Hey Concert Hoppers! Happy to be sharing my first post with you all. I know everyone here has an absolute favorite band, one whose live show you look forward to basically all the time? For me it’s Muse, who are currently touring! This is my story of the most recent Muse show I attended. Enjoy…
Muse fans know that the live show is what it’s all about. They wait for tour announcements, they mark the date tickets go on sale, and they obviously schedule vacation from work when Muse is playing any show within a three-state radius. ROAD TRIP!
Yes, I am one of these fanatics- or Musers, as we like to call ourselves. (It makes us sound smart and sensitive, when in reality we are psychos.) I have been a fan since 2009, and have been lucky enough to see them once that year, once in 2013 on their last album tour, and once in May 2015 at a special club gig in New York City. For this album, (titled Drones), Muse visited Philadelphia and Washington DC as the last stops on their US tour. Tickets were acquired in October, and at the end of January 2016, gig weekend finally arrived.
Of course, the Philly gig fulfilled my wildest dreams, but the DC gig was an even more incredible combination of luck, friends, and expectations exceeded. At the start of the day, I was facing a concert alone: friends that were supposed to sit with me could unfortunately no longer make the gig. However, the band was selling VIP passes that included an exclusive museum tour of band memorabilia and early access to general admission standing room. Rather than sitting alone, I wanted to try for a VIP upgrade at the venue. After experiencing the front row at the previous night’s show in Philly, I decided the extra $150 was worth it! (I told you- we are psychos.)
I got to the venue around 3pm, and with the support of some friends I had made the previous day waiting in line for the Philly gig (who of course were in DC too…remember, I said psychos!), I searched for anyone who would be able to upgrade my ticket. At one point, in desperation, I went inside, past the blockade, and harassed the merch guys who were still setting up! It was cold and raining and I was already sick from standing outside in the cold in Philly the entire day before, but I didn’t want to give up hope.
Finally, after many fruitless inquiries, my last chance came as the VIP ticket holders lined up for entry. Voice shaking, I asked the tour crew member checking people in if I would be able to pay for a VIP general admission ticket. He radioed a co-worker. From the sound of their conversation, it wasn’t looking good for me. My heart sank, but I couldn’t walk away just yet. Finally he said to the workers in charge of wristbands, “hand me one of the blue ones.” He gave it to me and it read in all caps: GENERAL ADMISSION!!!! I almost collapsed in relief! I thanked him profusely, clutching the wristband for dear life, and asked him where I could exchange money. His response? He waved me through. He handed me a VIP general admission wristband and just LET ME GO! Without paying! How’s that for luck?!
Needless to say, I raced up the stairs to the VIP area without a backward glance, and made it into the museum full of Muse treasures! A tear or two (or twenty) may have been shed. After 45 glorious minutes in the museum and VIP lounge, we traveled down beneath the venue. The journey felt a bit Spinal Tap, until finally they pulled back the curtain to reveal the empty stage, situated in the middle of the venue. I ran for the best spot in the house, at the juncture of the main stage and the arm of the b-stage. Friends old and new joined me once regular general admission was let in, and we all prepared for the show to begin.
Once I heard N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” blasting through the arena speakers, I knew we had almost made it! The song has been played at every gig just before the band hits the stage. Sure enough, at that moment, “soldiers” (tour crew members hired as part of the show’s production!) poured from beneath the stage in full riot gear, bracing themselves behind the barrier and staring into the eyes of us screaming fans. Thirty seconds later: darkness.
When Muse is onstage, for a diehard fan like me, it’s a wonderfully strange feeling. On the one hand, you have waited so long, traveled so far, been through cold, hunger, and sleep deprivation to be standing behind that barrier, and you have finally arrived. On the other hand, it feels weirdly routine. Gigs are undeniably transcendent and magical and painfully infrequent, but at the same time…it’s home, you know? It’s like coming home. Being there, screaming the lyrics, hands up, smile on, seeing everyone else having just as much of a blast as you is the best feeling in the world. Nothing compares. People understand each other. It’s simple: we are there for Muse and Muse are there for us and nothing else matters.
During one of the final songs, The Globalist, there were huge video projections of human silhouettes, sixty feet tall and composed of twinkling stardust. I was staring up at them in awe when Chris, the bass player, scratched his head and the silhouette mimicked him. Suddenly I realized they were real-time projections of the band members! That was such a humbling moment. This band has the power to seem bigger than life itself sometimes. (Sixty-feet-tall, made-of-stardust bigger.) The musical themes and the majesty of the live show can transport you to another world where anything is possible…and then someone scratches their head. Illusion shattered, you remember that these three men are only human. But this too is an exhilarating realization, because the art, joy, and hope they create becomes a shared experience, a communion between you and the band.
When the last song ended, Dom, the drummer, got up to throw drumsticks into the crowd. He seemed to be tossing them past the first few rows of people, not really paying attention to who caught them. He came over to my corner and as everyone’s hands closed in on me, I felt like I was in a cage, with no hope of jumping to catch a stick. But to my utter shock, Dom walked over to stand directly in front of me! He scanned the crowd and as soon as he saw me we locked eyes. I nodded and smiled with my hands out, as if to say, “throw it to me!” He nodded and smiled back, nonverbally agreeing, and tossed it directly to me. When I looked up again, he was unbelievably still standing there watching me, making sure I’d gotten it- something he hadn’t done for anyone else! I was unable to shout or say anything, but seeing my shocked and ecstatic expression, he pointed right at me and walked away laughing and smiling. Such an incredible moment! Seeing your favorite band is one thing, but having them pick you out of a crowd to acknowledge you and give you a gift is entirely another.
I’ll never forget this night, even though I know there are (hopefully!) many more concerts and (especially!) Muse shows in my future. Muse has been there for me the way only a favorite band can. This gig, the friends I made, the good fortune I had, reminded me a hundred times over exactly why I love them so much.
I’m looking forward to sharing more gig stories, experiences, and maybe just a liiiiitle more fangirling with everyone here. Let the hopping begin!