It is easy to get lost in this city, as much as you love it. As vivid as every smog sunset might be, you often forget how to exist. You work three jobs and still can’t make rent. You walk tirelessly through the throngs of people who would rather be on a red carpet. You practice your craft for no one in particular—perhaps the homeless men who accost you at gas stations. You sit on the freeway for hours.
You say to yourself, what am I here for? Think on it. Not as a philosopher, but as plainly as the rain that comes down like glass. As an artist. Why be creative when money and celebrity is all people seem to see?
You stay in your room. You go long stretches without seeing a live show. And, let me tell you, that is the wrong thing to do.
Here is the right thing:
Buy tickets to see Kris Allen at The Mint, wondering if you really have the money.
Go five miles in the wrong direction before picking up your friend at the airport. Get there anyway, even if you’re late. Cruise around and pay for plum wine. Take the day off.
Don’t eat much. You always forget to eat when excited by creation in all of its forms.
Meet up with people you never see except when Kris gives you the excuse to convene. Squeal excitedly outside the venue. Examine the pavement. Suck in all the cigarettes and smog. Make up stories for each sidewalk crack.
Cheer loudly for every opening act. They need to hear it, even if the first one’s songs are earnest and forgettable and the second one’s performance is vain and sleepy. Still, give these artists the time and respect that you would have them give to you. They need to live a little, too.
Attempt to stand back by the bar before realizing that an intimate venue is meant for intimacy.
Squeeze up to the front. Apologize profusely for your height.
Allow alcohol to control your nerves and force cool granite into your sewer of a stomach. Feel that intestinal pull, but don’t stop. You’ve felt useless, recently. You’re looking for something to remind you that you’re alive.
Wait patiently. When Cale comes on stage, he will help you calm down. He will tune his guitar, look beautiful, and steadily adjust the mic stands. He will be the calm before the storm.
You must be prepared. Because when Kris and Torres appear with Cale and rock right through “Monster”, you will lose your fucking mind.
This is a Michael Jackson song, somehow; an evil pop anthem with atmosphere to spare, the soundtrack to something intimidating and unnamable. Lick it up and let it roll off your tongue. Listen carefully. The lyrics are apologetic, but the attitude is very clear: when the world bites you… bite back.
See, this is a Frank Sinatra serenade, something out of Casablanca, an old and new nightclub, a classic in black and white thirty-two bit film. These are songs no one has heard and yet still electrify the room. Soak them up, though you might feel small, scoped out, smashed into the side of the wall. Somehow understood.
Think of “Moon River” and it will all make more sense. You will see the street lights in these songs. You see Kris strain his neck as he sings the words, relishing every chord. This is why music is worth staying out for.
Try not to cry during “Out Alive”, though you will want to, as for some reason the lilt in Kris Allen’s voice gives you more reason to cry than just about any other musician these days, and the lyrics are perfection, too close to how you’re feeling, too close to how everyone is. Its hope stirs the air with a silver melancholy: We can run, we can hide, we can show off our guns and put up a fight. If it’s love, hold on tight. Hold on tight.
Every pause for loose banter will make you smile.
Be irreverent. Hear the silence, and the waiting before each song: a cusp of breath. Bring it.
And he will. He always does. Acoustic guitar will suit the songs this time, as it is more about melody and less about method. Fan factions will stand together and ignore their differences. Fully grown men will giggle and shout “Good boy!” Kris Allen will negate all perceptions people might have of him being a boring white guy from a reality show. The quality of the concert will remind you of a story: a beginning, a middle, and an end, with struts in between.
Make your palms sting from over-applause, at the end. Scream for an encore, though none is scheduled.
Keep steady afterwards. Don’t collapse. Go outside. Scribble your thoughts on the backs of show flyers in a slow desperation to remember things.
Once inside again, approach Kris warily. He is always such a perfect, compact little pea-pod that you inevitably feel awkward and gangly around him. Don’t fret. Smile nervously, and he will smile back. He will compliment your writing just to make you feel good.
When your evening ends, walk outside with the kind of bounce in your step that is only brought back by eye contact and easy singalongs.
Now, see. Now you remember why you are here, why everyone is here, why Lost Angeles is an epic city worthy of anyone. Things are made here, and their effect goes beyond gas mileage or getting along with someone just to use their connections.
Keep at it. Write. Go to an art gallery. Paint. See a comedy act. Sing. Play frisbee with a strange dog in the park. Dance, right down Ventura Boulevard with top hat on. And please, please, don’t forget to see Kris Allen play live, because he is one of the best things that Los Angeles has to offer, and in this giant, aching jaw of a city, when you can’t remember why you write anything, you will see how Cale, Kris, and Torres belong on that stage and need be nowhere else, and it will help you feel found.
[Pictures courtesy of twitter.com/parigi88.]
[Video courtesy of headonfire1105.]