Growing up on the north coast of NSW, going to a concert was a whole production. You bought the tickets online (with your mother’s credit card, this was before the invention of Visa Debit cards), and waited for them to arrive in your mailbox like a misplaced Christmas present. Then, while you were waiting, you had to see if anyone was heading to the big city that day as well. Better yet, if anyone was going to the same concert. From our little town on the east coast it was a two hour drive to the nearest capital city, Brisbane. Which either meant a fun road trip with your friends, blasting the music you were about to listen to, and trying to guess the setlist, or it meant a five hours bus trip in an uncomfortable coach on which the driver always seemed to set the air-conditioning much too high. It was all worth it though. Because once you got to your destination and you were surrounded by people who all have similar tastes to you, all there for the same reason you feel this sense of community that you really don’t find anywhere else. (Well maybe SupaNova or Comic-Con).
I was supposed to see 30 Seconds To Mars in Brisbane last year, way back in August. Unfortunately, one of the band members had to have surgery during the original tour dates. So they postponed. Until the night of my twenty-second birthday. I couldn’t believe it when I read the date. I had to read it about six times just to make sure. Although I was disappointed that I would have to wait about eight months to see Jared, Shannon, and Tomo, I was incredibly excited that I was going to have a memorable birthday for the first time in four years.
What I hadn’t anticipated was life taking a few unexpected twists and turns and landing me in Canberra for my twenty-second birthday. I did consider selling my ticket and trying to get one for the Sydney gig, but then I figured “hey, it’s my birthday, why not go all out?”. So I did the irresponsible thing and used the emergency fund set up by my mother around the time I was born to fund my flights and ritzy accommodation in Brisbane. I am still working on putting that money back but it was so worth it. My last few birthdays had been pretty ordinary. So here’s just a few snapshots of my hotel. More just for me to relive the experience, than for bragging purposes. Although, they do accomplish both:
I had spent the day with one of my very best uni friends for the day before she dropped me off for some Jared Leto time. See, living in Brisbane, you can do that. Be doing something else and then just mosey on over to a concert later on. It’s convenient, cost-effective, and totally drains some of the magic out of the concert experience. I even managed to time it so that I missed the first half of the support acts. I didn’t know the bands, so I decided to spend more time with my friend. I loved the extra time with my mate but, again, it took away from the whole concert-going experience.
I’m not going to advocate going to concerts alone. It is always better to go with people. Especially when the bands change over and you’re standing there glued to your phone so you don’t look like a creepy loner. But when no one else is going, and you’d rather die than miss that particular concert, you really have no choice. This is when apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Fruit Ninja come in handy.
As soon as the band walked out on stage, though, nothing else mattered. It was us and them for the next little while. Jared was singing to each and every one of us. Shannon and Tomo were playing just for us. There was no horrendous over the top showmanship. Just three guys getting lost in the music and inviting us along for the ride.
You can really, truly feel the love 30STM has for their fans. Not only had there been a competition in which a Brisbane local was brought up on stage to play guitar during “City of Angels”, but at least 20 people got up on stage during the final song. Don’t ask me which song that was because the whole night blurred together into a sea of almost religious fervour. Seeing a band you love play live…there are no words. Having hundreds of people all around you singing, dancing, and jumping to the same music is about as religious as I get.
(Just in case: I’m a non-practising Catholic. If the Church gets its ass into gear, maybe I’ll attend services every once in a while).
When you go to concerts alone, in the quiet moment between songs your attention starts to wander. Mine wandered to the truck behind the chain-link fence which was being filled with gigantic balloons. It was during a very. very quiet moment during one of 30STM’s slower songs that we 30STM fans, closer to the edge, noticed the balloons moving toward the stage. So we, and we alone, were prepared for this:
I don’t think there’s anything quite as uplifting as balloons at a concert. Fire is impressive, strobe lights are great for creating tension, but balloons are these brightly coloured buoyant things that bounce above the crowd. We touch them, the band touches them, they catch the stage lights and develop this ethereal glow that is just beautiful. I don’t know why bands don’t use them all the time. I got to touch one and I got this intense feeling of belonging that sounds ridiculous now but at the time almost reduced me to tears.
The setlist was completely unexpected. I don’t know how familiar you all are with the history of 30STM but back in 2008 they were sued for not fulfilling their contract with Virgin Music. There was this whole big thing. The record company were adamant that 30STM owed them more CDs. 30STM were adamant that they be allowed to exercise their legal right of backing out of a contract after seven years. They had actually waited nine. You can read more accurate details here, and if you’re interested, these guys made a documentary about the battle that led to This Is War. Have a trailer:
If you know 30STM, you know that Jared Leto essentially directs the music videos for the band. So I will definitely be buying this documentary ASAP. Why haven’t I already? Because I honestly thought it was a made-for-TV thing that only played in the US. I should have known that Oscar winner Jared Leto would never settle for anything so small.
Back to my point, I think it was because of this battle that 30STM stuck to their two newest albums: This Is War and Love Lust Faith + Dreams for the setlist. They did play “The Kill”, but it was acoustically. It sounded absolutely nothing like its first release, or its second release as “The Kill (Rebirth)”. And you know what? Good on them. They could have played all of the old songs that we know and love, just to keep us entertained. But they didn’t. They played the songs they fought to record. The songs that meant the most to them. This is why 30STM has such a strong connection to their fans, the Echelon.
A woman threw her bra on stage. Hell, I would have too if I were drunk enough; Jared Leto is a delectable man. Nay, a delectable musician. Hello, gorgeous. Anyway, she had written her phone number and her Instagram address, along with the words “I swallow” on the cups. Jared had some fun with that. He could have taken the bra and done the whole “should I call her?” routine. But he didn’t. Instead he played innocent:
“What could she mean by that?”
And then he did the most unbelievable thing. He asked if any drunk guys wanted the bra, with that girl’s info on it. And then threw it back into the audience. Now that girl was probably mortified. But props to Leto. Seriously that is class, rock star style. Admittedly, throwing the bra into a crowd of hot, sweaty men was probably not the best move, but he was on stage. What was he supposed to do? Besides, he’s Jared Leto. He could have wandered into any nightclub that night and picked up in nanoseconds. Whether the girl knew who he was or not.
He started dancing around the stage with our flag at one point. Now that was odd. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do that before. Mid-song, Jared just brings out the Australian flag and starts looping and whirling it through the shining air. I tried to get a decent picture, but it wasn’t happening. The flag deflated too fast to get a shot of it trailing behind him in all its translucent blue glory. This was the best I could do:
He was dancing around like a mad thing, his long, luscious locks flowing behind him like some kind of rock’n’roll Messiah. Actually, here’s some photographic evidence. You’ll see what I mean:
I don’t usually take so many photos at concerts, but that same friend I was hanging with before the concert is a huge Leto fan, so I felt like I needed to give her some photographic evidence of Leto in Brisbane.
Honestly, concerts become a blur for me as soon as I walk away from the venue. I remember which songs played, but not in which order. I remember canons of confetti and two truckloads of balloons, but not in which song they were released. I can tell you I felt uplifted and glad to be alive after the concert, but I can’t tell you which song 30STM ended their Australian tour with. Because Brisbane was, in fact, their last stop.
I will leave you with this image and an anecdote from the day after the concert:
As I pulled my suitcase behind me, up the escalator to the departures gate at Brisbane airport, I saw a flash of fluroscent yellow ahead of me. Thinking my wristband from 30STM the night before had fallen off, I glanced to the hand pulling my suitcase. Seeing the bright paper still encircling my wrist, I looked up. There was a woman in front of me, around my age. She had a suitcase half the size of mine trailing behind her and a piece of cardboard wedged under her arm. As she turned to yank her suitcase’s stuck wheel, I saw her homemade 30STM singlet and what the cardboard actually was. It was a sign, obviously meant for the gig the night before. If it were me, I would have thrown the thing away, but not this young lady. So I was able to see that she had followed 30STM all the way around the country. She had ticked off each venue in a different pen before flying onto the next one. Between flights, tickets, and accommodation, the trip must have cost her more than a pretty penny.
This is what good music does. It makes you want to follow it to the ends of the earth, just to hear those words that have lifted you out of the darkest depression, or the most bland banality, sung to you in the rough, raw strains of live melody.