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.


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.

New York ‘Newsies’ weekend: The main event


The name alone inspires wonder and, if you’re a theatre nerd like me, a bit of awe. When my sister and I heard “Newsies” was shifting from a 1992 cult film to a prized New York City stage performance, we gobbled up tickets — and made plans to head up for the weekend. We heard about the show after seeing “King Of New York” performed at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then finalized our plans in February. And then? Then, I kind of forgot about it. Because life gets crazy. Because I was planning another trip, busy at work and trying to keep all the plates spinning.

Before we knew it, I was tossing some clothes in a suitcase and hopping on a train to Penn Station. Kate and I got to New York at lunchtime Saturday and hit the ground running, getting a sandwich en route to Times Square and scoping out the New York Public Library (more coming soon). For a book nerd like me, the NYPL was the mecca I’d imagined it would be — and posing with the stone lions was a definite highlight. What can I say? I’m a sucker for tourist hotspots. And though I tried not to scream “TOURIST!” for 48 hours, I was a tourist. And it felt good.

After sightseeing, changing for the evening and enjoying a delicious dinner at Haru on 43rd Street (like my NYC street knowledge?), we made it to the Nederlander Theatre and joined the queue to enter “Newsies,” the entire crazy reason we’d poured ourselves up to the city. After we got in line, the queue wrapped easily around the block — and the audience energy was palpable. People everywhere were chatting, talking excitedly and snapping photos with the flashy marquee. Though I didn’t remember much about “Newsies” (beyond my sister’s favorite songs), I was pumped, too. A real Broadway show! Serious actors! Staying up late in Manhattan!

It was everything I would have wanted — and my sister loved it. A lifelong “Newsies” fan, she performed tunes like “King Of New York” and “Seize The Day” in an elementary school talent show — and I can still picture her dancing in her newsboy cap, so proud of her moves and lyrics. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe my 23-year-old sister is . . . well, 23. Being older, I’m perpetually unaware of her growth and change. To me, she’s still my 5-year-old sidekick with the long tresses and easy laugh.

I’m so glad we could share the experience. Jeremy Jordan was wonderful as Jack Kelly, the smokin’ hot and charismatic leader of the newsboy crew. When newspaper heavyweight Joseph Pulitzer raises the cost of papers (or “papes,” if you’re cool with Newsie lingo), the army of homeless and hungry newsboys in New York City’s boroughs rebel against the added financial burden. Kelly becomes their mouthpiece, organizing a newsboy union and striking. Against arguably the most powerful man in media. This was in 1899 — and based on a true story.

The Broadway rendition is probably catchier than the real-life struggle of hundreds of kids more than a century ago, but that’s quite all right. I like my history with a side of adorable dancing men, stuck-in-your-head-forever show tunes and intrepid girl reporters. “Seize The Day” should be my new anthem as I struggle to get up for work — and these aren’t the kinds of songs you’ll soon forget. The audience was completely into it, leaning forward and dancing in their seats. Aside from the audience member in front of me who almost got a swift kick to the head (literally — I fantasized about it) for her obnoxious screaming (really?), I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

And then we got egg creams and cheesecake from a diner near our hotel and I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.

If you’re in the NYC area or looking for a fun day trip, “Newsies” is well worth a look. We were told by another show goer that the story enjoys a cult following — and judging by the audience’s pumped-up dance moves and enthusiastic standing ovation, I don’t doubt that for a second.

Dancing with Mr. Brightside

the_killersIs there anything better than wrapping up the summer at a concert, sweating and laughing and singing along at the top of your lungs to one of your absolute favorite bands?

No. No, there isn’t.

The Killers performed at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., last night, and my sister and I were there — in the second-to-last row of the venue, sure, but most definitely there! They were spectacular . . . even better than I had dared to hope.

I’ve been an enormous fan since I first heard “Mr. Brightside” back in 2004 and somehow really connected with the lyrics. Their album “Hot Fuss” became my summer anthem, pouring through my car windows as it lived in my CD player for almost a year. Thankfully, I got my sister Kate in on the act — and it became a band we both love. Follow-up albums “Sam’s Town,” “Sawdust” and “Day & Age” all have a special place in my life — and my heart! — too.

So I love going to shows, but somehow I’d never managed to see The Killers live! This is especially disappointing considering I have a massive, heart-stopping crush on lead singer, pianist and lyricist Brandon Flowers. (Yeah, he’s married with two sons, but a girl can dream!) He was in fine form last night, wearing an all-black ensemble and singing/dancing his heart out, but unfortunately I was way too far away to get any decent shots. I’ll just have to burn those mental images into my brain forever!

They sang all their big hits — “All These Things That I’ve Done,” “Somebody Told Me,” “Bones,” “When You Were Young” (for the encore) and, of course, “Mr. Brightside.” I don’t really remember what my life was like before that song . . . and when the first riffs started, I’m pretty sure I went temporarily insane. Like, insane. You don’t want to be seen with me or be associated with me in any way sort of insane. Luckily Kate is used to my antics and thought nothing of me screaming my head off, dancing around in an aisle and throwing my arms up like I was hurtling down a rollercoaster! Hearing that song live was just it. Amazing. I closed my eyes and couldn’t stop jumping . . . I had to move, and keep moving. I can’t listen to that song and stand still.

Another definite highlight? The refrain of “All These Things That I’ve Done” that’s become synonymous with the band, even getting printed on T-shirts: “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier.” As I had hoped, Brandon let us sing it for a while . . . and the entire audience seemed to join in. It’s rare you see a group of, oh, 50,000 people completely in a moment as much as you did just then. Watching everyone’s faces staring up at the screen, looking at the hands reaching toward the sky, hearing the voices of a massive crowd all risen and pitched together to sing the very same notes — it’s like religion.

That’s why I can never get enough of live music — it feels holy, sacred. The feeling of unity you get at concerts is unparalleled . . . exhilerating, exciting, consuming, fantastic. And when the music you’re listening to right then, with that very band before you, has been your personal soundtrack through countless life changes, it makes you feel . . . invincible.

I know I’m really jumping off the deep end now, getting all pseudo-philosophical on you. Suffice it to say it was an incredible experience — an unforgettable one — which has to rank up there with the ever-growing Greatest Moments of Meg’s Life Ever.

Below is a video clip of one of my favorite songs, “A Dustland Fairytale,” captured by an awesome fan at my show! Have I mentioned lately how much I love the Internet? I can relive my exact fantastic evening through a series of YouTube videos and photos posted by others. Life is magical!

Weekend wrap-up: Valentine’s and loving Lincoln edition

We had a pretty fun and different holiday weekend — Palmer and I went with my parents to the newly-renovated Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. to see “The Heavens Are Hung In Black,” a new play based on the life of Abraham Lincoln following the death of his young son during the onset of the Civil War. The play was a tad long, but the two intermissions helped break up a little of my sleepiness! We were seated in the very last row of the balcony, but we could see very well. I thought the show was expertly done, and the acting superb — and hey, I could hear most everything that was being said! That’s a definite edge over some plays I’ve attended in the past.


Outside the Elephant & Castle

After the show, we walked down to have dinner at the Elephant & Castle — a British pub just a few blocks away! We had a great dinner — I got fish ‘n’ chips! — and pretended like we were back in London. The warm pub pretzels were a big hit. And, of course, we couldn’t head home before stopping at a bookstore — so it was off to the giant Barnes & Noble by our parking garage!

I was bad and got two books (and paid full price — gasp!) — Little Women and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. After reading Geraldine Brooks’ March a few weeks ago, I was astonished to realize I’ve never read the classic Louisa May Alcott novel on which it’s based! I found the B&N classic version, which was only $6.95. I can spring for it. And The Book Thief is supposed to be incredible, and I love literature based on Jewish characters… so I went for that, too! Not that I’m, you know, wanting for anything to read… I’m ashamed to actually show my TBR stack at the moment. My “stack” has actually become three stacks, and I’m worried that a slight brush of my arm or foot will send one or all completely crashing to the ground! I probably have 60 books waiting for me, easy. That terrifies me a bit. I’m stuck in the middle of Elizabeth Noble’s The Reading Group — I’m enjoying it, but it’s… long. And there are about a million characters. I like all of them, but trying to keep track of them is proving headache-inducing.

Speaking of books — Mom found this cool bag boasting two wonderful bookish quotes! I wasn’t prepared to shell out $14.95 to own said bag, but I did snap some photos. And hey, the first one is from none other than Abe Lincoln himself!