It’s become something of a well-known fact about me: I like Owl City. Some people find it funny, or unexpected, or So. Last. Year., but, well, I suppose it’s just something that grabs me.
In light of that, I was very excited when we snagged some tickets earlier in April to see Owl City (who is not a “band” per se, but Adam Young) on June 18, on his “All Things Bright and Beautiful” world tour. I have a friend who was sweet enough to come with me, and even agreed to wait eight and a half hours on the sidewalk in Baltimore to try to get great seats.
Yes. That’s what we did. With coolers and C.S. Lewis paperbacks in hand, we waited (first in line) in front of the gates of Pier Six Pavilion from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., talking to people on the street and hanging out with some friendly fans we met. The weather was lovely, if a bit hot towards the middle of the day. (Unfortunately, I forgot the benefits of sunscreen until about four hours in. A little late. And I didn’t bring any.) We met the Owl City tour bus driver, who was amazingly friendly… it’s really wonderful how many people you can meet and talk with in eight hours. Passers-by asked many a question about us and the show. By the end of the day, we wished for a sign reading “The artist is Owl City. Owl City is electropop. Electropop is basically dance music. Yes, we’ve been here for a long time. Yes, we’re aware of the dangers of heat and sun. No, we’re not groupies.”
In one particularly memorable moment during the lengthy hours of waiting, a bridal party en route to the ceremony paraded through the harbor amidst cheers of dozens of Owl City fans. More cheering from inside the pavilion serenaded the couple as they wedded on a nearby ship.
Well, 5:30 finally arrived and many a nervous Owl City fan clutched her ticket in hopes of obtaining one of the highly-sought-after Front Row Seats. The gates opened, and we all ran for it. After a tense moment in which I inadvertently angered the venue staff and began to hyperventilate completely against my will, Traci ran ahead and grabbed not only front-row seats, but The Front Row Seats of All Front Row Seats, directly in the center of the row. Within moments, the first six (or so) rows were completely filled in and empty seats began to disappear all over the pavilion. Cue surreal moment as I looked around and noticed the mic and piano perched on the edge of the stage a mere eight feet away.
(As an aside, I realize that front-row seats at an Owl City concert wouldn’t bear the same significance to most of my friends, but just try to imagine the excitement of potentially seeing one of your favorite artists and personalities this close, live. That times ten would be about my level of excitement.)
Another hour and a half passed (though it seemed relatively short compared with the eight hours outside). The opening group, Unwed Sailor (a lovely indie instrumental band) took the stage and played an excellent mid-tempo set which provided some calm before, well, the rest of the evening. After a set tear-down, Mat Kearney appeared and played a wonderful nine-song set, my favorite number of which was the beautiful “Fire and Rain.” He ended with his latest single “Hey Mama,” which served to get the crowd amply hyped for Owl City’s appearance.
Then … another long tear-down during which I met more fans and generally enjoyed the enthusiastic crowd atmosphere. Cheers erupted the moment the lights went down, then dramatically silenced through a beautiful intro until Adam appeared onstage, when they once again soared sky-high. I couldn’t quit smiling as enchanting lights and electronic sounds darted overhead, pulling the audience into the bright, sparkling world of Owl City. The whole front row was all beaming, hands in the air, heads bobbing, eyes wide.
Around this time, a girl towards the front grabbed a Sharpie and scribbled a sign reading “Adam — may I have your guitar pick please?” with her name at the bottom. She clutched it breathlessly, probably hoping he might see it and think to hand the orange pick down at the end of the show. Her heart doubtless beat as hard as the pounding stereo as she watched him read it, smiling. I’ll bet she nearly swooned when he looked her in the eye and mouthed “You’re so cute.”
I couldn’t help but notice how lovely the whole stage looked — the three bright-eyed girls playing back-up all wore white dresses and sweet expressions, and the wooden upright piano on the edge of the stage gave the single (sad) down-tempo number (“Lonely Lullaby”) a distinctly late-night, living-room feel.
The venue was on the water and much of Baltimore turned out to listen from the dock. Lights sparkled like fireflies across the harbor and prompted Adam to wax affectionate about his love for the audience.
“Baltimore, you’re so cute. I could just give Baltimore a hug.” (Motions hugging Baltimore.)
And later, during a shimmering interlude, “Baltimore, you’re just SO CUTE!” He turned and pointed at someone towards the front again. I’ve never seen a performer treat the audience with such charm and complete sweetness. Or use the word “cute” that many times in one show. Good stuff.
The whole show glittered start to finish and swept listeners away to a dreamlike galaxy of brave dreams and soaring hopes, a theme reflected in every song. (Check out the brand-new album, All Things Bright and Beautiful, available everywhere great music is sold.) Afterwards, a ragtag collection of die-hards waited to see if Adam would do some signing out by the tour buses. Though we did not see him, we did meet Mat Kearney, who was extremely gracious and kind. When I asked him to sign my set-list, he said “Oh, you were in the front row! I saw you going like this [motion resembling my typical dancing with one hand in the air] and it was very encouraging!”
Even though we couldn’t bring professional cameras into the venue, Traci, who is a concert photographer, shot some great photos on a point-and-shoot.
Thank you, Adam, for a completely lovely, utterly breathtaking evening … I was wonderstruck and it was all unforgettable beginning to end.