Finneas Optimist Tour @ The Wiltern 10/28/2021: Concert Memories

For my last show of October, I made my way to the Wiltern around 5pm to get in line to see Finneas. This was a huge show for me since I've loved Finneas's music since his 2019 EP, Blood Harmony. I'd been listening to those songs on loop ever since and between the music and his frequent appearances in his girlfriend Claudia Sulewski's vlogs, he quickly became top 3 on my Must See Artists List and consistently appeared in the top 5 of my Spotify artists. 

When tickets first went on sale, I was on a freeway outside of Salt Lake City in the process of moving all my worldly possessions to LA, praying that my cell reception would hold out long enough for Ticketmaster to process my order. That was when I first purchased my ticket to night 1, which was simply for general admission and not pit since I still wasn't sure how I felt about being in crowds with COVID still a very real issue. At the time I bought the ticket, I'd barely left the house since March of 2020, so I wanted to give myself the option to hang in the back. When I decided to go to the Jeremy Zucker show that Wednesday instead, I grabbed a pit ticket to night 2 after getting advice from my friend that having pit at the Wiltern makes a huge difference from regular GA. 

So I got to The Wiltern around two hours in advance, hoping I could still get a close spot with doors at 7:00pm. I was towards the end of the theater building, but the line honestly wasn't too bad. I settled onto the sidewalk and took up the meditative staring at the street that I've come to find peace in to avoid running down my phone battery. Eventually a large group of mom, daughter, and friends joined the line behind me. One of the girls immediately asked for my Instagram and we all traded handles as you do at shows. It's honestly one of my favorite show practices cause now my Instagram is infused with fans from around the country. 

Eventually, a guy with wristbands came by to check our COVID cards, IDs, and tickets. I was surprised when pit bands went out that half the people in line ahead of me actually weren't headed for the pit. It gave me hope that I could still get a close position.

Once we actually got inside the Wiltern, we all took off running to claim the best pit spot. I don't think I've ever run so fast for a spot in my life, but with three ticket checkers stationed at the entrance, there was an increased feeling of competition as we made our way through the theater and past a few middle aged couples that seemed very confused about why we were in such a rush. I wound up in the center in the second row, slightly regretting that I wasn't better hydrated before I showed up. One of the girls ahead of me said that the night before they'd handed out water between Marinelli and Finneas's set, so I had hope water was coming. 

Finneas's show was honestly the strangest pre-show wait I've ever experienced. We're usually bopping to the playlist of all the other artists we like, dancing, and having fun together. The playlist always makes it easier to get to know the people around to since you get to see which other artists they're a fan of. Instead, we all stood there staring at each other as rainforest sounds like howling monkeys and rain played overhead. Mixed with the slight dehydration and how closely packed we were, I sort of felt like I entered a strange nightmarish dreamscape. It didn't help that the security guard was extraordinarily rude about the water, telling us we had to pass out before we got free water and taunting us which seemed like an odd choice for a grown man. 

When Marinelli took the stage, it unfortunately didn't get much better. I'd never heard of Marinelli, but apparently he's one of Finneas's childhood friends who started releasing music during the pandemic. They'd always dreamed of going on tour together, and he told some very sweet stories. Unfortunately, his mic was incredibly low, so you couldn't decipher the lyrics or much of what he was saying at all. Everything felt incredibly washed out and strange. I had trouble getting a sense of his identity as an artist at all outside of his connections of Finneas. 

When the rainforest sounds came back even louder, I started to wonder if my most anticipated show of the year had been a grave mistake. I felt slightly awkward and lonely, and my anticipation was at an all time low. It's amazing how much the curation of the environment and the general energy of the crowd plays a major role in the impression I'm left with after the show. I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes certain crowds stand out, positively and negatively, in my mind. It was an especially stark contrast after seeing Jeremy the night before where both the crowd and the energy stayed at a 10/10 the entire show. But I'd waited for this moment for so long I was determined to still have a good time. 

Luckily, from the moment Finneas finally took the stage, everything immediately turned around. I've been barricade at nearly every show I've been to this year, but I was still slightly in shock at just how close I was to Finneas. I'd found my way nearly exactly to the middle, so I was perfectly aligned with his mic stand. From the very beginning, it was abundantly clear just how much of a rockstar Finneas is. His stage presence is absolutely radiant even in his relatively simple set up. He bounced between playing guitar, dancing, and playing piano. It was interesting to see a set that was so heavy on Finneas's piano performance considering the piano is usually just a couple song interlude in most artist's set. It added an interesting dynamic to the progression of the show and became iconic for its Swiss cheese look and Finneas's proclivity for jumping off of it multiple times over the course of the night. Another interesting instrument note was that Finneas had a tech run out to hand him his guitar every time he switched back to playing instead of just having a stand set up on stage. It made the guy tasked with running the guitar back and forth almost a character in a show, and it was a practice that I hadn't really seen at the other shows I went to. 

After a song or two, I was back to soaking in the lovely rush that being at shows brings, and I was reminded of just how long and intensely I've loved Finneas's music over the years. It felt surreal that he was a few feet in front of me singing it live finally. 

At one point in the show, one of Finneas's picks fell, and the crowd got super concerned that he might need it, so a number of people in the crowd started shouting, "Your pick!" and pointing at the ground. He was confused but eventually realized what they meant. He laughed and picked it up before chucking it into the audience right in my direction. I don't think I've ever wanted a guitar pick so badly in my life. But unfortunately, this is not the story of how I now own Finneas's guitar pick. The crowd surged and I got knocked back, flailing a little so that I didn't fall straight back on my butt. Everyone had flashlights on trying to find the mystery pick while from the stage Finneas said it wasn't worth getting hurt over. "There's plenty more where that came from," he said before moving on. He threw out a few more picks over the course of the night and even specifically handed one to a girl a few rows back in the crowd. 

At another point, someone passed forward a Taco Bell gift card to give to Finneas since the fast food chain has been one of his favorites since he was a teen. There were a couple Peaches related gifts as well. It's always interesting to see which fandoms have a culture of show gift giving since this was a trend I saw carrying through at many of Finneas's other shows on the tour. It reminded me of how every Gracie Abrams show looked a bit like Christmas with Gracie making laps from the crowd to a pile of small gifts by her piano with every song. It creates really cute moments of crowd interaction. 

We didn't get a special guest for LA night 2, but it's worth noting that Ashe came out to sing "Til Forever Falls Apart" the first night. There were a couple moments we were all convinced she was coming back, but the song wound up being performed solo. 

To get out of the venue, I had to walk past the gated off VIP area. Maggie was right by the edge of the gate taking photos with fans who were asking for pictures. I also walked right past Dylan and Lydia of the Wallows and the Regrettes respectively and good friends of Claudia and Finneas, but before I'd really registered that, I was pushed back in the crowd by people clamoring to take photos with them. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Claudia Sulewski who is one of my all time favorite YouTubers even though I'd been hopeful she might be floating around Finneas's show. The night before, she'd even pushed her way forward in the pit with actress Dove Cameron for a few songs. 

Funnily enough, as I was waiting for an Uber back, I wound up randomly striking up a conversation with a girl who happened to go to my college. We ended up getting in the ride share together and realizing that we had a ton of shows planned for the spring in common, which was both super random and serendipitous. Getting to know each other on the car ride home was the perfect way to cap off the night. Though the Optimist Tour didn't follow my exact expectations, I still had an awesome night and checked a major performer off my show bucket list. I'm still holding out hope that this won't be my last show of 2021, but if it is, I'm plenty satisfied. 

More Concert Memories...

Jeremy Zucker @ The Novo

Alexander 23 @ The El Rey

JP Saxe @ The Fonda

Gracie Abrams @ The Roxy