Picture: Los Angeles, 2014. It's getting dark earlier now, and you're in a long line of white hipsters threading out down Wilshire Boulevard from a cathedral. On one side of you are old white hipsters eating subway; the other, young and entitled girls with perfect hair who say things like "No, you HAVE to eat cruciferous vegetables and almond butter. Like, HAVE to have to." On the sidewalk, an aging Korean woman walks her tiny, fluffy down and glares at the interlopers taking up space. Cars start parking on the street as rush hour dies down and parking enforcement heads home after a long day of delivering automotive justice.
A young woman dressed in black passes out red wristbands to people in line with ids that prove they are of the age of majority. She accepts no fakes. Don't even try. She is omnipotent, she contains multitudes. She brooks no nonsense.
The doors open; you shuffle inside, catch sight of bar with snack-size chip bags for $4 and 12 oz cans of Bud for $8. They take credit cards. The lone young man at the merch booth—two sets of tshirts, all men's cuts, only black or white—is sheepish when he says he only takes cash. "There might be an ATM?" You are gracious as you laugh, together, at the thought of an ATM in a church. Ha, ha! This church will have services this weekend. It is incredible to consider allowing the heathens of rock n roll into a sacred space.
Your boyfriend finds a side chapel unlocked. "Someone's going to have sex there tonight," he says, hoping it will be you. It will not be you. All your erotic energy is focused on the stage. It is to be shared with your fellow audience members; it is to be share with the band. It is to blow the roof of this joint.
The opener. The lights stay up. He croons like a second-hand Sam Smith, but you hear potential. You text. You facebook. You instagram photos of your tickets. You count how many likes you get on the photos of tickets. The people in front of you ask the people beside you to stop talking. Why they care about this man, we don't know. He is as a bug under the feet of greatness, a single snowflake the day before a blizzard. He is not yet worth dimming lights for. The opener finishes, and the crowd cheers, a courtesy. We all know who we're here for. We all know what's coming.
Soundcheck. The room grows louder. People at the makeshift bars chug their mediocre beers.
And it is he, our king, our ruler, our benevolent god, and he is in the form of an adorably shy Irish man who still has a babyface and is so confused about why we love him. He sings. He plays guitar. He honors his band. They sing. They play. We scream, weep. We sing along, though no one can hear us but our own bones, vibrating with the beat of the drum and thrum of the cello. He sends the band off, leaves the mic, plays in the center of the church a cappella, and we listen as we have never listened. We listen, hundreds of us, as one. We are made to transcend ourselves and we are Music. We are Fans. We are sacred together, and we are looking at him.
A duet with the cellist, a call back to his history, their youth. An Irish storysong about death and love in the hills, and we are bound to each other just as the lovers in the song are. We love them; we love ourselves.
The band comes back. They play.
The song that led us here as surely as the Pied Piper led the children out of Hamlintown, as surely as the twelve disciples followed Christ, as surely as anyone who has loved someone is led to another self. He is tired. He is tired of the song, and he does not want to sing it. He sings it for us. It is a sacrifice of love. Outsiders would call it a great performance, but we are no longer outsiders. We are in the beating heart of music, and we know, together.
An encore. Beyonce. How perfect! Then, "From Eden". My favorite. Lights up. My friend texts me, I text back. "Are you high?" he says, "Just on life," I say. And I am.