ticket stub story number four: radiohead — nyc, august 2001

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the mythology of new york always appealed to me, even though everything i knew about it only existed in films, photographs, and folklore. if you were to ask my thirteen-year-old self where i thought i would live as an adult, i probably would have told you new york city. i wanted andy warhol’s new york. i wanted the velvet underground and joe dallesandro and deborah harry and the factory. i guess i was born too late.

in august of 2001, i was chatting with some friends at a bar in chicago and it was decided that very night that we would fly to new york to see radiohead. we had no tickets for the concert (sold out) and no idea where we were staying. i think i had about $100 in the bank and i had never done a spontaneous trip quite like that. i was scared to death. no plan? no money? a city larger than chicago that i had no idea how to navigate? but i had to do it, something in my bones told me i had to.

at that time, flights would sometimes be incredibly cheap, so we were on our way to newark before you knew it. it was late summer, hot and humid. one of my travel companions had some friends that met us out at a bar. they were tall and leggy in stiletto heels, such tiny, delicate birds. i felt like a blubbery pile of sweaty flesh next to them.

the dynamic of friendships among young women always had a competitive edge to it. hell, sometimes, it still does. now that i am older and wiser, i see how i never learned to handle those feelings of insignificance brought on by its good buddy comparison. most of the social dynamics in school was so exhausting and ridiculous to me that i was just fine being different than the popular kids even though it meant feeling ostracized. whenever those awkward adolescent feelings start to creep back in, i get anxious like a motherfucker. fight or flight takes over everything and all rational thought disappears. my body aches to run away, to take flight, but no. fight always comes first.

all night long, from one bar to another bar, and then to a dance club, i felt hideously out of place. but all of that ended once we got to max fish. now that was a bar i could get into, the vibe was just right. even meg white was there, drinking whisky and playing pinball. the white stripes were still so new that summer of 2001 that i felt like the coolest girl in the world just to be in the same room as her.

the next day after wandering the city, i managed to get myself to where the ferry would take us to liberty state park. i still didn’t have a ticket, but somehow, it all came together in just a few minutes. i found someone selling a ticket, got on the ferry and was on my way to see radiohead for the first time.

the sun was starting to set and the light was changing as we coasted along past the statue of liberty, passing a joint around as i snapped photos. i marveled at the manhattan skyline as the sunset painted a wash of pastels onto the shining metropolis. my eyes drank in the scenery as every terrible thought i had about myself the night before melted away into the water beneath us.

kid koala was the first act, followed by the beta band, and then radiohead played. i was alone for most of the night, moving around the crowd, watching everything from different vantage points, taking in the music and feeling my skin tingle. thinking back on it now, that trip reminded me of how fun it is to travel and see live music. i vowed to do it again soon.

here is the setlist from that night:

the national anthem
morning bell
airbag
karma police
knives out
packd like sardines in a crushd tin box
exit music (for a film)
my iron lung
no surprises
dollars and cents
street spirit (fade out)
i might be wrong
pyramid song
paranoid android
idioteque
everything in its right place

like spinning plates
lucky (false start)
you and whose army?
how to disappear completely

true love waits
the bends
the tourist

when i got home to chicago, i had a couple rolls of film to process, but they slipped my mind. i ended up not getting the film developed for a few weeks. as i looked through the photos, i froze. the manhattan skyline was bathed in that perfect light, exactly how i remembered. it was just a few weeks after september 11 and i was looking at photos that had the twin towers in the background.

as i was compiling the setlist above, i did a quick search for photos from that show and found this beauty below. i was listening to “the tourist” when i found this. it just seemed perfect to end this ticket stub story with it.

 

Radiohead in Black & White With WTC in Background - Imgur

ticket stub story number three: bloc party — chicago, march 2005

the jacket i wore that night, along with the ticket stub and buttons from the show.

the jacket i wore that night, along with the ticket stub and buttons from the show.

2005 was an interesting year. my 30th trip around the sun began in february and i lived in the wicker park neighborhood of chicago, right there on milwaukee avenue in the middle of the action. “the crotch” we lovingly called it, that intersection of damen, milwaukee, and north avenues. summers, winters, we were all over that crotch, soaked in whiskey and vodka and rock and roll.

i frequented reckless records as they were only a couple of doors down from my apartment, often picking up issues of NME to find out about the latest music from britain. even as a teenager i was obsessed with NME and melody maker and was turned on to a lot of music because of those magazines. bloc party was likely an NME discovery back then, we didn’t have apps like shazam and i wasn’t looking at blogs that much since it was still the myspace era for me and most of my friends (we were too old for facebook).

i went to this show alone if i remember correctly. i watched the drummer Matt Tong in total awe. if you’ve ever seen bloc party live when he was still with the band, you probably get what i am talking about. he straight up destroys the drums live. he was soaking wet with sweat from the slaughter of the performance, it was fantastic. i’ve always had a thing for the rhythm section. see a show with me, then wait and see how long it takes before i comment on the drummer or the bass line. seriously, try me.

about a month after the show i went to costa rica on a whim. i was working at the pontiac cafe at the time and i was making a fair amount of dough in a short amount of time so i bought a plane ticket and went to costa rica and i think i spent all of three days planning everything. on the flight, i had my headphones on listening to the stations that were provided by the airlines and then a song came on that stopped me right then and there. in the air, above the clouds, “so here we are” came on, a bloc party song that was one of my favorites from their album, silent alarm. (i need to get that on vinyl, now that i think about it.) it’s a killer song, and it was just what i needed to hear at that moment.

i was really unsure about my life, i had graduated from art school four years earlier, i was waiting tables, i wasn’t making art (of my own), i had an unrequited crush, i was drunk a lot because it was chicago and that was what you did in wicker park in 2005. i watched a lot of six feet under back then too, which explains why i was very introspective. (i still love that show deeply.)

to get to costa rica from chicago, you have to fly to miami first. in the airport, i went to the bar and had a mojito and nervously fidgeted because we didn’t have phones to stare at back then when the uncomfortableness of traveling solo seeps in. it had been awhile, i hadn’t been able to afford much travel since moving to chicago seven years prior, but i managed to get to the UK, amsterdam, and now costa rica.

that trip to costa rica re-invigorated my love for travel. on the flight, Kele Okereke sang to me, “i figured it out” and i wrote it down in a notebook. i still have it somewhere. i knew right then, on that airplane to costa rica, that i needed to make a big change soon.

i was going to have to leave chicago.