The moment I first lent my ears to a band on stage, I fell deeply in love. Live music has always been my route to something more, supplying me with a sense of rapture a sermon or a nature walk could never quite compare to. At a concert, I am at once individual and mob, operating as an independent member of a hive mind gathered for a common purpose. No where is collective empathy so strange and definite a binary. Each person is brought together by a shared love, while individually suffering through the thousand little indecencies concert-going brings: people cutting through the crowd “to meet their friend” (who has invariably saved them a spot in the front row) or spending the entire concert trying to see around Large McTalls, the 7 foot giant man of many faces that seemingly always manages to stand directly in front of you.
Two years ago, Chvrches burst onto the music scene with their inspired neon-pop throwback album, The Bones of What You Believe. The electro-pop group became the darlings of alternative music, offering up synth-infused songs reminiscent of the 80s anthems many have come to know and love. Last month, Chvrches returned to the scene with their long-awaited sophomore effort, Every Open Eye. The album marks a particular stroke of genius by the trio of Glaswegian musicians, who’ve managed to craft effortless bangers that carry the weight of stadium pop pieces while maintaining an intimacy that draws the listener in. They’ve perfected the art of producing pulsating, rhythmic tracks that rattle around the mind for hours after listening. In their second album, the band did not so much evolve as improve, building on trademarks that brought them into the limelight as well as infusing a new optimistic enthusiasm into nearly all of the album’s 11 tracks.
When I learned that my cousin had managed to get four tickets to Chvrches’ sold out show in Central Park, I was beyond excited. I’ve been an avid fan since their debut. Their first album was the soundtrack to my life for months at a time, and their newest release has accompanied me on most of my late nights here.
The night of the show was overcast and the forecast promised rain, but even the weather could not overshadow the promise of the night—the semester’s first excursion outside of the orange bubble. After the short dinky ride and a long, homework-filled train trip to Penn, we met up and made a pilgrimage to the holy ground of Shake Shack. Afterwards, we made our way to the venue just as the last opener left the stage. The crowd buzzed with excitement, the air electric with anticipation. After a short wait, the trio took the stage, and immediately burst into their second album’s opening track, Never Ending Circles. The lights rigged behind them rose, fell, and pounded along with the drum beat, and the crowd exploded into cheers. After a song or so, front woman Lauren Mayberry introduced the band with her instantly recognizable voice, at once etherial, fierce, and delightfully Scottish. Over the next few tracks, she showcased her crisp, clean vocals, while multi-instrumentalists Iain Cook and Martin Doherty made the air thick with driving synth riffs and syncopated drum beats.
During her years with the band, Mayberry has had to face the misogyny and general woman-hating that is endemic to the music industry. In the face of these challenges, she’s helped lead the vanguard of feminism and right action in music, speaking out against the industry’s objectification of women and destroying slut-shaming trolls the world over. This spirit was alive and well that night, as she absolutely ruined a heckler who shouted ” Marry me! ” between tracks. “Oh, come on,” she responded. “What’s the hit rate on that? When you go to public places and ask women you don’t know if they want to wed you, does that work out well for you, sir?” The crowd roared in response. “I assume because you’re here that you’d know a bit about our band. And I’m very grumpy. I don’t want that shit.” The heckler, effectively shutdown, fell silent, and the crowd lit up with applause as the band broke into their next song.
The highlight of the night came toward the end of the set. As Chvrches began playing Clearest Blue, the last single off of their album, the sky opened up and the clouds that had been threatening rain all night finally showered the crowd as the song reached its crescendo, creating a spontaneous dance party of soaked bodies, surging lights, and incredible music. A collective cheer drowned out the music when the rain began to fall, and for a moment the crowd stood in reverie. This was the moment of other, of connectedness that many concert-goers relish above all else.
The train ride home was a short but happy one. A 2AM return to campus in the middle of the week is far from typical, and being soaked through your clothes certainly isn’t ideal, but a late-night snack from WaWa and a moment of respite in the common room offers comfort after a night of adventure. The night was one of my best at Princeton so far, and hopefully the first of many during my four years here. Here’s hoping.