I had decided to go to the show alone.
After weeks (Months?) of emailing with my long-distant-and-not boyfriend, Tanner, I decided I would go see Grace Jones at the Hollywood Bowl, by myself, in honor of us. He told me I had to go so I did, only knowing handfuls of things about Grace and having been a decent fan of Nightclubbing (and Nightclubbing alone). He had impressed Grace into me, that she was a force, that she was a singularity, that I had to see her for us even though we would be breaking up in two months because he was too absentee of a person, was very mean to me, hated my dog, and moved into my apartment without paying rent. I didn’t know many people and the few people I knew (My aunt and uncle.) were unavailable for the July 26, 2009 event. I went to the show alone.
It was an ordeal. I walked, like I always did, from Thai Town to Hollywood, proper, then up and up and up Highland to the Bowl. There are structures in place here, looping walkways and chatty patios and hulking kiosks and a lot of information but very little help in understanding how to navigate the strange, mountain-carved venue. I was glad I didn’t drive given the zoo of snaking cars that shit themselves both into the valley and into Hollywood. It was a mess. I didn’t know why I was there. I never do things like “this”: I don’t go to concerts, I don’t do things publicly alone, I don’t ever forget to plan what it is I’m doing. Accordingly, I had forgotten my ticket. Or was it available for pickup? I don’t remember.
The concert had already begun. An evening sun blared, denoting one of those nights that you’d hate to describe as “magical” but that’s really the best description: it was clearly not daytime yet, still, the sun was out. I zigzagged my way through line before landing behind a small bald woman, a more adult woman, and a little boy in a stroller. It was just the four of us in line. We didn’t know what we were doing. The ticket person called up the trio and they crossed in front of me, in profile.
Something is off about them, I thought. Do I know them?
I did not know them, no, but the bald woman was very familiar. I eyed them from my place as they approached the counter to speak with an attendant, the two women leaning in and the child trying to sneak a view. I was called to another window to get my ticket. I watched, sideways, trying to figure out who they were. They and me got our tickets and I walked to security behind them. The bald woman turned her head: Beyoncé’s sister. It struck immediately, once I could finally make eye contact with her. She stared through me, a pale blur before the bit of city you could see from the bowl before tall buildings were constructed in the neighborhood.
I texted a friend: “I’m at a concert and Solange is in front of me.”
“Solange. Beyoncé’s sister.”
I followed them and they exited early into a situation which I didn’t understand until it took me twenty minutes to spiral all the way up to a section whose alphabetic descriptor was a few letters away from Z. From my view, Grace was a piece of rice in an empty bowl yet she was captivating, electrifying, illuminating. It was the sort of once-in-a-lifetime thing you don’t think you will need to remember forever until you are experiencing it, in that moment, through secondhand weed smoke and an expensive, in-venue wine buzz does the situation harden in your head.
“Want to hear a funny story?” I asked Bobby. He nodded his head, neither yes nor no. I told him anyway. “The first time I went to a show here I actually saw Solange. She was in line in front of me in line getting a ticket. It was that Grace Jones show.” I laughed, remembering a strange person and life so far removed in time and place. We sat in the same place from when I saw Grace.
“I want to thank you so much,” Solange told the crowd. “I came here for my first show ten years ago to see Grace Jones.”
Was she talking to me? I had smoked some weed and had some wine and I wasn’t entirely present for everything but, yes, she was talking to me. I slap Bobby on the shoulder. “That was ten years ago!” I tell him. Something in my brain turned over and I realized I had aged although it wasn’t actually ten years but I knew what she meant. She was great. Like Grace, she had a sort of transcendental style. Where Grace is gaudy and punchy, Solange is moody and intimate while maintaining an element of fun. She held up to Grace but, alas, she did not eclipse Grace. No one can do that.
She seemed to twirl around all night, in a dream, not believing she or I or anyone else had made it as far as we had. Of course, she went further but neither of us were at the Hollywood Bowl alone. There were probably people there alone too, people who had been abandoned and hoped to be found in music. Perhaps they saw a young pseudo celebrity in line too. Perhaps that person will perform at the Hollywood Bowl in a decade from now and Solange and I will be there, laughing, remembering our time together.
Maybe, I think.
For another me-and-Solange Hollywood Bowl story, consider this.