Sweet Sounds: Taylor Swift Concert & Pediatric Musical

“Oh my, what a marvelous tune. It was the best night; never would forget how we moved. The whole place was dressed to the nines, and we were dancing, dancing, like we’re made of starlight.” –“Starlight,” Taylor Swift

“Sparks Fly” Photo courtesy of The Agency BR

Last Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity to go see Taylor Swift’s “Red” tour with some of my friends. (The same people from this post.) I wasn’t originally planning to go, because Taylor’s Chicago tour stop was at Soldier Field and I thought the acoustics would be bad. But when my friends told me they had an extra ticket because someone else couldn’t go, I jumped at the chance, realizing Taylor’s concerts are always awesome, and she wouldn’t let the acoustics be bad because she puts such pride into her sound quality. And I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

Taylor Swift on her “Red” tour. Photo courtesy of CBS Local.

You may already know of my Taylor obsession, from several posts I’ve made in reference to her. I’d been to her “Fearless” and “Speak Now” concerts, and I’m so glad I got to go to “Red,” too.

Let me start from the beginning with a brief explanation of my love of Taylor. As you probably know by now, though I try to convey the utmost professionalism on this blog, I cannot hide that at heart, I am an obsessive fangirl. I can’t just “like” something; it’s more like this:

Stephen Colbert “fangirling” on crushable.com

And when I’m disappointed, it’s like this, for at least a week:

Dr. Who is disappointed on Outspokentoken’s Tumblr

So, you see, I am a certified fangirl of Taylor Swift. Her string of relationships aside (I think she needs to focus on a “steady burn” rather than continual “sparks flying”), I think she is a fantastic role model for girls and women everywhere. She’s not afraid to express herself, advising us all to “speak now” or else we might never get the chance. Sorry for the constant song-title puns, but she’s so quotable. I love that her music is empowering for women, telling us not to embarrassed to be silly, in love, lonely, depressed, giddy, etc.—that the only bad thing you can do is stifle an emotion. She celebrates all the highs and lows of life, teaching us that even sadness can bring a gift: a brilliant song (she’s so jelly-side up!).

For me, what I love most in a song is the lyrics (unless it’s instrumental only!). Though I usually stay away from pop music and thought I hated country, Jennifer introduced me to Taylor Swift with “Love Story.” I resisted at first, but I was hooked. There’s something about the way Taylor captures emotions with words, like a scent in a bottle. It’s always raw and honest.

So now that you understand why I love Taylor, let’s talk about her concerts. “Fearless” and “Speak Now” were both mind-blowing for me, especially the latter. Her performances are very theatrical and engaging for the eyes as well as the ears. I think “Speak Now” is my favorite record of hers, probably because it’s the one that she wrote completely by herself. The songs, and thus the performances, were explosive and dramatic. Although I do love all her records, I think she branched out the most with “Red,” creating an eclectic mix of rock and pop–not so much the fairy-tale country she’s been known for. I was very interested to see how she would make these songs come to life on the stage. 

As I mentioned, I was worried the acoustics would not be good. I’d seen a previous concert in a baseball field, and it was hard to understand the band. (Also a country concert; yes, surprise surprise, it is now my favorite genre, outside of classical/Broadway.) I think a stadium is just not designed for music presentation; the sound goes into the air instead of bouncing off the walls and ceiling in that just-so way. I was very impressed with the results versus my expectations, though. I could understand Taylor, though it wasn’t quite as good as the sound of her previous concerts. I did have to use earplugs occasionally, whereas I didn’t have to in her previous concerts (I have extremely sensitive hearing; it is my blessing-and-curse superpower, like my 24/7 editorial mode.) Usually, though, I had a pretty good warning of when I’d need to insert them. “Chicago,” she said. “Do you know what I’d really like to hear?” *a murmur crescendos through the crowd* “I’d like to hear what 50,000–” *insert plugs* fans screaming for ‘Red’ sounds like!” *50,000 fans scream*

With that level of enthusiasm, with so many tens of thousands of fans, I understand why Taylor chose a stadium for her Chicago show. I’d still give the sound a 7/10, whereas her other concerts would get a 10/10. I’m not putting them on the same scale as a classical concert, of which I’ve been lucky enough to see dozens. For classical concerts, you go to hear the music, crisp, clear, pure. For any other concert, I think you go for the energy, to scream and sing and dance with a community of people who also love the icon you’ve come to see.

And with Taylor, you don’t just see her singing. You see her pouring her heart out with every single word. How she does this night after night on tour is beyond me; I can’t imagine how emotionally draining it would be.

Taylor performing the heartbreaking “All Too Well.” Image courtesy of Lilmissnotperfect’s Tumblr. I wish I could find a more clear photo. Taylor had tears in her eyes explaining to us how sometimes an emotion is just so raw, so painful that all you can do is tell the story of what happened and hope for healing through the telling. I think this makes her a poet more than most musicians. ❤

But it was only a touch of sadness, offset by the glamour of pieces like “Lucky One”:

60s-esque glamour in “Lucky One,” complete with dancers and lots of staging. Image courtesy of http://www.pop.com.br.

And downright fun in pieces like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”:

The set for this piece included her band dressed as woodland creatures, with Taylor and the dancers dressed in circus attire. Lots of sparkly confetti, a perfect finale for Taylor’s affinity for all things sparkly (another reason I relate to this girl!). Image courtesy of tasteofcountry.com.

It was beautiful, all of it. The visuals were outstanding and flawless, just like the music. I can’t help but wonder, though, what visual aspects we were missing by being outside. For most artists this might not matter, but at Taylor’s other concerts, I’ve seen her and dancers hang from the ceiling in different contraptions, snow/confetti fall onto the audience (not just the stage), water pour down onto the stage, pyrotechnics galore, etc. It would be interesting to see this tour at a different venue.

My friends and I had a long but fun day for the festivities. We went downtown early, which was good, because at 2:00 p.m. (7 hours before Taylor was supposed to be onstage), the line to get into the parking lot was already 45 minutes. Luckily, we took the train, which meant less hassle but 6 miles of walking–but it was a beautiful day with fantastic company, so that wasn’t too bad. 🙂 We ate at a local pub before heading to the concert.

Megan, Lindsey, and I from our section as the stadium filled pre-concert. Alex was camera-shy but took a great picture. 😉

We had great seats! The other benefit of being so early was we got to explore the venue and see all the opening acts. Austin Mahone began the night, making us all feel extremely old as the prepubescent girls around us shook from excitement, screaming at the top of their lungs, for this teenage pop star whom we were entirely unfamiliar with. There was a target audience for each of the three opening acts, however, culminating with Taylor’s duet partner, Ed Sheeran, whose music was decidedly more adult.

Taylor played for almost two hours, which was quite impressive. We were delighted, exhausted, and a mix of silly and silent on the train ride home, having already tired our voices and energy out with extreme dancing and singing at the concerts. We had to show the eight-year-olds how it’s done. SO, I love Taylor more than ever and can’t wait to see her next tour! ❤

Another review in the news, if you’re curious to read.

In other musical performance news, I got to see the most adorable musical tonight. Several of our pediatric patients at Marianjoy put on a performance of “E-I-E-I-Oops,” under the direction of several of our therapists and volunteers. It’s a story about a cow who can’t “moo,” and the other barnyard animals try to help him find his voice. It’s adorable, and the kids did a wonderful job.

Image courtesy of activemusician.com.

I got to see many of the same kids in the performance last year, and it’s wonderful to see how much they’ve grown and blossomed. I love that Marianjoy gives them a stage on which to shine; I think it helps them build their confidence for life outside of Marianjoy, too. It’s one of the staff’s favorite events all year; seeing such lovable results reminds us how important and fruitful all our hard work is.

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Friday & Butterflies

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day! This was another holiday I was shocked to learn about on Facebook (courtesy of Whole Foods, my favorite grocery store), and I couldn’t resist celebrating it. You’ve probably already deduced that I LOVE holidays (including NaPoWriMo!) more than most things, but what you may not know, unless you know me personally, is my addiction to cheese. I’ve never tried a cheese I didn’t like (unfortunately), including all the *weird* kinds. I get extremely excited about cheese. Allow me to share this unflattering example.

Really excited about this grilled cheese truck in Boston!

Really excited about this grilled cheese truck in Boston! Apparently, grilled cheese is a staple food there. I felt like I’d found home.

So when I heard about this holiday, we just had to celebrate.

I visited Jeremiah’s farm after work this week, and we went to our favorite diner. We always get the same thing, and I would say our items are grilled-cheese variants, so, we considered this sufficient celebration. I love this place, because they make all their food–including their pita bread and gravy–from scratch. It’s simple but delicious. I know this seems like blasphemy for a health nut, but…at least it’s all-natural…and it’s only once in awhile, as a treat. 😉 I always get the turkey pita, which has mozzarella cheese, green peppers, and onions (bottom), and Jeremiah gets the chicken or patty melt.

Delicious comfort food made from scratch at Gene's

Delicious comfort food made from scratch

On my way out of town, I stopped to get gas at Tiana’s station. She was just tickled when I told her I’d written a poem about her. I told her that was a relief, because writers sometimes have to be in hiding about their craft. People start to recognize themselves in your stories and poetry, sort of like the Taylor Swift syndrome I mentioned in a previous post. Tiana told me more about her past, and I was shocked to hear the sadness she’s overcome, because she is such a sunny, radiant person with a beautiful perspective. She told me she feels God put her there, at that gas station, to help people, even if it’s just a smile to brighten someone’s day. She was taken aback when she heard about my poem, and she said she was so proud she’d helped to inspire me. This is one of the best rewards a writer could want. 🙂 I think Tiana will find herself in more of my poetry in the future.

By the way, I thought you might like to see a picture of the gas pump I use at that station. All the grades of gas are separated into different pumps, and you have to use a lever to start the gas flow. You can’t use a credit card outside. Even the sign on the edge of the road uses manual printed digits, not electronic.

Old gas pump at Tiana's gas station

Old gas pump at Tiana’s gas station

When I got home tonight, Jennifer gave me this beautiful present:

Silver angel bracelet with diamond accents

Silver angel bracelet with diamond accents

I was so touched! Angels have a very special meaning to me, after my spiritual experience with my traumatic brain injury (TBI). I will explain that more at length in a future post.

This was today’s prompt for NaPoWriMo:

Today’s offering comes to us from Charles Bernstein’s list of poetry experiments. In particular, today I challenge you to “write a poem consisting entirely of things you’d like to say, but never would, to a parent, lover, sibling, child, teacher, roommate, best friend, mayor, president, corporate CEO, etc.” Honesty is the best policy, after all, so get it off your chest! And if you’re interested in the complete list of experiments, you can find them all here.

I hate to be a spoil-sport, but…I felt like I couldn’t do this one. I’m one of those people who always says what they’re thinking (often to my awkward and hilarious detriment), so I literally could not think of one thing I’d like to say to someone but haven’t already, except for the post I made a couple of days ago. And if I could think of something, I think it would defeat the purpose to post it online! Haha.

Trying to keep at least a little in the spirit of the prompt, I did take a list at the list of Bernstein’s poetry experiments they posted. I settled on this one:

17. Alphabet poems:  make up a poem of 26 words so that each word begins with the next letter of the alphabet. 

I liked this prompt because it reminded me of word games my family and Jeremiah used to play with me while I was recovering from my TBI. They were designed to strengthen short-term memory when you repeated back the alphabetic list of story items. (One example: pick a category, go around the circle listing an item within that category from A-Z, and everyone has to repeat the entire list up to that point. Another example: make up a story about a person with a name starting with that letter, put them in a town with that letter, give them a spouse with the same letter, pick their favorite food with that letter.) They were silly games, but very effective! I still enjoy playing them whenever possible.

I also started backwards with this poem, starting with vocabulary. I wondered what animals started with “b,” and I immediately thought of one of my favorite animals: butterflies. Butterflies are also special to me because of my TBI experience. Jennifer used to play a little game with me in the hospital where she would make her hand a butterfly and flutter it around my face. I had severe palsies in my eyes that made my vision cross-eyed and weak, in addition to the near-sightedness I’d had since being a kid. Without even knowing it, Jennifer was helping to train and strengthen my eyes again. I also felt like the whole experience was a metamorphosis for everyone involved, but especially for Jennifer and me.

In thinking about butterflies, I also recalled a memory about a pair of butterflies my family saw in Hawaii. They would flutter around by the bushes right outside our  hotel room every afternoon for a long time. They were so pretty and heartwarming. Tonight’s poem is about them.

“Butterfly Sweethearts”
By: Amanda K. Fowler

A
butterfly
couple
danced
eagerly,
frolicking
gaily
hither
into
jasmine,
kissing
lightly,
making
nice
overtures;
purely
quixotic.
Romantic
sweethearts,
they’ve
unearthed
veritable
wonderland,
Xanadu:
young
zeal.

———-

That was really hard! I think I found a new game to play with my family. 😉

I will leave you with this song; it’s one of my favorites ever, for all of the above reasons about butterflies. I was surprised to discover I love the “band” (one-man) Owl City, because it’s not the usual style of music I listen to–but his lyrics are so gorgeously poetic. Here is the song “Butterfly Wings” to listen to; you can buy the MP3 on Amazon or iTunes.

Now, I must get to bed; we have an exciting day planned tomorrow! I don’t want to give iT away, buT here is a small hinT in This senTence. 😉

Unloving: The opposite of love is not hate

Well, judging by today’s interruption in a string of beautiful spring days, we are going to have some beautiful May flowers! 😉 There is something soothing about a warm rainstorm, though, isn’t there? I’m OK with the rain, as long as it stays warm–beats snow, in my opinion! 🙂

My Gravatar got a makeover, courtesy of Jennifer! She is the creator of my adorable picture, the victorious toast who has landed jelly-side up. She named him Jell-Jell, and his current outfit is strawberry jelly. 🙂

Here is a close-up; isn’t he the cutest? ❤

Image

Jell-Jell is strawberry-side up!

Wednesdays are kind of like Fridays for me, because they’re usually my last day of work for the week. However, that’s always tentative, based on whatever events we have going on. But this Wednesday was even more of a celebration than usual! As a reward for our department’s level of participation for an associate-satisfaction survey, we were brought a cookie platter. Now that Lent was over, nothing was holding me back (I gave up sweets for Lent, which is always SO difficult for me, so that’s why I choose it). The worst thing was that the cookies were bite-sized, so I couldn’t even tell myself that they would be too messy or too filling, and they were right in the middle of my department…apparently, everyone had the same thoughts, because the platter that was heaping at noontime looked like this at the end of the day:

Dessert Decimation

Dessert Decimation

Note how the cookies are wedged next to V8 juice and organic tea. I guess we were all on the same wavelength today, because everyone seemed to wear gray, too (probably power of suggestion from the booming thunderstorm that woke us all up).

Speaking of gray thoughts, today’s NaPoWriMo prompt wasn’t feeling the love today. Rather, the challenge was this:

An un-love poem isn’t a poem of hate, exactly — that might be a bit too shrill or boring. It’s more like a poem of sarcastic dislike. This is a good time to get in a good dig at people who chew with their mouth open, or always take the last oreo. If there’s no person you feel comfortable un-loving, maybe there’s a phenomenon? Like squirrels that eat your tomatoes. (I have many, many bitter feelings about tomato-eating squirrels). There’s lots of ways to go with this one, and lots of room for humor and surprise as well.

Anyone who would take my Oreo would actually go on an extreme hatred list, not mild dislike. I thought this would be a rather fun prompt, in a Taylor Swift sort of way, and I set out to do my sassiest. I reflected on a past relationship that I hadn’t thought about in awhile, one that still bothers me the way things were left. Initially, I was heartbroken, not because of the failed romance, but because of the deep friendship that was severed. I think I still am heartbroken, but it has changed from a bewildered indignation to a pitied understanding. (I apologize for all the passive voice, but I don’t want to give away too many details to prostrate the individual naked with my words. Or maybe I do…What Would Taylor Do?)

Through writing this poem, I realized the prompt was more right than I’d thought. Like the definition of an un-love poem, I remembered the quote “the opposite of love is not hate–it is indifference.” I didn’t find sarcastic humor in writing my poem–I think I’m past that stage, at this point–but I did find the surprise the prompt mentions, and it’s embedded in my last line.

———-

“The Longest”
By: Amanda K. Fowler

You are the one I have loved the longest
And there is no word for it.
I crowned myself your queen
Because I unlocked you like a key.
It scared you to let anyone so close,
But it was destiny
And you could not change it.
You were there, always there,
And we all loved you for it.
But your fear won
And now you are gone,
And though I know
Where you are,
I mourn your loss
Because you have left
In the only way that mattered:
You have pretended yourself
Into somebody else,
And my key no longer fits
With your golem.
Like a hole in a tree,
You have left me altered;
I will go on living,
Thriving, even,
But I will never be the same.
You are the one I had loved the longest.

———-

To me, the end of a friendship is as tragic as the end of a romantic relationship–sometimes, even more so. My mom and Jeremiah both always say of me that I’m “all in” with friendships; it’s hard for me to have casual friendships, because it is my instinct to love fully. And I have been blessed with some wonderful, lifelong friends. Lindsey has a good philosophy we were just discussing the other night: “I really believe some people are meant to be in your lives at certain times. They affect you in some way at that moment, but they might not stay.” Luckily, I’ve found a few who have. 🙂 And I hope the subject of my above poem has found his happiness and his peace, just as I have.