By Shannon Hooten, Retail Spaces and Events Manager
October 30, 2020
It’s 9:30 p.m. and I’ve been standing for over two hours in a small venue with no seats and little ventilation. I’m with friends from work and we’ve already watched two fellow concert goers pass out in the same spot just a few feet away from us. Concluding that the spot in the center of the room is cursed or just unlucky, we steer clear of it. I sway side to side, not to the music, but to relieve the pain in my feet I’m starting to feel after standing for hours because I tried to be cute and wear a short heeled bootie that’s currently digging uncomfortably into the pads of my feet.
The night is a bit chilly so I wore my jacket inside but now it’s starting to get hot. The crowd is getting thicker, the floors stickier, and the air is pierced by the aroma of various natural odors and illegal substances. The opening acts are cool. The first is by a local performer who offers a chill and relatable persona alongside a tranquil performance. The second is met with less enthusiasm since he came on when everyone was expecting the main event and he had the nerve to trick people into thinking it was. Despite that, he was enthusiastic and passionate and won over the crowd before his set ended.
However, it’s now 9:35 and I’m agitated. Why did I rush here to be kept waiting for so long? Tell me, next time, when the main event starts so I can roll in five minutes before and be content with a comfortable view from the back. I sent the celebrity performer a tweet about how frustrated I am. Will he get it before hitting the stage? I hope so – but probably not. Knowing I sent it, at least, makes me and my friends chuckle.
At 9:38 the stage is engulfed in smoke and a robed figure slowly starts to move to the center of the stage. A bushel of sage waves out of a sleeve, filling the venue with the herby scent and setting the mood for what’s to come. Jidenna has arrived.
The opening song is over by 9:45 and we’ve watched Jidenna dance, hop, pose, and ride a tricycle around the stage as if he has the energy of a five year old child. His smile is contagious and his joy exudes him to the point that I regret sending my mean tweet. So, I deleted it. That fast, I forgive his tardiness and forget about my throbbing feet and jump, dance, and sing along with the rest of the crowd.
His last song wraps up the evening a little after 11:00 and, although I’m not sure of a word he says, I’m wrapped up by the sound. The vibrating floor, lighting resembling a setting sun, and the passion in his and his bands’ vocals, allows me to appreciate the present space I’m in.
It’s a space of love, confidence, pride, and inclusivity. Love because Jidenna’s contagious smile and joyful performance oozes the four letter word. A love that wraps the crowd in warmth and connection. Confidence because the crowd dances like no one is watching or they don’t care who is. Pride because his show is blackity, black! He speaks about unity and growth in our community, delivering a powerful message that many weren’t expecting to hear. And inclusivity because the fans around me are incredibly different. From ethnicity and age to their fashion choices and how they expressed themselves. In this space, we are proud of our differences.
After the show, we recap our favorite moments and contemplate spending way too much money on memorabilia. At this point, I’m thankful for the small venue and the quick exit out of the stuffy air. The ride home is quick and I pull up to my home a few minutes before midnight, appreciating the time spent out and another 2019 experience to look back on.