Fangirling; Not an Escape, but Another Reality —Live Concerts, Music Journalism and How The Pandemic Changed Everything

Do you remember the first time you decided to become a fan of someone?

A beat. A voice. A face. An interview. An experience. In rare cases, a lucky encounter.

It all starts a little differently for everyone. It could happen while vibing to a song, or relating to lyrics, or feeling the emotion in a performance. Becoming a fan of a certain artist isn’t part of our plan. I believe no one wakes up and decides, ‘Oh! I’m going to be a fan of them!’ without having any prior knowledge or introduction to the artist’s craft.

(A/N: I have written this piece with my favorite music artists and personal experience in mind. Art, however, is not limited to music, as it takes different forms.

You could be a fan of a certain actor/actress, author, painter, singer, dancer, athlete, photographer, director… the list goes on.

Who you decide to admire and idolize does not make you any less of a fan than those who are fans of well-known and established names in their chosen industry.)

How it starts: A simple earthly event

“Wow! This cover is amazing! I’m going to check this artist out. She seems really good.”

It was the summer break of 2010 and that’s how it started for me. I stumbled upon this cover online that, in my opinion, sounds better than the original one. The artists were in perfect harmony while adding high notes that fits right in to make a whole different version of the song. What struck me more is the female artist’s incredibly unique tone thus making her memorable.

To make the story short, I checked her channel and covers, and learnt that she also played the piano. I was in awe and decided to learn how to play it as well. She later on joined this well-known TV singing competition in the U.S. and bagged the runner-up title.

Fast forward to October four years later, she paid my country a visit and performed in at least three shows. My brother and I went. We were at the venue at least six hours before the show started. We had to look for a great spot since it is a free show and people started flooding in as time goes by. The wait came to an end when the clock struck seven in the evening. The lights dimmed. The impatient crowd, myself included, became a bit louder showing excitement. There begun my first ever live performance experience.

I wasn’t expecting much before since it was a free show, but I can feel my soul lit up. The voice. The talent. The artist. She’s here… performing in front me and this crowd. I can hear her amazing voice with my own ears. I can see her with my own eyes. I can feel my heart pounding off my chest.

“This is real.”

No one can say otherwise. From watching a cover to witnessing it first-hand, four years of waiting was definitely worth it. However, this time, it seems like she’s the one waiting on the other side. In just less than two years, heaven acquired yet another angel. Until we see each other again, Christina.

Need: Money, more importantly, luck

Just a few days after Christina’s free shows, another artist I admire announced a show. This time, it’s not free. One thing stands in the way: How could I, a simple university student, be able to afford concert tickets?

No joke. Despite my savings, buying concert tickets in this country is a challenge. Not only that, there are people who hoard tickets and sell them for a much higher price. It seems like the universe doesn’t want me to go. One thing I learned in life was that, when it seems impossible for you, you just need to (1) work harder; (2) ask for help; or, (3) give up. Of course, I did none of those things. My lazy ass couldn’t work and study harder than I already did; my pride didn’t want anybody’s help; and, my stubborn self didn’t want to give up on those tickets.

Luckily, my cousin offered to help me out and paid half the price. Long story short, I got my lower box ticket. Not the VIP I was hoping for, but better than nothing. Few hours after I got home, the tickets were already sold out.

Other than working hard and lowering one’s pride, there comes a time when the stars just align and make it easier for you— winning a ticket. Yes, I experienced that too. It was so surreal. “Did I really win?” I told three close friends of mine and told them to try their luck. The moment was kind of shattered when they also won. It’s not that I don’t want them to get their hands on the tickets, it’s just this silly illusion that I had been finally blessed by the universe. So, I really wouldn’t consider it a blessed moment since a lot of people won too. Nonetheless, I was able to bring three friends with me and experienced not just a concert, but a whole music festival that lasted for at least six hours.

After experiencing a live performance one after another, I have come to a conclusion that this is something I wanted to do for a long time. These concerts, live performances and music festivals have been my heaven on this Earth. Just when I started thinking of ways not just to save but also earn money, an opportunity presented itself.

I was scrolling through this social networking site and I saw a post that caught my eye. A certain media company is looking for a writer who could cover events in their country and write music-related pieces to be published on their website. There would be no compensation other than the media pass and access the contributor writer would get. I never thought of getting free access to events through writing would be the way for me.

Maybe, just maybe, a pen really is mightier than a sword.

Living the Fangirl Dream

Getting the chance to write in exchange for concert tickets was my kind of fairy tale. But let me tell you something. Since concerts happen at night time, being a female uni student wandering around the capital at night, my Asian parents have imagined the possible worst case scenarios. They were against that idea. But with it being something I really wanted to do, I had to reason it out to them. They agreed to it with the condition that I will not let it affect my academics. Fun fact: it did. I had to skip my some of my classes, but nonetheless I made sure I catch up with the missed lectures (I think).

Of course, being able to write for different concerts and artists didn’t give me the right to choose which concert or artists I should go and see. There were times when I had to do a whole research, days or even hours before the show. Listen to the artist’s discography. It was a way of me getting acquainted with the artists themselves and their craft.

The excitement I get every time I plan my day to run perfectly (from what I eat and drink to limit bathroom breaks), the rush I get when I had to catch the train just to get in time, the surreal feeling of being surrounded by strangers enjoying the same performances I was witnessing… It was all worth it. And it all comes down to this: at least two hours of heaven on earth.

It is one of the best feelings, in my opinion. To be in a sea of strangers gathered together to celebrate, admire and enjoy the live music and performances of a certain artist. Other than that feeling, often in concerts and/or live performances, when the artist hit pause, the arena becomes silent for a moment and the crowd begins to sing the lyrics back to the artist. I live for those moments.

Another magical feeling is when people who meet through their taste in music create a bond and become precious friends. That also happens, especially in this age and time where we can easily connect with them all over the world. I have a childhood friend who is now residing on the other side of the world, yet we reconnected due to our love for the same artist. We didn’t talk much after she left but after we shared our stories as fangirls, we even planned on meeting abroad. Then, of course, the pandemic happened. All our plans were gone in a heartbeat.

Post-Corona Era: The Beginning of the New Normal

Never have I ever imagined we will be buying tickets for an online or virtual concert, yet here we are.

With most parts of the world still in the state of pandemic, live or in-person concerts and shows were cancelled and/or postponed. Fans like me who have longed for live music and performances would have to endure it a bit more longer. But some artists and their label have created a (hopefully, short term) solution: virtual or online concert.

At first, I really didn’t like the idea. But I’ve come around maybe because I thought that a lot of people: from the artists themselves, their team, and crew, already lost a huge part (if not all) of their sources of income. This way, though not ideal, may help them at least. It may be a stretch, all of us, fans and people of depend on such events (crew, staff, even the artists) are having a hard time adjusting to this new normal.

Artists who would travel the world to meet and perform for their fans, even those who sell out arena shows are now performing in front of the crew in an empty arena just to get by. The loud roars and cheers of their fans, nowhere to be found. It is also hard for them. But thanks to the advancement of technology, fortunate fans still get to see and hear them, even in a small screen in our own room with the lights turned off.

This may take a while. It may not seem that big of a deal for a lot of people, but for some of us… it is. This may be a dark time for us, but remember, the venue goes dark every time right before a concert starts.

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