Friday, November 8, 2013
TD Garden, Boston
This is my thirteenth year teaching social studies at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine. Working there and being a part of the MTA community has been incredibly fulfilling, and I realize now how many of my closest friends and people who feel like family have come into my life through Mt. Ararat. I’ve been truly lucky. As my fabulous students have grown up, some of them have stayed in touch and have even become great friends. Last December, I saw that one of my former students, Mike, posted an NPR Tiny Desk concert to our friend Sam’s Facebook wall. I was drawn to the pink shirt this guy named Macklemore was wearing, so I listened. I was in tears in the first minute. I reposted the NPR Tiny Desk concert and tagged some of my friends who I knew would love it. Macklemore wasn’t on the national stage at that point, but when I saw him a couple of weeks ago, he’d sold out the Boston Garden. Anyone who wants to rap about marriage equality and treating gay people with respect, well, I am going to support you and I’m definitely going to come see you perform live. I was in New Orleans in June visiting Chelsea, another former student who is now a great friend, when tickets for this show went on sale. I set an alarm clock for pretty early in the morning to buy my Macklemore ticket for almost six months later in the fan presale. Since I work in a school and have eyes, I can see the obvious pain that this issue causes for so many young people as they try to cope and live with who they are in the face of sometimes insurmountable adversity. It’s heart wrenching. Although I think our culture is changing and being gay is much more mainstream now, being part of a frequently judged minority can’t be easy. I applaud Macklemore for his contribution of “Same Love” (please watch the video) to the movement for marriage equality and for all that he does to encourage us to treat others with respect.
I drove to Boston right after school got out and found an awesome parking spot right by the Garden. I grabbed a burrito and braved the strong, wintery winds to get inside soon after doors opened. I wisely decided I wouldn’t want to wait outside in November in the cold in order to get a good general admission spot, so I bought a great seat in the loge section closest to the stage. It was a super idea. I grabbed my awesome seat and Big K.R.I.T. from Meridian, Mississippi took the stage. Here’s when I had what should have been an obvious thought—I don’t get rap. I’m a folk music gal. If I never hear the word ‘motherfucker’ again, I’ll be perfectly happy. I was struck, though, by how much confidence it would take for someone to stand, essentially alone, in front of a crowd and offer their words to strangers. It’s a brave thing. I took a quick scan around the huge crowd and saw that there were so many kids at the show. Macklemore is really not for kids, folks. I’d hear ‘motherfucker’ plenty more throughout the night. Big K.R.I.T. did a whole number about smoking pot. Maybe these well-intentioned parents had never heard of Macklemore and just threw down the credit card to buy tickets and make their kiddos happy?
Talib Kweli took the stage next. He’s’ known for his social consciousness and at least I’d heard of him before. Hailing from Brooklyn, he congratulated us on our recent World Series win, which I thought was classy. He called Res, a singer from Philadelphia, on stage to accompany him. She is apparently working on an album of Fleetwood Mac cover songs and performed her version of “Dreams” for us. They covered “Eleanor Rigby” for us, too. I know and appreciate that Talib Kweli is a lyricist worth paying attention to. I promise to look up his lyrics and see what his message is. Now if someone sang his lyrics while playing an acoustic guitar…
We were ecstatic when Seattle’s Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took the stage. They were joined on stage by folks on strings, horns, and extra percussion for the whole night, too. I was impressed (but totally not surprised) with how elaborate the stage was. There were set changes and their amazing, creative, and hilarious videos playing on huge screens behind them all night long. It’s really quite a show. I also liked how appreciative Ben Haggerty (Macklemore) was towards us. He talked a lot that night, and reminisced about the first show they’d played in Boston a few years ago and how 200 people were there and now the Garden was at capacity with 12,000 people in the room. He was grateful. He wore Larry Bird’s number 33 Boston Celtics jersey from the third song on that night, too. Ben also told a long and surely embellished (or just totally false, but fun) story about arriving in the wee hours of the morning and walking around Boston and ending up skinny-dipping in the Harbor. When a couple of punks stole his clothes (see how I don’t believe him, but I’m just going with it), an older woman took him to the thrift shop to get something to wear. Want to guess what song they did next? The stage crew even brought out racks of vintage clothes. Backup dancers arrived on stage, too. It was nuts in the room.
Macklemore told us that he was grateful to everyone at the show for their support, whether or not we knew them before “Thrift Shop.” He told us his story about wanting to be a rapper since he was a teenager, but he started to do drugs at the same time. It stifled his creativity and he eventually went to rehab. When he left rehab, sober, in 2008, he moved in with his parents. Ryan Lewis was also living in his own parents’ basement while he was in college. Ryan sent Ben a Myspace friend request, and the rest is history.
I am happy every single time I hear “Same Love” on the radio. That’s the message we’ve got to be sharing with young people. Macklemore introduced the song by saying that everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and that no one should tell us who to love. He said that we are letting go of the fear and prejudice and are starting to see that our words have value and it’s up to us how we use those words. He told us that he believes in equality and love. Mary Lambert (just 24 years old!) took the stage and sang her heart out on “Same Love.” I was pumped she was there. It was a poignant moment and you could feel something special in the room during the song.
Macklemore told us that after every tour, Snoop Dogg and Mariah Carey come over to his house and they have dinner and talk about what the craziest cities on tour were. I’m sure that must really happen. It encouraged the crowd to go wild during “Can’t Hold Us.” I didn’t ask for a press pass for the show, so I just brought my little Cannon PowerShot. I jumped up and down so much during the song that I lost my camera and eventually found it a song later on the ground a row in front of me. I was pumped that Ray Dalton (just a baby at age 22!) came on stage during the song, too, because his voice is soulful and beautiful. Macklemore did a little freestyle and joked about how rappers used to like to freestyle more until the iPhone came out and then they knew it would be up on YouTube instantly—whether it went well or not. When I did a little research for this post I found Superglued.com. You can check out a bunch of videos there that people took just at this show. “White Walls” was great and the string section really nailed it during the introduction to “Wing$.” Everyone said goodnight after that and left the stage. Obviously, we weren’t ready to leave yet.
Everyone came back on stage to raucous applause. The video that played during “And We Danced” was hilarious and the perfect start to their encore. The dancers really went for it, too. “Irish Celebration” went over really well on the Boston crowd. Ben told us that his grandparents were from 45 minutes outside Boston and that he visited every summer. His grandfather really loved bringing the family together and would have loved that 12,000 family members and about 40 Haggertys were all gathered together that night in the Boston Garden. He introduced everyone on stage with hyperbolic and funny details. He saved Ryan Lewis for last and said that it was the most important friend request he’d ever accepted. Aren’t we lucky they found each other? I’ve been listening to The Heist for a year now and it’s unique and layered. I appreciate that I can hear and understand a story in every song, even though I generally don’t get this genre of music at all. Thanks for a truly spectacular evening! How did I forget to mention all of the streamers and fireworks and crowd surfing?! Oh my! It gave me all the energy I needed for an almost three hour drive home to Maine!