These past few days have left me feeling a little uneasy. Why?
I’m not entirely sure.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been going from concert to concert. And, maybe it’s because I’ve been trying to find a piece of myself. Maybe as a starving college student reaching the end of the year, I haven’t been able to catch up with myself because everything’s been going by too fast. Maybe I’ve been hearing things that have been striking a chord in me. Maybe just the mere sight of seeing people I’ve grown up listening to for the past decade is a little strange to see. Maybe realizing we’re all grown up makes me a little sad, and nostalgic, but proud of where we’re all coming to. I… I’m not entirely sure.
Three weeks ago I went to see Kina Grannis at the Troubadour. And to be honest, if it weren’t for her short hair, edgier music and (okay, maybe not just that) YouTube cover with Dia Frampton, I probably would have never seen her. But, when meeting her, all I had to say was, “I saw your cover with Dia and loved it. I’ve actually been following her music for so many years. It’s inspiring to see you two’s work ethic and growth over the years.” Smiling and bubbly as ever, talking about the liberating feeling from her new hair-do and mean YouTube comments, she graciously wanted to keep conversing with my two friends and I until her management rushed us to take the photo and go.
Just last week, I went to see Dia Frampton perform with, as, beside, lead (or what-have-you)… her newest musical project Archis. As a broke college student and student-org leader whose been dropping too much money into her own organization lately, I almost was not able to catch this show. But, the weird yet funny thing is that, with Meg & Dia’s (Dia Frampton’s long-time rock-band when she was growing up and perhaps what made a name for herself, if you didn’t know) oldest, longest and hardcore “fans,” we’ve really developed a sense of family and camaraderie with supporting each other. One old boardie Albert was able to cover my ticket and carpool with me there (talk about a life-saver).
I actively texted Mike, Dia’s manager, about his whereabouts and thoughts about the show the day-of. He was actually one of the first ones with the band who actively reached out to me and got to know me as an individual; and, it made my experience with the band feel entirely more personal–like my years of deep devotion and support for the band actually meant something. (You da best, Mike.)
But, I went into the show knowing Dia would only be up for around 15-20 minutes. She had announced her musical project Archis just a few days before, keeping fans reading “with Special Guest Dia Frampton,” guessing as to what she’d even be performing up there. I kept an open-mind and, I admit I was not ready for what I was about to experience.
First off, it was weird seeing nobody from her band up there with her. She had a drummer, Jarred, and keyboardist/percussionist Dani. They were all dressed in black (very classy and cool). Dia had this black strip/line across her left forearm. She had two matching small slits atop her pant-legs. And, as she went into the first song, she had this look off into the distance, as if she were listening to the music take over her, getting lost into her mind as she belted, sung, falsetto-ed… All while the crushing drumbeats hit hard into my chest and rolling rhythms kept me afloat. She took us into an orchestral journey… into herself.
She’s a damn hard worker, I thought. This sounds so different, I told my friend. Still wrapping my head around the music she was presenting, it was purely an experience. This was her baby. And I could feel all of the emotion and joy and hardship seeping out of her. She was telling stories and emitting feelings; the movie-score sound of everything allowed for words such as “epic,” “journey,” “ride” and “adventure” all come out to express the feel of her set. It’s an experience. And a damn near powerful one, I might add.
Her songs as Meg & Dia… Post-Meg & Dia… Her work during The Voice… Red album… and all her little songs written between all of them… This was something so entirely different.
Seeing her take that stage as her own, relying on no one but herself and the music, was such a strange thing to witness. She’s really grown as an artist and individual, I thought to myself. Seeing her shine and take the stage with all the comfort and professionalism in the world… It was almost inspiring.
Having written about, thought and re-watched my videos from that day over the past few days, I now come to Monday night.
Jimmy Welsh, a dear friend who played guitar for Dia during one of her early tours coming out of The Voice, who has also become very good friends with Meg, Nick, Carlo and Jonathan (the rest of the Meg & Dia-gang), had his album release show last Monday night at The Hotel Cafe (a venue that, just two months before, I would have never been able to get into; *cough* Dia’s residency there in September which my age wouldn’t permit).
I don’t remember the last time I saw all of them. I had just seen Mike a few days beforehand. Nick was like an old friend. Carlo was in the audience. Jonathan has since-then disappeared from playing with the band (but he’s always kept in the shadows; been with American Tomahawk I believe). Meg has kept low within the past year, having just recently gotten back into her jewelry and picked up guitar-lessons. I haven’t seen most/all of them since a year ago at Unique LA–Meg’s first craft show.
Seeing them all there–all 20-30 or so people in the room–was so different after having just seen Dia play a huge show at the City National Grove of Anaheim with Lindsey Stirling five days before. I looked over at Nick setting up his drums ever-so casually. I saw Jonathan wandering around with his bass. Meg and another friend Maria (Zara Sky?) was around, testing back-up mics. The venue itself was dark and tiny, and everyone moved along the night as languidly as ever–as if I stepped into their living room space.
I admit I was a bit intimidated, especially since Albert and I were the only old-time Meg & Dia-listeners/”groupies” there, and everyone else were close friends, friends of Jimmy, Mike… (Little old me? Having looked up to these people so much over the years, knowing *almost* every bit about them and them not really knowing myself? How strange a space to be in!)
After the show, we all chatted and said our congrats. Meg came up to us and said, “Hey! Thanks for coming,” courteously hugging us. We talked a bit about her being nervous doing back-up vocals, but that she had nothing to be nervous about in the end. I asked what she has been up to, and she mentioned her current ventures into getting back into her jewelry and doing guitar-lessons again. She even gushed about having a guitar-lesson this coming Wednesday with Maroon 5’s guitarist/guitar-teacher (?!!). She mentioned going to her sister’s graduation soon to SF, and I told her that I was about to go to school with her (Jade). Courteously, she then went to ask, “What have you been up to?”
I honestly felt a little weird talking about myself, knowing she really has no idea what I do, simply saying I’ve been going to school (but, I have been doing a heck of a lot on-board, producing a show, writing, journalism, music, etc.). Albert pushed the Kababayan production onto me. I mentioned, “Yeah, it was so stressful.” She looked at me a little confused saying, “A show?“ “I produced a production and all.” All the while talking with us, I saw how her eyes were lit up. She genuinely seemed excited and in good spirits to see people and talk with us. It was as if it were an old-feeling that hasn’t been tapped into for a while. She said she had been taking a mini-vacation for the past year, due to some health/bladder-problems, and I told her, “You need to focus on you first!” I felt like I could have had a million things to say to her, but I was too casually enjoying the company and vibe and politely smiled (that or my mind was blank). Perhaps I was just a little astonished at the fact I haven’t seen her in so long, and seeing her simply doing back-up vocals for Jimmy made myself think, but that girl can play mad guitar!
I said hi to Mike and Carlo, who left early with his wife Leslie. I then went on to approach Nick and had a full-on conversation with him about his coffee-job, in which he mentions he’s really made a home for himself within the past year (Meg tells him he’s gotten a lot more social). Albert and Nick started talking about the schizophrenic-like setup of LA. I started talking to him about his drum-playing, the set and how it sounded rocking. He asked about Dia’s Archis show last week, with himself mentioning that he wouldn’t want to play the album live since it really is an orchestral-set and he loves to rock out (he also mentioned that when he recorded a couple tracks, everything was very stripped-down and acoustic and that the final product is layers and layers of recordings). We went on to talk about what he got from the movie Her (by far my favorite movie of the past year), and he had such a touching outlook in that it made him look at having conversations with people differently (“Meg, we just don’t have enough of it“). He mentioned him loving LA but Meg still on-the-fence about staying since she doesn’t go out much and works at home. Meg came on by and I asked to take a photo with the two. I met Maria (Zara Sky?) and she said that she came from Georgia a month ago to pursue music (*ahem* Lucy Hale look-a-like). I then went to talk to Jimmy to talk about his set and his music and really appreciate what he did up there. He graciously appreciated us for coming.
As I proceeded to leave, opened the door and took a step back from everything, I began to feel a little uneasy. What just happened, I asked myself. I wish I had more to say, I thought. I was in that space and out another.
When I look between what Meg, Nick, Carlo, Jonathan and all are doing back here, and then think of Dia being on the road touring, I remember what Meg recently wrote on her blog about focusing on your own story (others’ stories don’t necessarily make our own any less). And I realized that if Dia were to have been there that night, she would have equally and whole-heartedly enjoyed the entire show as well. This is like home to them, I thought. This is the kind of raw-music they’ve done all their lives.
It was like I stepped into their living room.
While in college, I busy myself with producing shows, being a board-member and writing articles; but, when I go home, I return to my slow life with all the people and things I’ve loved. I remember what I’ve grown up on that have made me into the person I am today. I remember old dreams and staying passions. Everyone’s moving in their own way, while I go off again to pursue my own things in college. Being away from home makes me want to do more.
That almost reminded me of Dia. While Dia’s on this big tour doing some amazing work, “home” was almost like the Hotel Cafe that night. It was full of the music she’s known all her life. It was full of all of her old friends, making music the organic way as she’s always done, with her best friends in the audience. But she took on this other project as something entirely for herself. It was like I got a glimpse into Dia’s “home” that night. All of their homes. All with the familiarity of decades of growing up with each other on- and off-the-road.
And, as I sit here right now, typing away my thoughts trying to make sense of this feeling I have, I realize that the pains of any artist is that they crave to express themselves; and when they have that outlet to do so, they can’t quite let it go.
As I busy myself with countless obligations, I realize that something keeps pulling me back to music, and concerts, and writing, and art… The gang. All three of my concerts were somehow written in Meg & Dia’s name (I was led to seeing Kina Grannis because of Dia, having even brought up Dia to her; Jimmy’s show featured the gang). And although concert-going always makes me a little sad, because seeing people who inspire me only wants me to be up on a stage too, performing the music I want to perform, perhaps seeing them helps me to see a part of myself too (like reassurance).
Seeing them reminds why I’ve loved and looked up to them ever since I was 12-years-old. They remind me of why I ever had faith in my writing; they remind me of why I ever picked up the guitar; they remind me of why I ever had crazy dreams of pursuing my passion. They remind me to continue to do my own thing, too. Because, in one way or another, in whatever you do, everything’s still alright in the end.
I’ve been working long and hard these past weeks writing on music, concerts, and edits for campus publications. But, at the end of the day, I feel a slight pull in my heart… I love to write, but it doesn’t always satisfy my craving… To create. To feel. To express. I want to express myself.
As artists, we all need inspiration. But, we all need the motivation to fully accept our own fears and scary ambitions. These past years have allowed me the time to fully own and accept the crazy passions and dreams I have. Continually taking on opportunities and experiences have helped me focus my restless soul and energies on things that interested me and made me become a fuller person. My own growth has been a path of seeking confidence–in myself, my goals, my passions and own love.
As artists, we all need inspiration. But, sometimes we all need to find the motivation to fully accept our fears and scary ambitions.
Once you find that inspiration and motivation can you find yourself beginning to take action in your own life. Staying witness to these great things can only mean so much; what matters more is what you make of your existence.
Backbone, my loves. Have some backbone.