Meeting Olivia O'Brien and Concert 3/4/2020

I started this blog mostly as a diary to keep all of my concert memories and experiences in one place along with being able to talk about the music that I love. I've been a fan of Olivia's for a while (ever since "I hate u, I love u" came out, but I really got into her music in the last year. I've talked about her some in my Music I'm Loving post back in December and in my Top 20 Songs to Start 2020. I'm also talking about some of my favorite songs of hers on my podcast this week. When I saw she was going on tour, I knew I had to find a date that worked. Olivia seems like she's just on the cusp of breaking into the pop scene in a major way, so I wanted to see her while she was still playing small venues and meeting fans.
After my flight disaster before meeting Julia Michaels, I made sure to fly in late the day before to make sure I wasn't going to miss it. Being back in Houston always feels a little weird, and I wasn't prepared for the humidity, but it was nice to soak up a little sunshine. I got to see my grandma again before leaving for the venue. I had been away from the house all day and had gotten ready for the show at 10am, so I wasn't feeling as cute as I would have liked going into the show, but I quickly forgot about that. Since I was going to meet and greet and seeing the show by myself, I needed a bag to keep all my things together. I'm hoping to make a what to pack for concerts video sometime in the near future, but I recently bought an iridescent fanny pack off of Amazon for less than $10, and I'm really pleased with it after testing it out. If you're looking for a practical concert bag, I recommend looking for something that zips, can be hands free, and is most importantly clear to make it code at a variety of venues.
When I got to Warehouse Live to line up, I was surprised to see the VIP line was longer than that of GA. It was a much bigger group than I'd seen at the Julia show. While I waited in line, I was struck at just how pretty everyone was. It was mostly other girls my age probably ranging from sixteen to eighteen on average, and they all looked like they stepped off an Instagram influencer page. Needless to say, I was slightly intimidated by the crowd from the jump. A woman who worked for Olivia's team came down the line and checked people off of her list and handled out swag bags. Everyone in VIP got cute, black totes with the "sad fucking summer" mixtape cover on them also with a CD, and a small, signed poster. I'd never gotten swag from a VIP upgrade beyond a lanyard so that was really cool. I was also excited to see the CD because my concert habit has also turned into a CD collection with how ticket bundles work now. She also handled out laminated VIP passes to show at the door, but they didn't come with strings which was unfortunate. I was excited we got passes, though, because I love getting to hang those off my piano.
Just like with seeing Julia at the House of Blues, the VIP set up was super relaxed. They let up into the building which really is just a concrete warehouse with a bar and a stage inside where we formed a line. I didn't immediately get in line to meet her because I like getting to go towards the end. They had the merch booth open, so I went to check that out first. There were typical tour shirts with album art and dates on them along with merch items that are becoming increasingly popular like water bottles, beanies, and sweatpants. I like supporting artists through getting merch when I can because it's one of the more profitable parts of touring, so I grabbed a beanie that was embroidered with rainbow butterflies and "It was a sad fucking tour" because I wear those all the time and the softest hoodie I've ever encountered that was a nod to Josslyn, "I hope that it was worth it." I was so happy to see merch that wasn't super obvious.
After that, I moved into line. Olivia was meeting everyone on a small balcony area in one of the corners of the venue so you could watch other people walk up and have their experience while you waited.  For there being well over fifty people in the VIP section, the line moved fast. I'd been chatting with a girl and her mom in front of me, and she decided to ask Olivia to post on her Instagram story. It wound up being a super cute idea. Looking at other people's pictures later, there were a lot of cute ideas. Girls gave the camera the middle finger with her and some asked for selfies. In the official email, they'd said to hand your phone off to the attendant, so that's what I did, but I really regretted it. I wish I'd just asked for a selfie.
When it was my turn, I went up and set all my stuff down and handed off my phone. I was a little tired and flustered by the time I finally got to speak to Olivia, so she caught me off guard when she went in for a hug. Then we turned to the camera for a photo standing together. When that was finished, she asked me what my shirt said. I was wearing my TPWK shirt, and she thought that was cool. Then I told her that her lyrics really inspired me as a songwriter and said that I wrote her a note because I knew I wouldn't be able to say everything I wanted to. She took it and seemed genuinely excited that I'd thought to write something for her. She told me that she'd be sure to read it later and that we did "have such a short time together." Then she pulled me in for another hug, and I gathered my stuff and went back to talk to the girl at the merch counter.
It was a super quick encounter, maybe two minutes tops, but I was really happy I got to give her my note. I've decided to make it a habit to write notes for the artists I love and pass them on when I have a chance as a way to spread positivity.
Interestingly, they didn't force us to leave the venue after the meet and greet. Everyone just walked up to the stage and started to hold down their spots in front of the stage. By the time I got there, there were about three super loose rows of people lined up. Some were sitting, others were going back and forth getting provisions. We had a good 45 or so minutes before they let in the GA crowd and another hour after that before the first opening act. I met some really nice girls around me who I chatted with most of the time, but the more people who came in, the harder it got to have a conversation. The crowd was already pushing before the first act. I wound up in the second row from the barricade, and there were plenty of people pushing through behind me to try to get closer. The crowd was pretty rough from the start, but that's how pits are. I was a little surprised, though, because my experience at Julia Michaels was so different.
The music they played before the openers and during Meet and Greet started with tons of 2010 pop like "Party in the USA" and "Dynamite" and then got more eclectic in the variety of vintage throwbacks. "Mr. Brightside", "Stacey's Mom", "1985", "Old Town Road", and, most of all, the iCarly theme song got people excited and singing like there was someone on the stage. It was a nice reminder of how cool it is that there are now events made for people around my age and that we all grew up loving iCarly and Hannah Montana and shows like that. There are spaces that not only find it acceptable but value it as a collective part of our childhood memory. This was also the period where one of the girls near me recognized my shirt and we talked about Harry for a bit. I guess I value moments like these at shows so much because I'm so rarely around people my own age, and I only experience those kinds of connections through Twitter. Regardless, even in a crowd as rough and, at times, rude, as Wednesday night, there's still such a strong sense of "Oh, we all get it".
Anyway, the first act showed up at 8 on the dot, which I greatly appreciated. I think we'd all gotten to the point where we severely needed a distraction from the crowd drama and pushing. Drumaq was the first on the stage, and one of the girls next to me said that he writes a lot of songs with Olivia. Even though none of us could pronounce his name, there were a ton of people who were really excited to see him. A girl who was standing next to me with her boyfriend knew every word to every song and shouted out songs that she particularly loved. Even though I didn't really get it, I loved standing next to a couple people who seemed like they would've been happy if he was the main act. The energy was infectious. He performed with one of the coolest DJs I've ever seen. After some Instagram digging this morning, I found out her name is Claudia Mills (if you want to follow her it's @claudiakmills). She had on the coolest leather jacket and printed skirt and had an amazing vibe. After last nights show in Dallas, their run on the tour is over, but I'm glad that I got introduced to another great musician. It wasn't the best set I've seen, but this was Drumaq's first run of shows. I think this was the fifth he'd ever performed, so he did an amazing job given that.
Then we were all left to stew while we waited for the second opener, Hey Violet which people were interestingly less excited for. They certainly won everyone over during the set, but,  at least around me, they were lesser known. I'd actually taken the time to listen to a couple of their songs, and I particularly like "Clean" (Stripped Version) and "Better by Myself". The venue security did a much better job of distributing water than I typically have seen in the past, but that did mean there were a ton of cups strewn all over the floor. The temperature control was also much better than I've seen in the past.
When Hey Violet came out, though, the room revived. We were all ready to dance, and they did a great job of setting an energy for the crowd to match. Apparently they started out opening for 5 Seconds of Summer back in the day, and they brought that arena style performance to the tiny room. I loved that the band was mostly women. The drummer in particular, Nia Lovelis, brought an incredible vibe to the room and really gave the performance everything she had. It was hard to look away from her. They're on for the whole tour, so if you're going to see Olivia, check out some of their music beforehand because they don't disappoint. I will say, though, there wasn't a scarier moment that night than when she told everyone to get low and then jump.
After that, there was another long wait till Olivia took the stage. They kept playing music, and I had a feeling when one of the songs got interrupted for "Hollaback Girl" that she was about to come out. I was right.
The crowd went wild. Olivia can definitely hold down a stage. Her band was minimized, dressed in all black and to the back. While she had visuals, she really had to hold the stage on her own, and she delivered. There was a ton of emotion behind every song. You could see how personal they all were. Her dancing was entertaining and looked so natural. Her Doc Martin kept coming untied which was annoying her, but she didn't let it slow her down. Each song rolled straight into the next in a true marathon. Most people have moments of talking or featuring the band or a costume change to buy a few seconds of break, but she kept the show moving fast all by herself.
"I hate u, I love u" came in the middle of the set, and a keyboard was brought out for her to play alone. That was a great moment in the show, though one of the girls at the barricade passed out during it, so everyone was a bit distracted. I'd heard plenty of stories about people fainting in the pit from heat or dehydration or all the pushing, but I'd never seen in first hand. Shortly after that, I got pushed forward and wound up at the barricade. From then on, I had the most incredible view I'd ever had at a show, and, honestly, once you can put a hand on the barricade, there's very little the pushing can actually do to you which means you can put all your attention on the show.
I rested my knee against it because it had started to ache, but it created the coolest sensation. The bass coursed through the metal and into my body. It felt like an all consuming experience. There were moments where I closed my eyes for a beat to yell out lyrics and let all my other senses take over. I love those little bits of shows where you feel so deeply connected to everyone and also completely in your own world. This show was particularly uniting given how much Olivia sings about mental health and struggling with that. At one point, introducing "Sad Together" she talked about not feeling the best but also knowing she wasn't alone in that. She asked the crowd some version of "How many of you are sad" and almost everyone yelled back "Yes" in reply. It wasn't some downer moment. It almost felt empowering. We got through so much of life having to pretend to be fine that getting to yell that you're not with a whole group that feels like same way makes you feel a little better. Music makes me feel less alone, and concerts are proof of just how true that is.
I know Olivia had had a rough day before that, but she gave it her all on the stage. It was amazing to sing my favorite songs with the person who wrote them standing directly in front of me. The crowd was incredibly loud, and she moved some songs in the set around so there were lots of chants from people eager to hear "Josslyn". She played all of my favorites, and I loved that she included a cover of Miley Cyrus's "See You Again". She covered a Hannah Montana song on the last tour but said she felt like this tour was her "Miley moment", hence the evolving musical treatment. The encore of "Just Friends", "See You Again", and "Josslyn" was perfect. It created its own perfect emotional rollercoaster within the set, and "Josslyn" is one of the best closers I've seen because the song and its performance and just so over the top.
She also added two unreleased songs that I believe are coming before Coachella. Even though they seemed unknown to most of us, everyone was hanging on to her every word. I left feeling electric, excited, and fulfilled. Concerts recharge my battery like nothing else, even if it meant going to bed at 1AM to get up at 6, and I was so happy that I made it happen.