This week, I celebrated a huge milestone in my young adult life: I turned 21.
Like with her quintessential “fairytale wedding,” the American girl is conditioned to dream of her 21st birthday. It’s supposed to be a magical mix of body-con dresses and glitter and stilettos and bottomless jello shots (or mimosas) and Trey Songz (or Taylor Swift, depending on your demographic) to set the mood.
Would you believe me if I said I spent my 21st birthday in?
It wasn’t just that it was a school night or that I’ve been able to drink in England, anyway, so the novelty of alcohol was lost on me.
No. I spent Tuesday studying for my political science exam. Sure, I went out and treated myself to some goods to prepare for Scotland tomorrow. But if I procrastinated at all, it was to work on a magazine article.
With exams in my rearview, however, I was free to enjoy seeing the band Bleachers last night with Haley.
Heading to the concert
If you’re about that alt rock life, you know that Bleachers popped off in 2014 with “I Wanna Get Better.”
At the very least, you know Jack Antonoff as the Beyoncé of fun. He’s gone out on his own and
- wooed Lena Dunham,
- cut tracks with Carly Rae Jepsen, Grimes, Troye Sivan, Zayn, Sia, Fifth Harmony and Swift,
- and really #didthat with Lorde’s “Melodrama” album.
Now, the band is back touring for the “Gone Now” album cycle.
After wrapping up a few loose ends, I made my way to Tottenham Court Road station to meet Haley. This is a station I have beef with. You can take the Northern line and the Central line from Tottenham Court Road once you enter it. For some reason, I have never been able to take the Northern line to Tottenham Court Road. It seems to be only Central-line-accessible. This discrepancy infuriates me to no end.
Once we switched lines, we were able to get to the venue, KOKO. It’s right across the street from Mornington Crescent station.
I got so caught up with working on journalism stuff that I hadn’t eaten all day. I ended up grabbing a pastry from the Sainsbury’s a few doors over and scarfing it down before I hopped into the security line.
When the guard asked me how old I was, I stumbled because 1) everyone forgets how they are when you ask them, and 2) my age had just changed. Luckily, the security didn’t think the exchange too unusual and we were able to proceed.
Jamming with openers and fighting tall people
The venue was moderately filled when we entered. We were able to check out the view from the balcony comfortably and decide to view the show from General Admission with ease. Grabbing a drink at the bar and returning to our spots was a painless process.
The band who opened for Bleachers, Bassh, was unknown to us. But their performance gave us a reason to know them. Their song “Animal” was a catchy, dark indie rock bop.
Definitely the right amount of spooky if you’re looking for additions to your Halloween playlist.
After Bassh performed, I had what was simultaneously the best and worst thought: now is the time to use the toilets. Because, of course, that is what intermission is for. But, of course, that’s what every feminine person in the venue seems to go queue up for.
I thought I was clever by telling Haley I would wait a bit, so the queue could die down. When I came back (but not before earnestly nudging people aside with a chorus of “sorry!”‘s like a real British person), I couldn’t find Haley. Was I in the wrong area?
Then I saw Haley’s message: two people had taken my spot. Surely, that wouldn’t matter. I could just wedge myself back in. But it made all the difference. It took me a moment to recalibrate and find the tall, curly-haired person I had been using as a landmark. They were now obscured from my view by what was an even taller person. In my spot.
When someone nearby had mercy on me and let me pass to get closer to Haley, I tried to squeeze in, to no avail. It did not matter how you sliced it: I was looking at a towering wall of lanky, blue gingham and would be for the rest of the night. Their partner was my height exactly, so that really wasn’t helping. The only relief I had was when the tall person danced a bit to the left and I could finally see Antonoff.
I was nearly ecstatic when a soft song came on and they wrapped their lover up in their arms. Good riddance! By the time Bleachers played, we had been so tightly packed into GA that their partner’s long hair was getting stuck in my lipstick. Finally, I could slide in.
Turning up with Bleachers
Be that all as it may, Bleachers itself was fantastic. The band’s sound was so rich: really bright and warm for slower songs, and absolutely gripping for the loud and fast jams.
I really enjoy the sort of ’80s tint to Bleachers’ sonic aesthetic. It’s romantic and melancholy, with a dash of sass: all wrapped up into this catchy, relatable, John-Hughes-flavoured package.
It was amazing to see the crowd come alive as well. There was that appreciative shimmer of body movement for the opener, as you do. But the tension and apprehension of the early crowd had absolutely dissolved away once the hits started rolling.
Much to our surprise, Bleachers didn’t do an encore. Of course, not everyone does, but there was something in the execution of the end that seemed abrupt and begging for more. We chanted for another song, but then the lights came on and people started to file out of the building.
Haley and I met some nice, chic ladies, rocking platinum blonde hair and O-ring chokers and latex and giving us life. They were about our height, so we bonded over our disdain for all the tall folks who showed up to stan for Bleachers.
(We also ran into some peers from our program! I am always so amazed when I run into people I know is this great big city of ours.)
Sipping with the crew
And then today came the actual birthday celebration! I went out for tea with Yvonne, Hope, Minji and Haley at Bea’s of Bloomsbury.
It was so incredibly nice to spend the afternoon just hanging out with my mates and basking in their good vibes over tea. It’s looking like spilling the tea over tea is becoming our thing.
All in all, it has been quite the eventful two days. And more than me being salty about tall people at concerts or having to slog through critical theory about media / communications psychology / close readings of Shakespeare / the intersections of sociology and ethnography and art, I have been so humbled by all of the kind birthday wall posts and phone calls I have received.
Every year I am struck by how many lovely people I am surrounded by and what a welcoming, inclusive and enriching social network I have. Here’s to hopefully many more years spending my birthday (week) doing what I love with people I love.
Note: For better or worse, my whole modus operandi with Petit Ange Brun is blogging every single day. Just like I did with the school trip to Berlin, I’m leaving my laptop at home this weekend when I go to Edinburgh. I’m taking my camera in its stead. Not only does leaving my laptop behind eliminate risk as a traveler, but this way, I can really take Edinburgh in. Business will resume as usual on Monday.