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On the third day of November in the year 1996, something spectacular happened. Yes, dear reader. Yours truly was born.
And I lived.
I grew up overcoming many obstacles; stories for another time. Highs, lows, and plateaus, but the one thing that never changed or faltered was my love and passion for music. Music is such a big part of my life, and anyone that knows me knows for the most part, how important it is to me.
I spent a big chunk of my 2016 living and working in a national park. The adventurer in me was awoken that year. Upon returning home from that particular adventure, I realized I wanted to continue my travels and fun times. I decided from that moment on, that as I worked, I would take care of myself and that I would also treat myself more.
You may be asking yourself, "What was all that fuss earlier about loving music for? And who cares when her birthday is?" Well, I am certainly glad you asked! You see, after making the realization that when I work hard, it's okay, good even, for me to treat myself for said work, I determined that I needed to go all out for my 21st birthday in 2017. After all, I earned it.
Around tax return season, I figured, what better way to spend my birthday than a great concert? And with a good amount of money coming in, what better time to splurge on some good seats? So I took to Ticketmaster. I narrowed my search to concerts on November third in Seattle, WA. Nothing good. So I expanded that search to concerts on the west coast. And I see it. Bruno Mars 24k Magic World Tour, Friday, November 3 in Oakland, California. This was it. I knew Bruno was touring (can I call him Bruno? Can that be a thing?). When the tour stopped near my hometown, I knew I'd be away working for a couple months, so this was my chance. This was how I needed to celebrate the big 2-1. As soon as my tax return kicked in, I spent a pretty penny on a VIP floor seat. Section C row 14 seat 5. I was over the moon at just the thought of seeing him in person, hearing that raw emotion and strength in his voice from 50 feet away. My birthday couldn't get here fast enough.
Fast forward to about seven months later and I'm catching a plane to California for a trip that will last less than 24 hours. That Friday had been the one day that week that was gray and rainy. I wasn't going to let that keep me from having a fantastic time. I arrived at the venue almost four hours early. Oracle Arena. I was hungry and tired and I REALLY had to pee, but I was more excited than anything. I wasn't allowed in the arena yet, so I took a couple laps around the stadium. An hour later of wandering, and I gave in. I walked up to the first staff member I could find, and asked where the nearest bathroom was. He pointed me in the direction of a couple port-o-potties. Now, I could write a whole piece about port-o-potties and how disgusting and taboo they are, how embarrassed I get at the thought of someone seeing me enter one, but I won't. One tidbit will do. Mind you, yes, there just so happened to be two or three people around setting up a tent for the local radio station that "plays all the hits" or whatever. So I nonchalantly headed to the potty in hopes of not being ridiculed. As I did my business in the graffiti-clad mega potty, I couldn't help but get excited all over again. This was really happening. It was really my birthday and I was really going to see the monster entertainer that is Bruno Mars.
After washing my hands, I walked toward some long thin tables and metal detectors under a couple tents. This would undoubtedly be a bag check area in another two hours or so.
Then, it started to rain.
Up until now, I'd seen maybe three other concert attendees. Out of nowhere, two ladies in ponchos walked over to join me in my shelter from the rain, now pouring. We began talking about our homes and our love for Bruno. Over time, I found out that the duo was a mother-daughter pair, relatively close to home. They lived a couple cities over and were, like me, beyond excited to see Mr. Mars. The rain finally stopped and we eventually were allowed into the outside courtyards of the arena. They had merch tables up and I just stood staring unsure if what to spend a ridiculous amount of money on as my concert souvenir and birthday present. From t-shirts and jackets to hats and posters, they had it all. Just when I thought I'd decided on what to get, the gentleman working the table mentioned that once we were let inside, the other merch tables would have more interesting stuff to choose from. Now my dilemma: Do I buy something now and regret not seeing the other options inside? Or do I wait until getting inside, wait in even longer lines and risk items selling out before I get the chance to get them? After about 15 minutes of contemplation, I found my solution: Buy a tour t-shirt outside and one more souvenir inside. Yeah. That'll work.
I bought a simple white and black t-shirt with the tour title on the front and all of the tour stops on the back. It is 100 percent cotton. Just thought you should know (feels magical on the skin). I proceeded to wait in yet another line to get into the arena. Forty-five minutes later, the doors open and the people in front of me begin to move, inching me closer and closer to the door. This dream closer and closer to becoming a reality. A man scans my ticket, and I immediately head for the merchandise tables.
Inside is a line of about 30 people patiently waiting for their chance to buy souvenirs while I try to quickly join them before a) others beat me to it, or b) I get trampled. I make it to the line and wait.
As an aside, I really lucked out on this trip. The people that surrounded me while I was waiting in lines or in my seat were all really great. They were all complete strangers, but we were like-minded. I'm just glad I didn't have to deal too many with little preteens.
So I'm in line. The one good thing about waiting in line for so long is that I could use it as an opportunity to decide on what I wanted. When it was my turn, I walked up to the edge of the table and opted for a black bomber jacket with a huge crown symbol/patch on the back. It looked cozy and the thin cardigan I was wearing didn't protect me much from the cold and rain. As soon as I left the merchandise table, I replaced the cardigan with my shiny new jacket. I then headed in the direction of food.
The lower level was crawling with people as I scouted the place for something to put in my belly. The idea of a "reasonably priced" meal went out the window when I found myself in line to order and browsing the menu. A small 16 oz water bottle, alone, cost like $4. As frustrated as I was, I hadn't eaten all day and probably wouldn't eat after the show until I got home (airport food is even more expensive). So I swallowed my pride and bought a water bottle and a chicken strip meal; totaling to just under $20. I found some empty counter space and devoured my chicken strips and fries. After that, I headed for my seat. 45 minutes before the start of the show.
I found my seat and I sat. There weren't too many people in the arena by then, but that would soon change. After about 15 minutes, the seats began to fill. I drank some water and people-watched: men, women, (mostly women) and children of almost all ages. Then I saw it. (PET PEEVE, prepare for a slight tangent/rant) Kids half my age with their parents, with better seats than me. Either these kids got their make-a-wish granted, or these spoiled brats got their rich parents to get them VIP passes to a show that, in my opinion, would be way over their heads and just inappropriate for them. Bruno Mars is just a sexual person. Yes, he's extremely talented and smart as a musician, but like many new-age artists of this decade, (and I'm gonna be blunt here) most of his music is about sex. So yeah. Go ahead and bring your 12-year-old to a Bruno Mars concert. Spend thousands of dollars to get you and your family those amazing seats and VIP packages just so you can hear "Treasure," "Uptown Funk," "24k Magic" and "When I Was Your Man," completely disregarding songs like "Gorilla," "Straight Up and Down," and "Versace On The Floor" because maybe you just didn't do your homework. Side note to my side note: it also bugs me when people go to concerts because of a couple songs. Like, if you're gonna be there, REALLY be there. You need to know the music and artist. Do your homework because if you don't know the songs, you will not have a good time. You can't sing and dance along when you aren't familiar with the song. Ugh. Okay. I guess, end rant.
Half an hour before the start of the show, my seat buddies showed up. A couple here to see the Bruno that I'd found out ditched their teens to have a fun night (I approve). I told them I'd flown in from Washington to attend the concert for my 21st birthday and they were really excited for me. They left to get some snacks and offered me their popcorn when they returned. They were probably the sweetest/coolest people I'd met all night. Skipping ahead... Blah, blah, blah, huge arena, thousands of people, I'm surrounded by children. And the opening act enters the stage, a young woman from London named Jorja Smith accompanied by her band. The crowd, I'll admit, was a little dead. I can best describe her sound as a British Sia voice with a David Guetta/Chainsmokers-vibe in the music behind it. Her sound was interesting, but we were all ready for Bruno Mars.
After a short set from Jorja, four royal green curtains with a large crown in the middle slowly dropped, enclosing a box on the stage. The lights went out. The arena now lit only from the stage lights. The crowd went nuts. A chorus of male voices (the hooligans, no doubt), started singing. "Are you ready?" they would sing, and every time, the crowd got louder. Until finally, the curtain slowly began to rise, revealing Bruno Mars in a red Hooligans jersey, black shorts and a black hat, accompanied by his hooligans all dressed in black jerseys with thin white stripes, black shorts and black hats. Every single person in that room lost it.
Bruno and his posse opened with the hit Finesse off of his new record. From there, he sang "Straight up and Down," "24k Magic," "Calling All My Lovelies," and more. With the first beat of every song, the music-lover in me got more and more excited. I knew each and every song the second the band started playing it and I was cheering before the rest of the crowd could get their camera phones up. It was kind of a proud moment for me if I do say so myself.
With each song, this man didn't hold back. Now that's not to say he wasn't controlled. Every note he hit was a strategically planned execution, but it's the control that proved he wasn't holding back. From beautiful soaring notes to the gritty tone he exudes when he sings from his gut, Bruno Mars was phenomenal. And he put on a show. I could talk about his voice all day, but the man can dance too. Being a triple-threat musician, he, without a doubt, can put on an amazing show. Overall, this performance went beyond my expectations, yet was exactly as I imagined it would be. He performed all but one song from the new album (he just so happened to exclude my FAVORITE song from the new album. On my birthday. Ouch.) along with most of the hits from his two previous albums including "Marry You" and "Just The Way You Are" from his first album, "Treasure," "When I Was Your Man" and "Gorilla" from his second album. He even sang "Uptown Funk."
Unlike most musicians, Bruno Mars doesn't suck live. In fact, he may be better live than in-studio. He and his gang really put a lot of work in for the fans. So a huge thank-you to them whether they ever read this or not. While there were probably tens of thousands of people in the room that evening, Bruno Mars gave me a night I will always remember, and he may not know it, or know me, but I will forever be grateful for that experience.