Darren Criss at Irving Plaza

To be fair, I avoid live music in NYC nearly as much as I can. We have a lot of venues here with bad acoustics and terrible sight lines, and shows here are expensive and difficult. I lived in DC in the early ’90s where I went out every night and saw everyone AMAZING in tiny clubs for like $10, and I’ve been ruined for most shows ever since.

So when I dropped a bit of change to go to the Darren Criss gig at Irving Plaza, I was very clear with myself: this wasn’t about seeing a gig; this was about being fannish, and it would be a silly, wacky lark, the end.

Um, no.

It was seriously one of the most ridiculously amazing live shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen everyone.

Criss’s show could have been negligible in any number of ways. And, at the top of that list, at least if you push aside the inherent oddity of being in a crowd that’s 98% female and 90% under 22, was that it could have been very trite and fluffy. He’s a joyous performer known for singing pop hits on Glee and writing ridiculous musicals. Sure, it’s fun, but the “there’s no there, there” argument isn’t really that hard to make.

Except there was real ballast to this, even as he was able to have all sorts of people join him on stage (from Starkids to Warblers) that certainly hit all the fandom buttons. Maybe it’s got something to do with the way we see so much more of the fame process in the age of Twitter and Tumblr, but there was just a touch of sorrow to his acoustic version of “Teenage Dream” and the whole crowd I was with sort of all looked at each other with a wordless sort of ache during key lines in “Part of this World.”

But perhaps most remarkable (I mean, other than my hearing may never recover from the screams that greeted certain on stage guests — oh my god, Naya Rivera), was how an audience that was the epitome of kids screaming “I love you,” somehow morphed into a whole lot of people loving themselves and the moment more than some untouchable idol.

We hung out in the balcony (because we are clever and wise), sang along with all the songs, watched scads of people in the crowd below blow bubbles (yes, really, it was that much of a hearts in my eyes love-in), and kept checking Twitter for updates on the equal marriage legislation currently on the move in New York State. It was, sort of by accident, a whole bunch of things that matter to me, all happening in the same room at the same time; and it’s always that sort of serendipity I go for more than anything.

It was also one hell of a nostalgia trip — for being 16; for sinking into Harry Potter fandom in my 20s; for having silly day dreams about boys when I was twelve.

Finally, it was also a lesson in ambition and graciousness (of the sort I probably need early and often). I’m not always kind, and I don’t always want things for the right reasons; of course, none of us always are, none of us always do. But if there was ever a demonstration of the links between generosity and success and love shared being love multiplied, this was it.

Utterly freaky, gorgeous experience. If you are even slightly maybe a fan, if you get to see Criss play a gig, it’s a don’t miss. Just, bring ear plugs; my hearing may never be the same.

11 thoughts on “Darren Criss at Irving Plaza”

  1. Sigh. It sounds so lovely. Bubbles? I mean, wow. And honestly, it’s actually kind of made my night reading about this because the opposite is happening in my city right now. It’s shameful.

    So this really is what I needed to read. Unfortunately, Darren isn’t coming anywhere near my neck of the woods anytime soon, but I’m going to make it a point to make it down to LA or San Fran to catch him live sooner than later.

    Did you not have earplugs in the end? Or will your ears never recover even despite the earplugs?!

    Thank you for sharing. You have no idea how much this is mattering to me right now. As I was attempting to get the hell out of downtown tonight I had already seen your tweets about the marriage equality bill, so I actually said to the friend I was with “Well, at least there are great things happening in New York right now.”

  2. ^^ what they said. Am now even more glad I managed (somehow) to get a ticket for one of his London gigs than I was before. (And I was pretty damn happy already!)

    I think my hearing may already be shot by that point, though… I’m going to Bon Jovi and Glee in the next week and a half…

  3. Living in Asia, I doubt I’ll ever get a chance to see any of his performances, unless I travel to the other side of the world from where I am, but I can absolutely believe how amazing he is. To all the lucky people who manage to see him(or indeed, any of the others) perform, you don’t know how much I hate your guts…LMAO, just kidding.

    I hope I will one day be able to hear the awesomeness that is Darren Criss in person.

  4. Despite having left such an impressively well worded reply earier, *ahem* I’m adding this one.

    I’ve spent the last little while dealing with hissy fits and witch-hunts on the internet and wondering if I really am the person who’s supposed to be dealing with them, but also watching the videos that are on YouTube from last night.

    What a freaking lovely guy. Really. And his face when he sees the bubbles. Hilarious. Will there be bubbles in London? I’m actually wondering how different the demographic will be. Like his performance is wonderful, but there’s something altogether else that strikes me about the performances. Genuine, maybe? Not a hint of pretense. Fun?

    Watching him perform takes me right back to my university days, hanging out in the conservatory, everyone blowing off their real practice to cram into a practice room with a piano and someone’s guitar and a drummer with sticks who just hits the piano instead of bringing a drum and we just have fun. And his concert looks like that.

    I dislike being this excited. Might as well use the energy to book flights and hotel rooms. 🙂

  5. I had a very similar experience of Transcendence last summer at the Harry Potter con in Orlando — they corralled 1600 of us into an amphitheater while they cleared the Muggles out of the HP theme park so that we could have private, after-hours access. While we were in there — hot and sticky and impatient while pop music blared over the loudspeakers — suddenly things transformed. People started dancing. Spontaneous role-playing broke out down on the stage. Severus Snape was freaking Lord Voldemort in the bleachers. And I burst into tears because it was the strongest sense of community I have ever felt in my life. Suddenly everyone was there, TOGETHER, united by our willingness to be open and childishly excited and full of love for something outside ourselves.

    I’m not a huge Darren Criss fan, but it sounds like a really beautiful night. Sometimes fandom is the happiest place on Earth…

  6. I watched the livestream of the concert (which cut off before Naya took the stage with him, which makes me SO SAD, but I’m sure there’s video up on YouTube by now…), and honestly, I am so jealous that you got to be there. He is SUCH an awesome performer, you can tell that he really, honestly cares about his craft way more than the fame and the screaming girls (but what’s extra awesome to me is that he CARES about the screaming girls, like the fans themselves, not that they’re screaming for him, and if he doesn’t, he’s a DAMN good actor…)

    So yeah, obviously I like Darren Criss. When he opened with Disney, I about died. When the Warblers came onstage and Darren sang a Starkid song with them, I think my heart was literally melting into my shoes. His performance of Jealousy (which is my FAVORITE of all his songs?) AMAZING.

    I thought I saw bubbles on the videos, which cracked me up … I didn’t know if they were coming from the stage or the fans, but seriously, how awesome. I also saw your tweets about the marriage legislation, which made me squee, and honestly, that gig just looked like a whole freaking TON of love explosions. And as loud and crazy as those fangirls are … I love everything that the Darren Criss fandom chooses to be 🙂 (Save the ones who pull him off the stage. Not. Cool.)

    (Also … just so you know who I am, I’m lavender_love00 from lj, and I just started following you on twitter … I’m thewife85 on there. Just in case you see me, and you’re all “Who the hell is this, twitter-stalking me?”)

  7. For some reason the idea of DC being super tinnitus loud is bizarre to me. Then again, these things aren’t always predictable. I came out of a Scissor Sisters show deafened in ways I wasn’t after a Gwar show.

    (Wow. That’s two bands I never expected to mention together.)

    This whole thing sounds freaking wonderful. Like, unexpected confetti cannon wonderful.

    1. Darling, it wasn’t DC, it was the screaming that ruined my hearing. Seriously, the balcony floor was vibrating from the screams for Naya Rivera.

  8. This pretty much tipped my decision on whether or not I should go see Darren Criss when he shows up in my fair city in August.

    Sounds like you had a great night!

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