It’s cold, it’s dark, and I’ve been standing outside for almost eight hours. My friend Sara is sitting on my feet in an attempt to provide some smidgen of additional warmth on top of the thin canvas of my Chuck Taylors. My thin, white jacket – more cardigan than coat – is meaningless at this point. I’m fidgeting, bouncing, and my poor left arm has turned partially blue. Crazy girls standing out in the London winter without proper attire, I’m solidly among them. An instigator, in fact.
It was actually a very good decision, contrary to appearances.
December 2007 was a month of hastily made, silly choices, which filled me with an excitement that proved too much for the confines of my dorm room. Late one evening, I bought tickets to the second announced Patrick Wolf concert in London that would mark the end of him touring for a while after the first show sold out. I clutched the printed tickets, even as I harbored very little hope of actually being able to go. The prospect drove me out onto the dark campus, and I wandered around, not quite sure what to do with myself. Some days after, Sara texted me that she could, in reality, accompany me to London. I fell to my knees on the concrete path outside the dining hall and, I’m sure, shouted in glee as my college friends looked on in accustomed bemusement.
This trip was very hastily planned, and structured entirely around the concert. It was also one of the most rewarding series of decisions, impulsive as they were, that I’ve made.
I came all the way to London for this concert so I had to be upfront. An entire day of our short London trip was set aside to queue for the show. My determination to get to the venue before noon was cemented when we walked by the day before (yes, in my anxiety I insisted on scoping out the situation ahead of time) and met some girls waiting for the first, sold out show around midday.
In order to be front row, I carefully planned my outfit. A heavy coat wouldn’t do, or so I thought, since I would have to use the coat check and lose valuable time rushing up to the stage time. So, there I ended up, in jeans, a t-shirt I artfully and obsessively made for the occasion, and my faithful but pitiful cardigan-jacket.
A redeeming factor to my extreme planning came quickly, as less than an hour after Sara and I sat on the step by the venue, we were joined by a few more girls. When they, having attended the concert the night before, told me that Owen Pallett was a guest on stage, I hopped around in a happy circle. My enthusiasm was in safe hands. In addition to our common musical interests, huddling around in the cold for eight hours drew us together. Later in the day, enough trust was established that those behind us took pity on Sara’s and my cold, improperly dressed selves, and held our places as we ducked inside a nearby pub to warm up by standing under the hand dryers, giggling somewhat miserably.
Finally, finally, we were allowed in the venue and I goofily walked-ran up to the stage. I warmed up, flanked by newfound friends in the crush of the crowd, and by my anticipation. The concert was worth the misery of standing in the cold and then some. It was magic. The value of this experience went beyond the show itself, though. After the show, the group we had formed while standing together all day exchanged names and numbers.
The next day, Sara and I met up with some of the girls from this group and we visited Buckingham Palace, got lunch, and then later I even dragged my now feverish and watery-eyed self to one last dinner meet-up. Maybe crazies attract, but our camaraderie clearly didn’t evaporate with the warmth of the concert venue. We’ve kept in touch, now six years later. I’ve met one of these friends twice in New York City, and we’ve rendezvoused in Helsinki and together traveled to Tallinn. This all came of standing for eight hours in the cold after a series of silly, silly decisions to travel all the way to London to see my favorite musician.
Goofy? Yes. Fanatical? Okay, certainly. Stupid? Yeah, a bit — I should have worn a proper coat. Worth the chill and the subsequent days of sickness? Absolutely. I’m still reaping the benefits.
Sometimes the silly things are the best things to do. People may make fun of you, both affectionately and not so much, but you’ll be laughing later, armed with amusing tales and unintended outcomes. Why, over six years later and I can write about this and smile.