The faith of Florence


Is there anything more exhausting and delightful than a post-concert hangover?

Not a hangover in a literal sense (though I spotted some inebriated folks who are likely feeling pret-ty fantastic this morning). I’m talking that residual rush of seeing a really, really great show — the kind that keeps the tunes ringing in your ears. One that makes you sing and holler so hard you can’t shake the scratchiness of your throat. A concert that finds you dancing so much your legs and arms ache.

And on a work night, too. I’ve still got it.

My sister, her boyfriend and I went to see Florence + the Machine in Columbia, Md., on Wednesday night. I’ve been a fan since seeing the British band perform “Shake It Out” on New Year’s Eve as the clock strung 2012. The lyrics really affected me; I found myself thinking about the song for days, and didn’t waste much time purchasing “Ceremonials.” Her music has been the soundtrack of my year.

Eric found out Florence was coming to town — on Tuesday. For the Wednesday night show. Unleashing this news on Katie, perhaps the biggest fan of all, meant we were scrambling to get tickets — and we somehow (how? I don’t know) snagged some just four rows up from the pit. (And very close to Cecelia, by some twist of fate! Yay!)

Divine intervention.

Florence is . . . how to describe Florence? Magical. Ethereal. Otherworldly. Intoxicating. Her show was an event, and I emerged from my dancing and singing and swaying as a sweaty in the cool, damp air of early fall. As the lights came up, I blinked like I’d emerged from a trance. Everyone else looked as exhilarated and bewildered as I felt.

The show was everything I love about live music. Florence was engaging and delightful, especially when calling, “Thank you, Mary-land!” (Our dear Flo is British, see; her pronunciation of my home state is much more lyrical than the local Murrland. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, Mare-lin.)

As we poured out of Merriweather Post Pavilion, I shouted to my sister, “I feel like . . . I’ve been through something. A spiritual awakening.”

“A revival!” she shouted back.

Exactly.”

I’ve been to some shows where the band held a group under their collective spell (Hanson, anyone?). But that crowd? It was different. Everyone was bewitched by Florence — and it’s easy to see why. With her voice, style and the band’s hypnotic sound, the concert felt like a religious experience. Especially as our heroine entreated all of us to turn to those around us and offer hugs, handshakes, introductions. She wanted us all to be “friends.”

We did as we were told. When Florence said jump, we jumped. All of us. Everyone.

Driving home, my sister said sleepily, “Man, that crowd was ready to obey. She could start her own religion. I hope she uses her powers for good.”

And keeps making incredible music.


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Meeting Hanson, my idols — and how I lived to blog about it

You know, I fancy myself a sophisticated woman. I talk easily with most people and feel reasonably comfortable networking. I have a full-time job, write religiously and am devoted to my family and friends. Though I might not be the snappiest dresser around, I carry myself with an air of confidence.

In short, I think I’m a good person. And a grown-up. And a decidedly logical woman.

Until Taylor Hanson shows up.

Hanson is a real-life fountain of youth, my friends. One moment I’m 25 and chattering with my sister and boyfriend, and the next I’m 12 and wallpapering my bedroom with posters while listening to “Middle Of Nowhere” on repeat. It doesn’t matter how many concerts I’ve attended in the past (seven, I believe); heat overtakes my body the moment my favorite band appears.

On Saturday at The Sound Garden in Baltimore, Md., I arrived with Katie and Spencer to find a crush of girls milling around a makeshift stage in the tiny music store. It struck me immediately how much we all looked alike: young women in leggings, jeans or boots; some of us in glasses and some with ponytails; many in lightweight jackets or flowing tops. We were redheads, brunettes and blondes. We were all in our 20s.

We were all obsessed with Hanson.

Getting there early worked in our favor: we were right near the small stage for Hanson’s in-store performance. And as it drew closer and closer to 4:30 p.m., the magic time they were scheduled to appear, my eye rarely left the door. My attentiveness was rewarded with a glimpse of the Hanson brothers pulling up in a cab, then disappearing; my mouth opened and closed like a fish. Not my most glamorous moment.

“They’re here!” I hissed to Katie. I figured yelling that any louder would be the equivalent of shouting “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theatre and, you know . . . that’s illegal.

While we were waiting and my excitement was growing like a sparkly weed, I had this uneasy sense that I didn’t want Spencer to see me like this. I mean, I’m his girlfriend — a writer; a daughter; a friend. I pride myself on being level-headed and poised. As a general habit, I don’t run around screaming and crying over . . . another dude.

But, you know. Some things are beyond my control.

When Hanson finally made their way toward us, camera flashes exploded from all sides. Voices lifted up in madness, shouting and calling and whistling. Someone screamed. It was something about being soclose to them, and in broad daylight, that sent a serious tremor through me. Just to the right of the stage, I could have lunged forward and grabbed Taylor’s boot. And when they launched into “Shout It Out,” the title track from their new album, Katie and I were dancing with the best of them.

The performance went on this way: me singing and shouting; Katie and I grabbing each other when Taylor looked right at us and grinned; me worrying that Spencer thought I was a total nutjob.

“Are you going to break up with me after this?” I asked him between songs, taking in the scared deer-in-headlights look on his face.

“Yes,” he deadpanned.

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