I’ve never been much of a writer. Not a good one anyway. I greatly admire those who can string their words together beautifully and make anything sound like poetry, but I’m simply not quite there. This certainly isn’t for lack of trying, as there’s really no skill I work harder to sharpen than this one. That being said, the events of this day were significant enough for me to really want to try to put into words, so I imposed upon myself the challenge of reflecting on and writing about an experience that was truly unlike any other for me.
In order to give a more complete picture of how the day went for me, I feel I should go back a bit. For weeks preceding The Airborne Toxic Event’s show in Glenside, PA, enthusiasm and nervous excitement had been running high for me. A worrier by nature, I had seemingly endless concerns: What if traffic is a nightmare because of the papal visit? What if I get my ticket and find that my seat is crap? What if I don’t make it into the top 20 Shazammers and all of my time was spent for nothing? I lost track of how many times I expressed these worries and many more to The World’s Most Patient Boyfriend™ since buying my ticket back in June.
Overall, however, I was elated to be able to see them again and to even be allowed the chance to potentially win my way into a private show. I was still bitter about the two nearby free shows that I would’ve been unable to get into over the summer and the New York show that I couldn’t feasibly make this time around, so I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip through my fingers; I was going to try. And try I did! For about six weeks I did what any sane and reasonable person would do, and I captured and sent at least 12,000 “One Time Thing” Shazam screenshots.
After arriving at the Keswick Village, I waited in line for a little over three hours, sitting under a sign that read “LINE STARTS HERE FOR SHAZAM PRE-SHOW PARTY”—a sign I later took as a token of having been first in line. The line slowly but surely began to grow as fervent and enthusiastic super-fans arrived, ready to enjoy the fruit of their labor. We shared our setlist contributions (mine was “Duet,” which didn’t make the cut) and joked about having the band play “One Time Thing,” which had literally been infiltrating my dreams during the last few days leading up to the concert. (For the record, they did play it during the main show and I was thrilled; somehow it still hasn’t gotten old for me).
My early arrival paid off, and after the doors opened I eagerly marched down to a seat in the front row and direct center, just feet away from where my favorite band would soon play. I later joked that I’d have to continue to settle for spitting distance until lap seats became an option.
It wasn’t long before they took the stage and was greeted by our tiny but excited crowd, which Mikel remarked was probably the smallest one they’ve ever had. He also joked about the setlist choices and the challenge of relearning older, lesser-played songs like “Tokyo Radio” and “A Letter to Georgia.” “You guys couldn’t have picked ‘Midnight’ or something?”
Spirits were high as song after song was played beautifully and movingly, and chill after chill rippled through my skin. I was in deep denial when Mikel mentioned that they were already about halfway through their set. All throughout the show I was euphoric, my goofy fangirl smile growing like wild when the band played “Strangers,” and only leaving my face when I was brought close to tears by “A Letter to Georgia,” “The Thing About Dreams,” and “The Fifth Day.” Those three songs were played back to back, and the emotional punch that they provided made that section my favorite one of the private show. The vocals in all three were enough to nearly take my breath away; “A Letter to Georgia” was a bona fide spiritual experience, Mikel’s falsetto in “The Thing About Dreams” was the best I’ve ever heard it sound, and hearing Anna’s voice as clearly as I could during “The Fifth Day” was life changing and absolutely divine.
It turns out that one of my concerns was valid—my ticket from the band’s website presale put me way further back than I would’ve liked for the main show, and I was bummed about it and ready to complain. My heart audibly broke with every step that I took to move from my center seat in the front row to “middle left” section, which sent me back several rows and pretty far off to the side. Regardless, I continued to enjoy my evening as I heard “A Letter to Georgia” for the second time and “Cocaine and Abel,” which I adore, for the very first, as well as old live favorites like “Changing” and “Gasoline.”
It wasn’t long before I discovered that my luck for the day hadn’t even come close to running out yet. “Security’s making everyone move, but I really don’t care if you’re in the aisle,” Mikel announced a few songs in. I was off before you could say “Change and Change and Change and Change.” I was eventually able to make my way down to join a few of the people I had met and hung out with in line earlier in the day as well as during the time between the private show and the performance from the opening band, Dreamers. Together we jumped and danced, really enjoying the full rock show aspect of the TATE experience.
The set closed with “Midnight,” complete with the full, powerful “and you WAAAAALLLKKKK” treatment rather than being replaced by falsetto this time. Very few people moved after the song finished, as we knew we’d be graced with an encore shortly.
“Elizabeth” is one of several TATE songs that have held a special place in my heart from the very first listen, so it was wonderful to hear its opening notes soon after the band returned to the stage. As the final chords of the encore’s third song, “All At Once,” were struck, it was clear that the show had come to a beautiful, albeit unwanted end.
The friendliness and generosity of TATE fans never ceases to amaze me, and while I’m always fine with going to concerts alone, it’s safe to say that this one was made exponentially better by the good company around me. I timidly but excitedly introduced myself to several other fans whose names I had seen online for months, and also reconnected with ones that I had met at previous shows. Drinks were offered, hugs were shared, and I was even handed a setlist by Jamie, who I brought as one of my three wonderful guests to the party. It was with TATE fans that I counted down the minutes until we’d be allowed in the building for the private show, and with TATE fans that I screamed the lyrics to “All I Ever Wanted,” “Happiness Is Overrated,” and others towards the end of the main show. The amazing day was made even better due to the kind, welcoming, fun nature of people to whom I was almost a stranger just hours before.
At the end of the night I had the pleasure of briefly talking to the band, which was a really fun and lovely experience that topped off an already incredible day. For several days prior to this show I was trying to make the decision about what I should bring to have them sign for me. A CD? Which one? Should I get a poster? The thought very briefly crossed my mind to bring something that I had made, as I recently taught myself how to embroider and have been putting TATE lyrics and symbols on everything. The specific item I thought of bringing was a denim jacket that I had bought for $4 at a thrift store and decorated with the band’s bird and arrow. However, I guess at this point I should note that the first time I met The Airborne Toxic Event I was so nervous I couldn’t speak, and that’s not an exaggeration. So that idea was short-lived; I couldn’t imagine bringing one of my silly little projects to them to look at and sign when I could barely say hello to them just six months before.
The weather began to cool down as one by one, the band members appeared to say their hellos, and I found myself feeling that same nervousness that I felt the first time. Little did I know that by the end of that night, Mikel would be telling me that my selfie game is strong and I’d be joking with Anna about how I think she’s way cooler than the Pope. They were all even friendlier and funnier than I had remembered, and that made it easy for me to quickly gather my courage and speak with the quick wit that I like to make people think I always have. Since the show I’ve found myself smiling and giggling throughout my days when I think about my exchanges and goofy selfies with all of them.
I expect that the entirety of that day is one that will forever remain unique and special for me. I feel unbelievably fortunate to have been able to experience everything the way I did, complete with a traffic-less drive home with my windows down and my favorite band’s discography on shuffle. All of the different components of the day seemed to work in perfect harmony, making for an unforgettable time. It’s a day that I’m sure I’ll recount to anybody willing to listen for a long time to come.