Somewhere over the past year or so, I’ve gotten pretty bad at running a music blog, or at least trying to run a music blog. I didn’t just suddenly stop loving music, but I had a bit of a crisis and realized that I wasn’t sure whether or not I could fathom the idea of dedicating my life to it. That led to a weird phase of not listening to my favourite bands and not putting any effort into discovering new music and feeling all kinds of stuck, and it’s something I’ve only just figured out how to get out of.
Losing your grip on something you love is a weird feeling. Music has occupied so much space in my life for so long, and then things shifted a bit and I wasn’t sure how to move music aside to make room for other things I love. I didn’t know how to not be the girl who runs a music blog and won’t stop talking about bands, even though I didn’t really feel like that girl anymore. I wanted to be the girl who won’t stop talking about bands, but who also won’t stop talking about art and poetry and people who inspire me.
After a while away from the intensity of loving something with my whole heart, I feel like I’ve found my footing again. I’ve bought tickets to a dozen shows and seen bands I love and bands I just kind of like, and I found something good in every one of them. I’ve gone to a lot of art galleries and I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve written a lot of poetry. I’m learning not to push myself into a box and close myself off from all the things that make me feel alive just because I can’t figure out what the world wants me to be. And that’s the thing – I don’t have to be what the world wants me to be. I get to be who I want to be.
I have to admit that I’m kind of scared about changing this blog and making it about more than just music. But my life is about more than just music. It’s about standing in the AGO staring at Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge, Fog and feeling like the entire world is confined to the millions of dots painted by Claude’s hand. It’s seeing a book on the top shelf in the music section in Indigo and buying it because of the faces on the front, not knowing that those faces belonged to Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe and that they would change my life forever. It’s sitting in the grass on the south bank of the Thames writing everything that filled my heart in that moment. It will also always be about music, but I need to define myself by more than that.
After all that going on about getting out of the box of music, I’m going to write about music. Because over the past two months, some pretty insane music-related things have happened, and all of them reminded me why I fell in love with the way humans arrange sounds and words and emotion into art. So here they are.
Most importantly, I saw Patti Smith. Even just typing that sentence seems surreal, despite the fact that it’s been nearly two months since it happened. The entire thing is crazy, mostly because tickets were bought on a whim and Charlotte and I drove a sixteen-hour roundtrip to New York City just to be in Manhattan for twenty-two hours, but we saw Patti Freaking Smith. We stood in line in Central Park, Charlotte bought me fries from the concession stand while I laughed a little to myself at her tipsiness despite the fact that she was only a couple drinks in, I picked out a shirt and got my hands on a signed copy of Devotion. Patti walked on stage and I started crying right away, unable to wrap my head around the fact that the woman who had a hand in making me who I am today was standing twenty feet away from my person.
She started off reading “People Have the Power” as if it were a poem, and she went on to sing it twice more. She told us the story of Fred coming into the kitchen while she was peeling potatoes, turning to her and saying, “Tricia. People Have the Power. Write it.” She sang “Land” and she forgot the words to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” and she danced to “Looking for You (I Was).” She looked at her kids as if the whole world existed inside the two of them, she yelled about Trump and war and tearing down walls and uniting instead.
She walked off the stage and took a piece of me with her, but I also felt like she left a piece of herself with me. Charlotte and I spent the next morning drinking bad 7/11 coffee because that’s what she drinks, eating pretty good 7/11 glazed donuts because that’s what she eats, and shuffling around Chelsea and Greenwich Village and the Bowery. We stood in CBGB, looking in awe at the walls smothered inches thick with gig flyers. We went to The Strand and I bought a Sam Shepard book. We drank a disgusting egg cream in Tompkins Square Park and visited Robert’s studio at 24 Bond Street and peered in the windows of what used to be the café that Patti sat in to write M Train. I wanted to die in the eight hours it took us to drive back to Toronto, but I felt changed and brand new and my heartbeat felt steadier and more powerful. Patti is everything.
It’s hard to follow on from seeing Patti Smith in concert, but less than three weeks later, I was graced by the presence of none other than Harry Styles. I still haven’t fully processed it, mostly because I get a little pain in my heart at the absence of him and I can’t bear to think about it for longer than a few seconds. But it happened and it was glorious and he wore a jaquard-patterned suit that for some reason had tiny Donald Ducks all over it and his ringed fingers clasping a microphone are one of the best things I’ve seen in my entire life. He pranced around the stage like he owned the place – which honestly, he did – and he danced terribly and stood back often to stare at the crowd in awe, a massive smile plastered across his face that mirrored the ones on the faces staring back at him.
In my mind, Harry’s show is made up of dozens of singular moments. Harry standing in the middle of the stage, telling us all that in that room, we could be anyone we wanted to be. Harry mouthing the sincerest I love you’s to the crowd. Harry counting down the minutes we had left with each other, as if he was just as sad as we were that we’d eventually have to part ways. During the encore, while he belted out the bridge of “Sign of the Times,” I had to stop and stand still and look at him doing the thing he was made to do. I clutched my hands to my chest and watched his eyelids flutter closed and his passion for his craft course through his veins. His light is blinding, and while he glowed, I felt like I started glowing too. That light didn’t fade when he walked off the stage, and I still find flickers of it hidden under my skin. Harry is special and magnetic and he occupies a substantial space in my heart, and I feel so lucky that I was fortunate enough to see him live. I can’t wait to do it all over again a couple times next spring.
Last, but certainly not least, is the band that has defined me for nearly six years and the ones who are responsible for reigniting my boldest, deepest love for music. The Vaccines have returned, and I could not be happier. On Friday morning, while I was sitting in a lecture hall of nearly two hundred students, the band posted a comeback video and announced a show at Alexandra Palace. I (somewhat) contained myself for the remainder of class but proceeded to pre-order the biggest possible merch bundle for an album that doesn’t yet have a name or a release date. In the days since, I’ve watched the promo video countless times, memorizing the lilt of their words and the snippet of a new song at the end and the posters plastering the bedroom walls of a teenage girl sitting on her bed embroidering a top. I see myself in that girl, past me and future me and present me all wrapped up in one, each facet completely enamored by a band who dug its way into the cavity of her chest and have yet to make their way out.
The Vaccines have a permanent position in my life. Their faces are printed on shirts I wear often, their records are on constant rotation on my turntable, and I stay up late at night watching old interviews and performances as if somehow I’ll notice something I haven’t noticed before. The Vaccines make me feel like me – all the lust of What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?, all the angst of Come of Age, and all the heartbreak and distrust of English Graffiti. They remind me that emotions are valid and that art can be sad and angry and ugly and it’ll still be art. I don’t know who I’d be without them.
The best part about The Vaccines’ comeback is that their show at Alexandra Palace is at the tail end of my month-long Easter break, one of the many benefits of spending a semester studying in England. In a fantastic series of events, I’ve managed to become lucky enough to see my favourite band in my favourite city at a venue that I’ve only ever dreamed of. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, aching for it, and often complaining about it. And it has worked out exactly as it was meant to. I’m a much different person than I was when I first discovered the band, but they still make me feel the same. I’m better and brighter and more alive, and so are they. In a little over five months, we’ll be occupying the same space. I’ll be singing my favourite songs at the top of my lungs, and they’ll be on stage in front of me, playing the chords I know so well. It all feels surreal and serendipitous, but I’m relishing in it, partly out of fear that the feeling will leave or end, and partly out of intense happiness. Words don’t really do it all justice. Patti happened and Harry happened and The Vaccs are back and so am I. And I won’t promise anything, but I think I’m back for real. If you send all the good writing vibes to me, I’ll send good vibes back to all of you. Let’s be the best we can be together.