Thursday, March 27, 2014

LA day 5, The National

I'm writing this post covered in a fluffy heart-patterned bathrobe and an old Spongebob blanket to fight the chilly San Francisco weather -- in other words, I'm back home.

My flight landed at around 4pm yesterday. I know I was only in LA for a few days, but I'm still surprised at how fast spring break went by! I don't go back to class till Tuesday, but I've got a lot to finish and set up before then. Looks like my mornings spent in Westwood cafes and vintage stores will have to wait till next vacation.

Anyway, this post is going to be super long -- bear with me. But I'd like to dedicate all these run-on sentences to Audrey for obvious reasons, and because I wouldn't have had such an amazing spring break without her!

Tuesday (3/25)

On the 25th, Audrey and I went to see The National at The Shrine Auditorium! We had a lot of time to kill beforehand though, so we spent the day in various places. 

After (another) brunch at Native Foods Cafe and (yet another) visit to Westwood's American Vintage (which I will miss terribly; see: wallet and heart ring below), we had ice cream and cookies at Diddy Riese. I've passed by this place every day during my stay but the line was always outrageously long. It was pretty short in the early afternoon on a Tuesday morning, so Audrey and I got ourselves some treats. They were delicious, and reminded me a lot of the CREAM I live nearby.

I borrowed one of Audrey's Peter Pan collar tops that day. Hehehe. I have yet to find my own perfect Peter Pan collar garment, actually. There's always a detail or two that steers it away from the simple piece I'm looking for...but I'll continue to keep my eyes open for it. 

We took a bus to the LACMA next. Now, we didn't actually go inside -- we just lurked in one of the nearby cafes (C+M Coffee and Milk) for some caffeine, to use the wi-fi, and to charge our phones. 

Audrey bought a sketchbook at the gift shop next door so we doodled a few things during our stay. Here's some of Audrey's drawings (which were a lot cuter than mine btw):

^ featuring our role model and dear friend Marion, yours truly, and Audrey.

We took two buses down to the area where The Shrine auditorium was, and we got there a bit early. Stopped by Denny's for even more coffee as well as some grilled cheese. It would've been a sin if Audrey and I, grilled cheese enthusiasts, didn't eat some together at least once

We entered The Shrine just as the doors opened around 6pm. Audrey and I got our band tees at the merchandise stand so as to avoid the inevitable crowd later. 

This was the first sitting-down concert I've been to and The Shrine was probably (alright, definitely) the biggest venue I've been in. We were way up in the balcony but still had a pretty good view. It was also my first time seeing The National, so despite what Audrey told me about her previous time seeing them, I didn't know what to expect.

Before the show started, though, Tom Berninger (brother of The National's lead singer, Matt Berninger) was there to present his movie, Mistaken for Strangers. It chronicled the time he spent touring with his brother's band. It was funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and eerily relateable. 

Overall, Mistaken for Strangers provided an intimate look into the dynamic of both band and family, and how the struggles of both sometimes really is just worth it. I definitely won't be forgetting it anytime soon, and I highly recommend it if you're a fan of The National and if it'll be playing in an area near you. Bring tissues or something, though, because if the documentary gets you all teary then you're definitely not going to be ready for The National. (Like me.)

Unfortunately my phone died really early and I didn't get any photos of the show itself. I did, however, manage to take a video of what The National opened with (and one of my favorite songs), Don't Swallow the Cap. You can view the video in all its awful quality and colorful glory here on my Instagram.

The show itself was so much more than I expected it to be. They played both older and newer songs, and although they didn't play my favorite song (Conversation 16), I was thankful to hear other faves: Don't Swallow the Cap, Bloodbuzz Ohio (I probably cried), Mistaken for Strangers, Terrible Love, England, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, and Slow Show! (I definitely cried.)

The band and sound were great, and Matt was...oh man, Matt was something else entirely. I got a bit of a preview of what his performance was like thanks to some of the footage in Tom's documentary, but seeing it on film and seeing it in real life were two separate experiences. Now, The National is one of those bands I listen to when I'm feeling sad and when I want to cry, or when it's gloomy outside...but some of their songs were pretty heavy live and Matt straight up screamed some of his lines. (That is, when he wasn't throwing around his drinks or accepting drinks from people lucky enough to be in the front row.)

One of the funniest and most memorable things had to be their performance of All The Wine. Before the show, Audrey was telling me how much she was hoping he would sing All The Wine because it was one of her favorite songs, so she was ecstatic when it started up. However, shortly after the "I'm a perfect piece of ass / Like every Californian" line, Matt decided to skip the song, literally stopped, and went on to sing something else. We were DYING.

Other memorable moments from the show: 

+ Matt screaming Squalor Victoria. Audrey told me about this, but holy shit it turned into straight up screamo. Amazing.
+ The unbelievable light shows during their songs. I really wish I didn't waste all that phone battery taking pictures of my food or refreshing Twitter!
+ People in the front row stretching out and petting our dear lead singer. I mean, the fact that he bent over and knelt in front of them (if not diving into them) probably helped them a lot, but anyway.
+ The encore's acoustic rendition of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, where Matt did minimal singing and eventually turned the singing over to the audience. It was really sweet, and I could feel ugly tears on my face.
+ Matt literally crawling into the audience during Terrible Love and getting so deep into the crowd that security had to pull him back via mic cord. I eventually lost track of where he was. And judging from what I saw in Tom's movie, this is apparently as common as Alex Turner combing his hair or forgetting his own lyrics during a performance.
+ Oh, and the man sitting next to us was an interesting character. I almost forgot to mention that dude.

All in all, it was an amazing show and I can't wait till I get to see them next. They're playing here in Berkeley in April, but with Lana del Rey's show coming up next month, I'm not sure if it'll be wise to blow even more money on yet another concert. We'll see, though...because since seeing The National I've been listening to High Violet and Boxer on repeat and I'm getting emotional all over again. (Needless to say my short plane ride back home was full of their music.)

Audrey and I ended the evening with Korean food and rambling about various band members, not limited to that of The National. Well, actually, we pretty much did that every single night. God, I miss it already.

Wednesday (3/26)

Ah, my last few hours in (mostly sunny) LA. I woke up early to pack so I was feeling a bit groggy until we had coffee at Audrey's place. I looked through a street fashion book in her room before we set off for the airport around 1pm.

We said our goodbyes outside the airport. I hope one day she'll get to visit me here -- I have so many places I want to show her, and I hope to give her a vacation as great as the one she gave me! 

My more or less impulsive decision to visit LA this spring break was a choice I'm glad I made. I got to meet the lovely Audrey, skip all the gimmicky touristy stuff to witness the character of certain corners of the city, eat amazing food, browse rack after rack of gorgeous clothes, and heard beautiful music live.

Meeting my internet friends in person is always a special experience -- upon mere hours of spending time alongside each other, there's already an intimacy written into our relationship that encounters outside the internet take weeks, even months, to get to. I have less to hide from them, if anything at all, and one important thing I've come to realize after a fair share of these experiences is that I don't feel the need to water myself down for them.

I've been wanting to blow off some mid-semester stress for a while, so I'm happy I did it this way rather than spend the entire break endlessly scrolling through Tumblr. I'm actually doing right now, but hey, I'm tired -- and I've still got a few things ahead to take care of during this last dreg of spring break.

I'll be back very, very soon.

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