Jolene goes to a Bastille Gig
The idea of trading PJs for a cute outfit, cramming yourself into a standing-only area with hundreds of strangers to recklessly shout out your favorite lyrics along with the artist on stage does not appeal to everyone. In fact, most people are content "listening to the album at home," but I'm definitely not one of those people. I find an allure in live music, and I've never been able to put my finger on one particular reason that I am so strongly drawn to it. Perhaps it's the live, passionate display of a musician's craft as well as a peek into their soul, or the experience of watching and hearing a song be created right before my eyes and ears.
When I began my working life, I heard Pompeii on the radio by chance, as one of my coworkers can't exist without sound in the background of our day. Its catchy melody, the singer's heavy accent and quirky subject matter captured me immediately, so naturally I blindly purchased the album All This Bad Blood, and my love for Bastille was born.
As I became acquainted with Dan Smith's unique vocals and affinity for all things melancholy, I began to appreciate Bastille more and more, and they slowly became a large part of the soundtrack of my 20's. I've been fortunate enough to see Bastille perform live several times, but the past two opportunities I've had really take the cake.
First, I got tickets to see Bastille at the Wiltern, a classic art deco theater that holds a little under 2,000 people, located in Korea Town. I've had several great experiences in the Wiltern so I was excited to go back. I was accompanied by my artist friend Michele (AKA Spazy Art), and she was kind enough to tell me about the Wiltern's Underground Lounge, which gives guests early access to the venue, with bathrooms, drinks and complimentary catering.
We got a wonderful spot in the pit, in the front section. When the show started, the excitement and electricity in the room was palpable.
There's something inexplicably surreal about physically seeing the entity that you listen to on a regular basis, the complete version of the voice who serenades you in your car, on your best days, and at your worst moments.
Bastille is that band for so many - their unabashed melancholia is relatable to so many, and Dan's freedom on stage is like secondhand liberation. Bastille played through their hits like Good Grief (which often prompts the infamous cry-dancing), older songs like Of the Night (one of my absolute personal favorites), and it was the first time many of us heard new songs like Happier and Quarter Past Midnight.
The emotion in the room was real, and Dan left everything on the stage - even his voice.
This leads me to part 2 of my story: the Dinner Date with the Woody Show
***Please note: I was so wrapped up in the experience, I literally took two photos. Two. So I apologize for the lack of visuals - I will do my best to scour the internet for visual aids.***
Rewind to exactly one week prior to the concert. It was Monday morning and I was driving to work, listening to my favorite radio show. They are endlessly doing giveaways, but my ears perked up when I heard "Win a dinner date with the Woody Show... and Bastille."
I heard right! Long story short, I arrived at my office minutes later, called in, and won. I was the first winner of the week! Even though there was no information given, no description or details, regarding how this "dinner date" would go down with 8 other winners, I was excited, to say the least.
The day of the concert, I received location information - we would be visiting Black Rabbit Rose, a magic bar/lounge/restaurant the following day. I was nervous and excited to see how the night would play out.
Upon entering the venue on Tuesday, I was already blown away when I walked through the red velvet curtain. Black Rabbit Rose is a dimly lit, extravagantly decorated spot, resurrecting the vintage glamor so often associated with Hollywood. Nestled on the corner of a small street and Hollywood Boulevard, this venue is a diamond hidden behind an unassuming facade.
Above lounge photo courtesy of Black Rabbit Rose
We were greeted by the personalities behind The Woody Show, and they made us feel exceptionally welcome and special. A buffet was set up for us, and the bartenders were constantly checking to see if anyone needed anything. As a fan, these experiences are hard to come by, if they come by at all. I was able to mingle with The Woody Show and get to know them like I would get to know anyone at a party. We talked about work, movies, food, and Bastille. It felt so normal in an exciting way, like when you meet an interesting person by chance and unexpectedly enjoy their company.
We slid into a booth (you can see them in the photo above, on the left) before helping ourselves to some delicious Thai food, and the remaining spots in our booth were occupied by Cameron and Sebas of The Woody Show.
I really appreciated the effort they made to mingle, switching tables every so often, politely greeting everyone. Eventually, Dan was brought around to every table and introduced to everyone. Dan seemed happy and comfortable, a perfect opportunity for him to chat with fans with no expectations, pressure, or phones being shoved in his face. We made no demands on him, and it was really relieving to see him so happy. I asked him how much fun he had at the show the night before, and he lit up! Unfortunately he was concerned about singing solo, since he he'd put a lot of stress on his voice the night before.
We gave him some gifts, and he slid into our booth for a little while to chat. The one word I would use to describe these moments would be surreal. I'd met Dan briefly in the past, among a crowd of zealous fans, so having him sit in a booth with us was pretty much beyond the limits of my reasonable imagination. I scooted out of the booth quickly to show him my jacket, which I had hand-painted with lyrics from Quarter Past Midnight. He was completely enthralled, grabbing my shoulder and exclaiming how much he loved it. I was not only flattered, but it's always horrifying and validating to show your artwork to someone who has inspired said artwork. Dan gave me a big hug and was grinning from ear to ear.
He made his rounds, table to table, and as dinner was ending we all were ushered into the theater area. A couple hallways and a secret door later, we were in a small space, still lusciously decorated, but with a small stage in the corner. The staff had moved the small tables to form a row in the front, and I was the first to be seated.
Above lounge photo courtesy of Black Rabbit Rose
Michele and I shared a small club table (where the arrow is in the above photo), and Dan was sitting at a piano directly in front of us (the piano was on the opposite side of where you see it in the photo above). Again, surreal. I'd almost forgotten we were in Hollywood, as the small round tables with candles reminded me of an old jazz club I'd visited in New York, in which legends like Bob Dylan played once. It was like we all had a secret and were relishing in the fact that few people would be able to share this experience with us.
Dan proceeded to play a four-song set, and the songs were more beautiful than I could have anticipated. I'd seen Bastille perform acoustically once, but this time, Dan had a real piano, not a keyboard, and it was just him. He had the freedom to syncopate where he wanted, add in runs and extra notes to color the stripped down songs. It was truly a privilege to hear the songs in their true, bare form. It was like going back in time to their conception, before production, before countless edits and additions.
The pain and passion in Dan's voice was accentuated by the no photo/video rule, and our spacial awareness melted away as we turned our full focus on the spotlighted Dan at the piano. It was absolutely magical.
After the performance of World Gone Mad, Quarter Past Midnight, Happier and Pompeii, we were invited to take photos with Dan on stage. Thankfully I didn't wipe out stepping onto the stage (although I almost did) and greeted Dan once again. He grabbed my shoulders and turned me around to admire my jacket again, asking me what I used to paint it. It was such a joy to chat with Dan, not as a fan, but simply as someone who admires his craft, and also as a fellow creative. He then looked at Michele and I and said, "I am so lucky to be able to meet talented people like you." I refuted his statement, although my little grinch heart was melting, letting him know that we were truly the lucky ones. He threw his head back in laughter, and I wondered how my life had turned into some real-life fanfiction.
I let Dan know what our social media handles were (he is already quite familiar with Michele and her work), and I mentioned that I thought he would appreciate the Breakfast at Tiffany's reference in my handle (jolenegolightly). He proceeded to ask me if it was a book or film reference! I'm not sure I passed the Dan Smith authenticity test, as it is a film reference, but I did redeem myself by letting him know I have indeed read the book and enjoyed it. Even though I felt my few remaining cool points dissipating, I couldn't help but absorb yet another special moment with one of my favorite artists. It's amazing to see a glimpse into someone's actual personality and not just see what they decide to present on stage.
I also quickly snagged some Polaroids with Cameron, Ravey and Greg from the Woody Show!
Luckily on our way out and before we walked to the car, we saw Dan outside. I was *finally* able to obtain two precious Polaroids with Dan, and it was surely the cherry on top of a very surreal cake.
All in all, it was an exceptional evening, one that I could not have prepared myself. The evening was full of laughs, inside jokes and surprising moments, all in the greatest company. I am so grateful that Alt 98.7 and The Woody Show are getting interested in offering these kinds of experiences in which both artists and fans can have a great time.
So that's my Bastille recap!
Until next time,