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It’s that moment when you hear the first chord of your favourite song, and you can suddenly feel the entire sea of people around you hold their breath in anticipation. It’s the beating of the drums in your chest as you stand in the pit, mere feet away from your favourite artist. The world around you is so incredibly loud that you can hardly hear yourself think. 

And at that moment, nothing else matters. 

You might be blinded by the light, and your throat may end up sore from a mixture of screaming and singing. You might be drenched in sweat and your feet might ache, but when you’re in a sea of people with nearly nothing in common but your reason for being there, it doesn’t matter that you have readings to do or laundry to fold. The mundanity of your every day for those few hours is lost. And as you look around and see that everyone has their hands up, clapping to the rhythm as the song builds, you know that you belong. 

The first concert I ever went to was in the Rogers Centre; I was there with my mum to see The Dixie Chicks and The Eagles. As much as I enjoyed the experience, I couldn’t help but feel a bit distant from it all; maybe it was the fact that I was 11 years old and had only really listened to their music because of my mum. Maybe it was the fact that we were in seats so far away that the artists looked like grains of rice. What stood out though, was when the first chords of The Dixie Chicks’ song “Not Ready To Make Nice” were played, and I found my heart in my throat. This song had become a sort of anthem to me. Through my years of experiencing bullying, it had been one of the only songs that made me feel like I wasn’t absolutely powerless to it all. 

In the years that followed, my concert-going was limited to shows the likes of Glee Live! In Concert!; in the 8th grade, however, a friend of mine introduced me to what would go on to become one of my favourite bands–Of Monsters and Men. Later, as the school year came to a close, my friends and I were ecstatic to learn that Of Monsters and Men (OMAM) would be coming to Toronto for the first time ever. OMAM was playing Echo Beach at the CBCMusic.ca Festival, and we saw it as the perfect way to end the school year and say “goodbye” before we all went off to different high schools. 

Seeing OMAM for the first time was also the first time I had gone to a concert without parental supervision, making the occasion feel especially thrilling. We arrived incredibly early and managed to snag spots right at the fence that separated the stage from the crowd. In the backs of our minds, we could hear our parents reminding us not to get too close–it had been the summer of collapsing stages after all–but our excitement got the better of us. It was a long and sweltering day, and OMAM was slated as the second-to-last band that would play. Though exhausted and dehydrated by that point, we found ourselves revived as the up-and-coming band took the stage. Their set was essentially the most popular songs from their debut album, My Head Is an Animal, and by their encore, I knew for the first time what it meant to be completely and utterly exhausted; this was the night that I fell irrevocably in love with concerts. The single moment that has stuck with me the most, however, was when the bright lights dimmed and “Yellow Light” began. 

While up to that point the crowd had been belting out the lyrics to each song and cheering with each beginning and end, the finale saw us all fall silent in awe. We were a sea of strangers, but I have no doubt that at that moment, we all felt the same. The sense of community was overwhelming and became something that I craved. This concert was a poignant and irreplaceable end to my time as a pre-teen and began my love affair with music. 

Throughout high school, I went to multiple concerts, including Of Monsters and Men again in 2015. As time went on, however, the reality that is the expense of concerts became something I couldn’t ignore. While I could get tickets for my birthday or for Christmas, the concerts I wanted to go to outnumbered the occasions and I found myself taking a sabbatical from concert-going altogether. 

Flash forward to this past spring. Still subscribed to their website, I got an email from the Of Monsters and Men team about their upcoming tour to promote their new album, Fever Dream. I just about dropped my phone as I rushed to check my bank account to see if I had enough spare money to buy tickets. What ensued was a mad rush on my end to find someone to go with me before the pre-sale tickets were gone; luckily, I was able to rope my boyfriend into coming! Soon after, I had two e-tickets for their eighth-ever Toronto show, and just as I had been at their first, I would be right in the pit. While their overall sound has changed since I first saw them, I was still ecstatic to have the opportunity to see OMAM again. 

On September 11th, 2019, Of Monsters and Men began their eighth-ever Toronto concert at the Budweiser Stage, just a couple hundred metres from where they had first played in Toronto in 2013, with their new album’s debut single, “Alligator.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2T7bNEhTU2/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_camle=” background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;” target=”_blank”>

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Just as I had been 6 years ago, I found myself consumed by excitement as the beat of the drum reverberated in my chest. Though hot and sticky from the humidity, I couldn’t help but smile wholeheartedly as I took in the other concert-goers around me. Many danced with the sort of reckless abandon that can only be found at events such as these, while others sang their hearts out as OMAM played songs from all of their albums. In that impossibly short night, I lost my voice, rolled my ankle, and got bumped into more times than I can remember, but I also got to feel incredibly and unapologetically alive. There is something innately liberating, animalistic even, about raising your arms above your head and clapping along with thousands of people as we carry the beat of our favourite songs. So while going to concerts can indeed be expensive and at times inaccessible, they are an experience that I believe to be irreplaceable. Some of my favourite memories have been made at concerts or in the aftermath of them. I urge you to invest in an experience and feelings of community and euphoria that will stay with you for many years to come because while you can listen to a song on full blast on your phone, nothing beats the sound of hearing it live.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2S_wk-HKKI/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_camle=” background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;” target=”_blank”>

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Julia is a third year student at Queen's U in the School of Environmental Studies. Also seeking a minor in Indigenous Studies, she hopes to one day become an environmental and Indigenous Rights lawyer. She has always been passionate about writing and loves to read, although recently cooking has become her new obsession. You can follow her foodie adventures on instagram @passthekimchi
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