt, and it’s coming along nicely. I had to reformat the original pattern, which took a lot of work, and I’m not looking forward to sewing the layers together on my tiny machine. But sending it somewhere to get quilted costs around $150! And that’s without shipping! So, I’ll suffer for now.
- I got to see The Greatest Showman with a friend and I was completely floored. Every time there was a music scene I had goosebumps. My friend seemed less than impressed, but he endured it for me (thx man). I’ve been listening to the album since then.
- There’s been a story I’ve been working on writing for a little while now, perhaps a couple months, and I’ve really been attempting to make more of an effort to write frequently. I don’t know for sure if it’ll go anywhere, but hey, might as well go with it and see what happens. If anyone is curious, just let me know and I’ll be more than happy to send you what I have for now (in return for feedback).
Till next time!