Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Aid Kit at the NorVa: A 'Black Hole' and a Birthday

A few months ago when I first found out that First Aid Kit would be coming to the U.S. to perform as the opening band for Bright Eyes, I checked the dates with the assumption that they would not be performing close enough for me to be able to see them.  Much to my surprise and delight, I saw that their very first date was September 3rd in Norfolk.  They were coming to the NorVa!  That's only just over 20 miles from where I lay my head to sleep at night.  Johanna and Klara Söderberg from Sweden were going to be visiting a city much, much closer than I was ever expecting.  I also thought that it was strangely fortuitous that their show fell precisely on my birthday.  Fate had smiled upon me in this alignment of events.  There are few concerts that cause me to jump out of my computer chair to dance while melodiously chanting the obvious. This was one, and the chant was "I'm going to see First Aid Kit on my birthday!"  Luckily for me there is no audio or video of this.  Barney Stinson best summed up my anticipation.

The tickets were purchased in July so the worst part was yet to be endured:  the exhausting and excruciating WAIT!  It gave me time to contemplate where I wanted to videotape them from in the venue.  If not for that consideration, I'd otherwise be upfront and dead center without hesitation.  Don't think I didn't momentarily consider not bringing the camcorder in order to soak in the First Aid Kit set fully undistracted.  But if I endured the slight distraction, I knew I'd have that video to enjoy in perpetuity.  So the fleeting thought of abandoning the camcorder was dismissed as quickly as it was entertained.  I knew exactly where I wanted to be in the audience for their performance, in front of stage left.  Having already seen enough live performances online, I knew that Klara would be on that side allowing me to get her in the foregound with a great angle on Johanna at the keyboard.  I rather like that angle at the NorVa for most shows after having previously used it for the Beirut show.  It is also a great place to pick up the audio due to the large speaker positioned overhead.  There really aren't that many bad spots to view a show in the NorVa.  It's an intimate venue to catch the many acts passing through it's doors.  Like anyone else, I have my many Ticketmaster gripes but I'll not waste any time on those already well-covered issues.  I'd personally have paid up to double the ticket price just to have seen just First Aid Kit perform by themselves.  But hey, that's more money to spend at their merchandise table.  I am quite grateful that once again Bright Eyes saw fit to have First Aid Kit perform with them on a tour.  I seem to have a penchant for the opening acts of many concerts that I attend in spite of the often overwhelming popularity of the headliners.  The advantage is that I can more easily see them up close.  The disadvantage is that the sets are never long enough for this fan.

When the concert countdown was at about 48 hours to go, I began to engage in my 'the glass is half-empty' dramatics.  I always briefly entertain this thought: "I've waited for this so long but the really good part will be over in less than an hour after it finally starts!"  When I entertain such thoughts, I simply revisit my YouTube uploads of previous concerts to dispel such ridiculous thinking.  I know, slap me for this bad habit.  It's just an obligatory over-dramatic emotional roller coaster ride I sadistically enjoy putting myself through during the long wait between my ticket purchase and my actual attendance at a concert I so eagerly anticipate.

Although I often find myself enjoying a gig by myself, it's always so much better to enjoy great music with great friends. Scott and Julie were along with me for this dual celebration of music and my adding another +1 to my age.  I knew our travel time would be longer on the day of the concert due to all the other events scheduled in Hampton Roads on a Labor Day weekend.  With Scott at the wheel, we left early enough so that I wouldn't panic upon hitting the usual traffic.  By 'panic', I mean possible full-blown nuclear meltdown.  I had to be up front at the show for the opening band.  The traffic backed up exactly as I had expected, but Scott expertly navigated  the route while simultaneously playing the obligatory pre-concert tunes.  I was amped up because of the traffic, but the First Aid Kit tunes blaring through the speakers were the perfect remedy for preventing any possible meltdown on my part.

But the dreaded WAIT still wasn't over.  Upon arrival at the NorVa and having made my way into essentially the exact spot I'd previously determined, I immediately began to notice the influence of that strange but well-known concert effect.  Yes, you probably know that strange effect to which I refer.  You know, the one where an hour seemingly takes four times longer than normal to pass.  For some inexplicable reason there is a 'black hole' that exerts tremendous forces on highly anticipated concert performances.  It's proximity is closest and it's effect is most pronounced for approximately one hour before most concerts.  It exerts a gravitational pull that rips the very fabric of time in respect to concert-goers.  Scott informed me when it was an hour to go.  At next check, only 12 minutes had passed although it felt like a whole hour.  The time checks came faster, but the time went predictably slower.  I'm guessing Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity must deal specifically with this issue.  At least it didn't get this bad:

Image of My Chronometer Is Running

There was one slight hiccup during the concert 'black hole' hour.  A slight scare to be honest.  My camcorder and recently acquired monopod were spotted by event security on the balcony above.  An imposing figure approached nicely informed me that he needed to clear my use of my equipment with his boss.  Having used this camcorder numerous times at the NorVa before, I didn't think it would present any problem or so I thought.  I'm guessing had I not so repetitively checked and rechecked my field of view on the camcorder in that hour beforehand, I doubt seriously whether it probably would have ever been seriously noticed.  But, I was certainly glad to hopefully resolve such conflict before the show rather than to have my ability to record summarily dismissed during the event.  Quite frankly, I make every effort during a show to make it far less noticeable than the scores of cellphone and smartphone camcorders in use which, I have to add, are much more distracting.  I also thought this might be a great opportunity to meet whomever it was that I would most likely have to deal with in the case of a future incident.  I was certain I'd be more than able to demonstrate how I didn't have anything truly professional...at least in my hands...and how I'd carefully use it in a way so as to NOT detract from the band, disturb those around me, or specifically bother those immediately behind me during an event.

Upon meeting the gentleman holding the fate of my ability to videotape, I was able to verbally and demonstratively highlight everything that I had intended.  First of all, I don't think my Sony Handycam HDR-CX100 is really anything truly professional.  I demonstrated that I have the LCD display's luminosity and angle both turned down so as to minimize any distraction.  He informed me that I couldn't set up a tripod.  I demonstrated that I was using a monopod that stands with it's skinny single leg right in between my two feet so as to not bother, touch, or impede those around me.  It allows me to keep the camera right in front of my face, again to be less noticeable to those behind me.  Not material to the conversation at hand but important in my decision to acquire a monopod was to gain a steadier shot since my camcorder has less than stellar image stabilization.  More importantly to me personally, it saves the stress on my arms and back during a show.  If you used a camcorder during an entire concert you know what I mean.  Having shared only everything I thought pertinent for this gentleman to make his decision, he was kind enough to allow me permission to continue as I had planned; and for that I am extremely thankful.  If that was the end of that story, I'd have probably never mentioned this issue, at least in this much detail, but that wasn't the end of this issue that evening.  I'll deal with what happened later that evening during the Bright Eyes set in my next post.  I'd really like to know the truth of what really happened on either the part of Bright Eyes and/or the NorVa.  Ironically, I'm still not precisely sure which one actually had a problem with me.  I'll most likely never really know for sure what transpired.  You will get my unequivocal opinion and what I've learned as a result.  Stay tuned!  I did however get video of the entire First Aid Kit set, which honestly was my only priority and concern.  If you want to see the entire First Aid Kit set at the NorVa in chronological order, it can be viewed HERE.

There were 3 noteworthy videos I'd like to share.  The following 2 songs were either new or unfamiliar to me:

The third video made me quite proud of the concert-goers in attendance from Hampton Roads.  You know that things can easily go wrong for a band during a live show.  Sometimes when this happens, I chose not to upload the video so as to not give the wrong impression of a band especially it's an unusually rare faux pas.  I decided to upload this video for a number of reasons.  First of all, they had just flown in from Sweden.  I'm guessing it was probably between 2 and 3 a.m. their time when they were doing their set at the NorVa.  It appropriately gained distinction as the "jetlag version" of the song in the apology following this song's completion.  Secondly, it was live and it really did happen.  $@#% happens during live events and strangely enough, a mistake or imperfection that surfaces can be a bit endearing on occasion.  They are real people who sometimes flub up just like we do.  Simply viewing any other live videos of this song will confirm that this version was a rare aberration and far from the norm.  Thirdly and more importantly, those in attendance at the NorVa did an absolutely wonderful job of cheering them on through what surely bothered the band way more than it did the fans.  That is to say, it really didn't bother us at all.  In some odd way, it appeared to me that it even endeared the crowd a bit more, in my opinion.  I think that how the crowd acted made it considerably easier for them to relax and just have a fun chuckle at themselves when it was all done.  Some may view it differently, but that was my impression.  One comment about this song posted on YouTube by someone looking for the video below summed it up well:  "Which song was it that they flubbed up on? It was so adorable. I love how everyone in the audience cheered them on regardless."  Here is the 'Jetlag Version' of "The Lion's Roar".

When the ladies had finished their set, they made their way back to their merchandise table.  You'd might think I'd make an immediate beeline to go see them there.  Well, quite frankly, I was a bit nervous to do so.  'Why?' you ask.  I had wanted to ask them a few questions and preferably on camera while I was getting some merchandise signed.  But, when I really love a band as much as I do this band, I just get far too nervous and nothing comes out intelligently or coherently.  The irony is that this usually happens more so when I've had this long to contemplate such an encounter.  So upon completion of their set it took a little coaxing via text messages from Scott and Julie to get my ass back to the merchandise table.  I was also briefly contemplating whether I should give up my prime spot for both watching Bright Eyes.  It was a mere excuse now because I was just plain nervous now at the thought of meeting them.  I finally gave up my prime real estate up front to head to the back of the line for the CD purchase and its signing.  Although I already have their digital downloads, I would be able to get them to autograph their CD here and enjoy the feeling of getting some money a bit more directly into the hands of the band.  While waiting in line, I was taking footage of them interacting with the fans.  I felt like this would surely be construed as stalker-like gawking by either the Söderberg sisters or someone else watching.  But I thought to myself, this IS Klara and Johanna Söderberg from Sweden up close and in the flesh, so I kept rolling!  All I had to do was keep fairly quiet and keep from saying anything stupid.  That was my mission: shut up, keep smiling, and stop sweating.  I thought I could handle that...or could I?

I purchased the "Big Black and The Blue" CD and received my poster to be signed.  The closer we got, the more awkward I felt with the camcorder rolling so I finally exited "mistake-me-for-a-stalker" mode.  They were so pleasant, conversational and engaging which was a welcome relief.  While they were signing Scott's CD, he pointed out how he had earlier hoped to hear "Waltz For Richard".  Without hardly a thought, the sisters instantly broke out into singing a portion of it that I was able to capture on video.  How cool is this?

I only managed to ask them a question about them coming back in November with Lykke Li.  Unfortunately, Asheville, NC is the closest that this dream concert is coming to me.  They've also announced some dates where they are headlining prior to the release of their second album full-length record, titled “The Lion’s Roar”, on the January 24, 2012.

Of course, I couldn't remember the other things I wanted to ask them and that's probably just as well as it would have been a garbled mess coming out unintelligibly from this mushy mind.  We were fairly close to the end of the line when we had our turn to meet them. I asked if I could have a photo with them for my birthday after they were done so that we didn't slow down the line.  They said there was no need to wait, and we could do it right then.  They were fully engaged and attentive with whomever they were talking to at the moment and in no hurry at all.  How can that not be absolutely impressive and refreshing from these young but well-traveled musicians!  When Klara & Johanna came from behind the counter to put their arms around me for the picture, I was in heaven!  That was the exact moment at which my birthday became one of the most memorable ever!  I guarantee you they have absolutely no ideal what those few moments meant to this fan.  They couldn't possibly know.  Simply UNFORGETTABLE!  As if that wasn't enough, after the photos were taken, they started singing "Happy Birthday".

Now I was blushing and slightly embarrassed.  I wish I had at that very moment had the presence of mind to have recorded the F.A.K. serenade, but I didn't.  It happened nonetheless, and this entire evening was more than I could have imagined back in July when I had purchased my ticket.  I find it strange that after I had put some distance between myself and these two beautiful and talented Swedes, I suddenly began to remember everything I wanted to ask.  Go figure!

There was more to come as Bright Eyes was still to perform, but First Aid Kit was why I had come out that evening.  I had enjoyed this evening much more than I could not have imagined.  With my friends Scott and Julie alongside, I got to see, hear and meet Johanna & Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit.  I had my picture taken with them, and they sang "Happy Birthday" to me!  An absolutely unforgettable evening for this fan!  I'm still smiling.  I'm looking forward to the next concerts on my schedule, but I already know I'll once again experience the effects of the concert black hole.


  1. Hi JerJer. I watched some of the video's. I liked the music, you picked a good position and even the audio quality was decent to say the least. But I was surprised that you didn't ask permission to film in advance. Or were you certain that nobody would give you any if you'd properly asked?

  2. Evonity, you bring up a good point. I've never previously encountered a problem before so I actually never gave it much thought. I will deal with that in that upcoming post. Although I have learned some lessons, I have some possible problems that I anticipate both with and in spite of those efforts.