Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Joshua: Now on a first-name basis.

There are times when something so purely perfect happens, that it takes you a while to discuss it and you need a few hours, or days, to let it all sink in before you feel you can talk (or in this case, write) about it. For example, saying "Hello" to your ultimate idol, seeing your favourite artist live in concert, or meeting the love of your life... All of these moments need a designated amount of time to get your head around and quietly enjoy by yourself before you can do anything else.
   Two weeks ago, I experienced all of the above at once.

On the 26th September 2012, I traveled to London for the day to see Joshua Radin live at KOKO, Camden. This was the third time I attended one of his UK gigs; in 2010 I was at the front row on Brighton seafront, 2011 I was squealing in Shepherds Bush, and this year I went that one step further...
   I received the tickets (plus his new album) for my 19th birthday this summer. Then a few weeks later, I was emailed with the chance to "upgrade" my ticket, which would entitle me to an exclusive pre-show performance, plus some freebies and a Meet & Greet with the man himself. The sensible person hidden deep within me said: "that's a lot of money, is it really worth it?" and the fangirl I keep close to the surface when it comes to Joshua Radin screamed: "of course it is, idiot!" in response. So I parted with my babysitting money and started a countdown clock on my phone: 35 days until Joshua.

The main concern of mine in the weeks leading up to the show was: what do I say to him? For years I've listened to his albums on repeat in my bedroom, referred to him as just "Joshua", and fantasized about what it would be like to meet him. Maybe he'd fall madly in love with me, whisk me away to California and write me a song with my name in.
   I was reminded of Caitlin Moran's views on celebrity crushes: "don't say anything to him! Try to remember it only happened in your head! You have nothing actual to reminisce about!" Oh, right. I should probably just say something casual and generic when I meet him, I wouldn't want to freak him out. But I also want to make an impression; I want him to remember me...

Two of the best nights of my life have been nights spent at Joshua gigs. I wanted to share the experience with as many of my favourite people as possible; I took my then-boyfriend to the show in Brighton two years ago; my Dad last year and my Mum came with me this year. I still have yet to take my little sister with me, sadly she couldn't come this time because it was a school night. Not cool.
   I also met one of my favourite people at the gig this year: Mary Ennis, AKA @boddahkurdt of Twitter, my fellow Joshua superfan and an all around cool chick. We both purchased the upgrade package and agreed to meet at the venue before the pre-show; I was ridiculously excited to meet an online friend for the first time, as sometimes I feel that my online friends know me just as well (if not better) than my everyday friends.

So there we both were, in a box on the second level watching our man soundchecking and chatting to his band onstage, both swept up in the moment, so much so that we didn't speak to one another for a while. It was so amazingly nice to be in the company of someone who not only understands my love for Joshua, but also shares it. We had been talking in the lobby before the pre-show, waiting to go in, when we heard one crystal-clear note ring out from behind the doors. Everyone gathered in the room, us upgraders, fell silent. Now clustered around the KOKO balcony, staring at the stage, we were still silent and very much in awe. I was again struck by the amazing versatility of Joshua's voice, and the drastic change between his speaking and singing; when he speaks, he's deep and silky-smooth, talking about his love of whiskey and memories of Ohio, and when he sings he's angelic and hushed at a high volume, singing about love, loss of innocence and bad timing.
   He's joking around with his tour manager and the band, and fiddling with his guitar as he plays verses and choruses of certain songs. My camera nearly fell out of my hand when I heard the opening notes to 'The Greenest Grass', my favourite Joshua song of the moment. I waited patiently, camera extended, for my favourite lyric: "I am a lucky man, to recognize your grace"; guess why that's my favourite? No, not just because it has my name in, geeezz. Because it's a lovely message on it's own: recognize your grace. Remember how amazing you are, don't settle for less than you deserve - these are the messages I choose to interpret from it. After playing a snippet of the song, Joshua called out behind him: "I think that sounded good?" To which the tour manager replied: "That sounded amazing. That's my favourite, that one." Joshua laughed and said: "you sap."
   We all received our free Tour 2012 T-shirts, then waited anxiously, hearts pounding, as our fella was brought up to see us. Hi, Joshua. He went around shaking everyone's hands (all eight of us), asking each of us our names. He came to me, shook my hand and I said "I'm Grace."
"Hey Grace, it's so great to meet you." His smile could stop time. And it had made me shy. I just kept on smiling back. We all had a chat with him, as a group, joking about the awful British weather and telling him how amazing the pre-show sounded, then our friend the tour manager said: "does anyone want photos or autographs?" It felt so strange, like he was being whored out, but we didn't mind at all. Everyone whipped out their tickets and notebooks, and several girls had, like me, brought their nicest DSLRs in order to ensure the best photos possible. Bless him, he signed everything that was pushed at him, and smiled away in every photo, and even recorded a message for one girl's friend in Australia. When it looked like I was next, I asked in a tiny voice "is it my turn now?", and shuffled over to him with my ticket, my notebook and my camera. He signed my ticket "Grace - XO", and listened to my silly request; "Can you please write down my favourite lyric for me? I'll probably stick it on my wall or get it tattooed..." He looked more than happy, as I happen to know he loves it when fans get his lyrics inked, took my notebook and asked which lyric. Recognize your grace. "Ahhh, I see what you did there!"
"It was definitely a happy moment for me, hearing that lyric for the first time," I may have giggled a little. He wrote it down perfectly, signed it underneath, and then asked if I wanted a photo. By this point, I was finding it hard to breathe and the fangirl inside me was having palpitations. I got my photo; two, in fact, one with him and one of Mary and I with him. Arms around each others' waists. Wow.
   We were all sad to see him go; he left with "I hope you dig the show," and "make sure you check out Scars On 45, my special guests. They're Brits, I can't understand a word they're saying but their music is amazing."

I met my Mum in a gorgeous pub for dinner, The Lyttelton Arms, for an endless stream of vegetarian tapas and worryingly bottomless glasses of red wine (hers) and Jack Daniels (mine). We joked about the cute bartender fancying me as I handed him my camera battery to charge for the show; I got his number after dinner, after we'd spent a good half hour standing in the toilet listening to a random girl sing her heart out to us and explain how desperately she wants to be a superstar... It was a typical tipsy pre-gig evening adventure, one I'm sure Joshua could write a beautiful song about.

The show was amazing. I say "amazing", for lack of a better word. Having seen him live twice before, I knew this would be a night to remember. Joshua Radin is one of those exceptionally rare artists in that not only are all his songs heartfelt, personally penned and devastatingly beautiful, but his performances are always just as personal and sweet as his music. Between each song, he says a few words (and sometimes those few words can make up a whole essay) about his life and the next song he'll be playing. I could close my eyes and marvel over his smooth transitions between speaking and singing, or watch his face as he recalls a particularly happy or deeply intimate memory, all night long.
   I realised just how much of a fangirl I was when I found myself whispering song titles into Mum's ear when he started telling the accompanying story; e.g. he says "so I grew up in this little suburb in Ohio...", and I immediately whisper: "The Rock And The Tide." I giggled along with the crowd as he told us about a girl named Katy who let him down after he'd written her name into a song, so he changed the lyric to "baby". I sighed when he told me (for the second time) about his Friday nights at the roller rink in Ohio trying to decide which girl he wanted to hold hands with, and smiled knowingly when he told us about the pressure of playing at a wedding - he played at Ellen Degeneres' wedding a few years ago, and was recently asked to write a song for his sister's, and obviously the song was stunning even though he thinks he'll find it hard to get through it while watching his sister and dad dance together on the day.

I was amazed when he started telling us about his personal connection with London. It was like one night this summer when Dave Grohl told the crowd just how much he loves Reading Festival and how he's performed there several times over twenty-three years... Joshua's first trip abroad with his music was to London, after receiving requests on MySpace to play in the UK for us Brits. He paid for the trip himself, since his label wasn't so keen on the idea at the time, and he played a few nights in pubs and bars for his clusters of fans from across the pond; he told us how much he loves hearing crowds singing his lyrics back to him in a different accent to his, how humbling and amazing it is.

I was babbling away in my mother's ear about how incredible Joshua is and how clear and genuine his voice is when it's ringing through the air just a few feet away from you... Bless her, she humoured me. Cut to several songs in, the coats are off and we're both waving our hands in the air, eyes closed and shouting along to 'The Ones With The Light'; we will never change, I like that we are kinda strange.

Songs from all across the albums were played. His tragedy of timing song, 'You Got Growin' Up To Do', the very famous song he has a love-hate relationship with 'I'd Rather Be With You', the new'uns such as 'Tomorrow Is Gonna Be Better' and 'Let It Go', plus some less-known tracks 'Where You Belong' (the London-inspired song), 'In Her Eyes' and bluegrass attempt/success 'She's So Right'. And of course, he played 'Closer' and 'Winter'. Two classics, and two of my dozen or so favourites.
   I remember Joshua saying in Brighton two years ago how as an artist at your gig, you want to play your new stuff as well as the oldies, but as a fan at the gig you want to hear the ones you grew up with and know all the words to. So he tries to do a mixture for us, and for himself. Thanks, darling. We appreciate it.

Now Joshua, it was more wonderful than even the best writers could describe, seeing you live for the third time. Yet another night of my life. And it was just a dream come true, meeting you, shaking your hand and hearing you say "Hey Grace".
   See you soon.


  1. ahh wow! it sounds like you had an amazing time! I'm seeing the Killers in November and although I'm not (sob) getting to meet them or anything its still going to be the best thing ever!! getting him to write down your favourite lyric is so clever - i always wondered what to do if i met a singer i loved, now I know! :) hope you don't mind the long comment - i love your blog as well btw x

    1. Girl, I love YOU for reading and even more for commenting! Have an amazing time at The Killers, I'm so jealous. Tell me everything afterwards :D xxx


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