...We usually don’t combine two live music experiences together to write one piece. However, sometimes when you go to two amazing shows in the same city, at the same venue, within 48 hours of each other, you realize certain things point to a double feature.
Just one day after our experience at Paramore’s After Laughter Summer Tour, we found ourselves right back at Mattress Firm Amphitheater for another show. 30 Seconds To Mars’ Monolith Tour. Although I do enjoy this band’s music, and witnessed their live show for the first time at KROQ’s Weenie Roast back in May, I don’t consider myself a hardcore fan by any means. That’s why, based on the notion that this could be a cute and casual date idea, my boyfriend and I got cheap $15 lawn tickets to this concert. We rolled into the venue about an hour past doors, missing the first opener, and after we got past security and started making our way to our seats we were stopped by a friendly venue employee who kindly asked, “Do you guys want pit tickets?”. I think you’ll all agree with me when I say that whenever faced with an opportunity for free upgraded seats, especially to pit, I will to drop everything and go for it. With all prior plans of a comfortable and casual lawn experience abandoned, we agreed, the employee put on our bright yellow wristbands, and we excitedly walked over to the pit.
Despite it being a little late, the pit was relatively empty, and we were able to manage great spots one person behind barricade on stage left. Soon after we got there, the second opener, K. Flay, started playing. I had never listened to her before, but she put on a very solid set. Her cool girl indie tone and powerhouse instrumentals, as well as high energy and on stage chemistry with her band made her performance engaging and intriguing. By the end, I had jotted down her name in the Notes of my phone, and made a mental note to listen to more of her music later on. K. Flay was a good act to precede Walk The Moon and 30 Seconds To Mars, as she gave off an edgy, spacey, and slightly unearthly vibe paired with interesting vocals comparable to artists like Halsey/Bishop Briggs. Live highlights included “Make Me Fade” and “Blood In The Cut”, which I encourage you all to check out when you’re done reading this piece!
Post K. Flay came the usual half hour of chattering among the crowd during stage setup. I started to feel excitement as soon as I saw the next band’s signature clear drum kit being brought out. Walk The Moon has been on my radar ever since 2014 single “Shut Up And Dance” came out and became one of the only things I listened to during my freshman year of high school. Despite liking them for so long, I had never seen them live (and to be completely honest, it almost slipped my mind that they were performing on this tour), so I had high hopes to finally see them play. The lights went down and the band appeared on stage to the dramatic background of the opening notes of The Lion King’s “Circle Of Life”. Lead singer Nicholas Petricca strode to the center of the stage with his facepaint, open button down shirt, and outstretched arms as if he was Rafiki himself, and everyone in the crowd felt that energy.
Suffice to say, Walk The Moon was great. They were an absolute treat to photograph, they sound as good live as they do on record, have fantastic band chemistry (featuring adorably coordinated dance moves), and a dynamic crowd interaction that gets everyone up on their feet and clapping to the beat. It was so much fun to dance around to the old cute songs everyone knows and loves like “One Foot”, “Shut Up And Dance” and “Anna Sun”, but Walk The Moon also caught me off guard and surprised me in the best way with “Headphones”. “Headphones” is INSANE live, showing off a whole different side of Walk The Moon I had no idea even existed. The guys flip a switch and show off their amazing technical skills and hard rocking drums and guitar solos. The flashing black and white lights for this song were also incredible, adding to the whole experience. All in all, it’s safe to say that Walk The Moon was worth the wait, and their live show exceeded all my expectations.
30 Seconds To Mars’ set is where things started to take a twist. Don’t get me wrong, they sounded amazing as usual, but this show will forever be imprinted in my mind as one of the best and most memorable concerts I’ve ever been to, and it’s all because of what happened beyond the actual performance. First thing I have to say: this band wants you to have a good time. I’m always impressed by the way Jared Leto struts on stage wearing some intricate cape/kimono over a red suit, owning the crowd, but what’s even more impressing is how he goes above and beyond to make sure everyone is having the best time. First of all, 30 Seconds To Mars orchestrates the best stage show for fans. There’s giant balloons, water guns, kids pulled on stage to squirt the audience with aforementioned water guns, frisbees, confetti, fans (the self-proclaimed worst dancers in the audience) brought on stage to get down to “Rescue Me”, as well as an easygoing policy allowing signs and large 30STM flags to be waved from the audience. And speaking of security, Jared Leto is the only type you’ll need. He’s quick to veto anything he deems as a buzzkill, stopping the show to tell security to chill out, letting fans get on each other’s shoulders and inviting anyone who wanted to come down into the pit/move up to better empty seats to do so (Sidenote: this is a class act move in my eyes, something that I believe should be implemented at every show that isn’t filled to capacity, but that’s a discussion topic for another day).
Coincidentally, in another one of these moments of Leto’s ruling, I had one of the best experiences of my life. When the band closes their set with “Closer To The Edge”, Leto goes around and handpicks as many people as possible to join him on stage. It’s a messy process, as he simply walks around different areas of the stage and goes around pointing to random fans saying, “You! You! Yes, in the tank top! You, with the hair! You! You! You! Let’s go!”. His vague descriptions and overzealousness makes it almost impossible for security to know exactly who to help up, so when the lead singer walked over and pointed in my general direction, I took it upon myself to put in some muscle, jump barricade, and give security the benefit of the doubt. Hey... sometimes life gives you an opportunity and you just have to go get it yourself. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who had the idea because once I got on stage I was surrounded by maybe one hundred other fans also on a crazy adrenaline rush.
Once up there I realized that in my (literal) leap of faith, I had left my bag with my boyfriend back in the pit, and had absolutely nothing with me onstage except myself. Without my phone to take selfies or pictures on, I lived in the moment and decided I was going to make the most of my time up there and commit it all to memory. As Jared went around giving high fives to everyone, I jumped, danced, twirled, screamed the lyrics and exchanged excited smiles with all the strangers around me, and overall had an amazing time. I got to stand next to Shannon on the drums and out in front of thousands of faces and look at the same view my favorite artists get to see every night. Taking it all in while the confetti cannons exploded all around me was incredibly surreal. And that’s when I realized; no matter how sure I thought I was before, THIS moment was important, because it’s the exact moment that solidified my conviction that THIS is what I want to be around for the rest of my life. I love music, and I want to be around it always. I want to listen and sing and dance and connect with people on stage and off, and I want to write and capture and document every single little moment that showcases the indescribable power of music.
I found myself on stage at Mattress Firm Amphitheater in San Diego, the same venue in the same city where, three years ago, I attended a Fall Out Boy concert that kickstarted my passion for live music, and my desire to chase after as many live shows as possible. Three years later I was standing stage left on the same piece of ground that Pete Wentz was standing on that night in 2015, and I know everything since then was leading up to this. I found myself standing on stage not as the person I was, but as the person that I know I’m meant to become and am on my way to becoming. I will never forget this city, I will never forget this venue, I will never forget this weekend or the After Laughter Summer Tour and The Monolith Tour, I will never forget this 30 Seconds To Mars show or the way Jared Leto didn’t specifically tell me to come on stage and how I did it anyways. But most importantly, I will never forget that I always want to be there when the confetti cannons go off.