Written on June 15th
Some concerts are a joy and some turn into an ordeal that must be endured. Most are the former, very few are the latter. Last night’s Francis & the Lights show was somewhere in between.
Most of it was my own fault. I was coming to the end of some extremely stressful time at work up to and including that very day. I was sweating bullets hoping I would to get to leave on time. (the show had an oddly early start time of 7:00pm, and I normally leave work at 7:30). So I hopped in a cab at 7:30 while Dawn was texting me that despite the 7:00 pm start time nothing was happening. As it is, I got there in plenty of time, because opener Peter Cottontale didn’t go on until shortly after 8:00.
In my ignorance I’d never heard of Peter Cottontale by name, but he’s a member of Chance the Rapper’s band The Social Experiment. His band crowded the Metro stage, with a rainbow coalition of singers, a horn section, bass player, guitarist and drummer alongside his keyboards. On a better day I would’ve LOVED this performance with all my heart. It was a jumping, jamming, Parliament/Funkadelic-style joy. And it was all I could do to not burst into tears because I just felt empty. At one point he shouted “Do you all feel free tonight?” and of course everyone yelled, “YEAH!” and I was like, really? You do? Because I don’t. And then I was furious at myself for being unable to enjoy this beautiful thing happening in front of me, wiping away tears and trying not to look like I was having a nervous breakdown. All the bottled-up stress & anxiety of the last few weeks had chosen this exact moment to break me.
At the end of the set, Chance came onstage. He’s also worked with Francis so there was much pre-show buzz about whether he might make a guest appearance, and when Peter Cottontale was announced as the opening act the buzz was even stronger. So there he was, for their final song, performing “Blessings” and that was exciting! The crowd lost their collective shit and all the phones went up in the air (including mine).
Now that we knew Chance was in the building, it seemed inevitable that we’d see him again during Francis’ set. But the crowd was dragging me down. It was a sold out, all ages show and it was PACKED. Dawn & I were trying to hold our spot on the raised floor area where we usually stand at the Metro. But of course we were constantly being jostled and blocked by “The Talls” as Dawn has hilariously labeled them. We’re both about 5’4″ and I really wish I could institute standing zones by height at GA shows. (Any clubs interested in a pilot program, get in touch.) I know I’ll be banging this drum until the day I die, but maybe #TimesUp for tall men with no self-awareness at GA shows.
Then Francis finally appeared. Right off the bat, he jumped into his signature dance moves, and the stage couldn’t hold him for more than 10 minutes before he started climbing a lighting rig, and ended up on top of the giant speakers at the side of the stage. He didn’t bother climbing back down, he just jumped.
Later he climbed up the other lighting rig and maneuvered himself to the balcony with ridiculous ease. I don’t know how he does it, and he must have a hell of a liability insurance policy because if he fell, the best he could hope for would be broken limbs. (These are the thoughts you have at shows when you’re 51.)
Halfway through the set, Chance returned again, to perform “May I Have This Dance” (the song he features on with Francis) and cue everyone losing their shit again. I couldn’t see much (the aforementioned Talls being in full effect) so I put my phone up high and could actually see it better that way. I THOUGHT I was recording, but as the song came to an end I realized I hadn’t hit the button right and the delightful Francis/Chance choreography was lost to history. I’ll be periodically kicking myself until the end of days about that one (which I KNOW is not a big deal and there are a hundred other videos of it that I can watch on Instagram & YouTube, like this one:
But it just put another log on the fire in my head.
After a few more songs I started feeling really sweaty and nauseous, so I worked my way out of the crowd to get some air and shed a few more hyperemotional tears before walking around outside the crowd to the left side of the stage where I watched the rest of the show.
Then it was over, and we made our way out of the sweaty crowd into the cool night air and I felt a little better, but still annoyed at myself that I couldn’t get out of my own head and enjoy it more. Dawn and I walked down the block to Jeni’s Ice Cream and it was still open, so we had ice cream and talked about the show, and babies made of Jell-O, and all the other shows we’re going to see this summer and I felt more like myself again.
Sometimes you just have a bad night, and hopefully no one else can really tell.