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.
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.