Concert Diary: Blood Orange
Recounting the night of Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange’s rapturous Central Park performance
By Kaylee Warren
Back to back to back, I would describe the day. A morning class about ugly feelings immediately followed by a beautiful class about the fantastic, after which a meeting for a group presentation I was wholeheartedly unprepared for. By the end of this meeting’s close, two hours separated me and Dev.
I think about love all the time, and especially this day. A day the sun and the humidity showed up so fervently for, so intensely that the beauty of this kind of devotion overtakes the sweat beads peaking up on my hairline and the shrinkage of my curls. I let this wash over me as well as the vision of all of the people in
this city and beyond who will be congregating with me in one grassy spot in Central Park to hear the chorus of an artist that touches down somewhere special inside each and every one of us. This is something that’s really lovely to me.
After a tumbling mess of an hour rushing to get ready, I power walked thirty minutes to Astor Place from the West Village to meet my friend who’s been waiting. I feel uncomfortable saying that I hate things, but I hate to leave people waiting. I got to Astor and found Rita cooly lounging on the concrete steps leading up to the Uptown 6 Entrance. She smoked a Juul and breathed her effortless breezy smile that cooled me down. “I’m so sweaty” is the first thing I thought to say.
I wore a red short top, loose glittery pants, and all-black Doc Martens. I describe this because despite my being twenty, only four months removed from the mysticism of teenagehood, I felt like such a teenager sitting there on those steps, talking about how stressful yet delightful school can be, wondering about our relationships with the city - would they be forever? Or would we meet some other dazzling place to raptly sweep us off our feet?
I instantly spotted Shirley amidst the crowd of New Yorkers leaving from work, school, picking up their kids. I note this with childlike glee because I can’t believe that I was able to spot such familiarity amongst of sea of strangeness; the odds are just so rare here. Shirley and Rita are friends of mine who would be meeting for the first time. They realized they were wearing the same shoes before we ventured underground to sandwich ourselves into the next Bronx-bound 6 train to Central Park.
We talked school and astrology and friendship on the train over before it released us out of its sticky confines onto the Upper East Side. Thirty minutes, now, between us.
We followed the teenagers with the animal print fanny packs, irreverent stick and poke tattoos on their legs; the mid twenty-somethings with art-affiliated tote bags and chino pants punctuated by intellectual Doc Marten loafers. I overheard a couple of days prior at the office of my internship how a few of my co-workers were either going or interested in going to this show. This amused and made me so curious because the people I work with pretty much suck. It was like being in 4th grade again and hearing my intimidating music teacher cuss at our class. I’d never heard a teacher cuss before then. It gave a shock that lingered for a while before it transformed into how I now look at it, as some strange respect or form of kinship. I quietly wondered if I’ll spot any of them here. I hope I do. Not because I like them but because I just want to witness them.
We’d had our bags checked, our tickets scanned, so the only thing left to do was feed our bellies. I ordered a veggie burger, Rita, a popsicle and a coffee, Shirley, a SUPER good order of french fries with chili sauce. I look around at my surroundings as I eat away, noticing how the sky is purple and orange and how meant to be that is. Dev has synesthesia and these colors have informed a lot of his musical work thus far. I finish my burger and start on a gluten-free brownie I love, that always gives me a feeling of criminality because I do not have a gluten intolerance. I just really love this Celiac National Support Association brownie.
You know how on sidewalks or buildings, you may notice words written on them? Sometimes it’s Sharpied initials of lovebirds or a cool design. Sometimes (nearly all the time) it’s a dick! And then, it may be the profusely romantic phrase “We were here.” I think there’s a little of “We were here” in all of us. I’d like to think that in some capacity, we’d all like to be remembered - not just by others but also by ourselves. When someone brings a camera along to capture you with, you know you’re about to be documented so you offer the camera what it is you want to be remembered. It’s almost as if all parties involved are aware of the nostalgia in the works, the nostalgia that will be manifested at the very instant of the shutter. When I told Shirley and Rita I’d be taking photographs for this diary, they both said cool. This is how we were, ten minutes before Dev.
At the time, we were standing towards the back of the general audience standing area. After a while, Shirley would ask “Do you guys want to go the patio area?” She had received a text from a friend working at the venue that he could get us wristbands to the patio, located directly adjacent to the stage for a more close-up and intimate view. Besides the fact that all I could make out of the stage from my current vantage point was the stage lights that decorated the top of it, the idea of being that close and having this special access was exciting - the only other time I had been marked at a concert was for being under twenty-one. So we left our spots for someone else, met her kind friend who gifted us with the wristbands, and found ourselves on the elevated patio in the company of people like Dev’s girlfriend and Lily Rose Depp.
The sun set, and we all rose to the sound of the opener “Saint” from his recently released album Negro Swan. Heads swayed, shoulders twisted, smoke blew. We were standing behind some rather tall dudes who about mid-way into the song looked back, apparently noticed the height discrepency and thus kindly motioned for me to step in front of them, something I’ll probably remember for a while because this rarely ever happens at shows. I looked back to Shirley and Rita so that the guys know who I came with. So there we stood at the very front of the patio, above the crowd, next to Dev. I laughed thinking about how this would be the first time being a little under 5’4” would become a privilege at a concert.
I had only been this close to an artist during the time I saw DIIV play at Warsaw in 2016 but the ensuing mosh pit meant that it didn’t last long. This show was different, sobering still but in a smooth, electro-jazzy way. The synth-accompanied piano chords faded into “Jewelry” aka a song that only angels could make. The hair-raising, delicate synth set the backdrop for an intro of echo-y, falsetto vocals and a begging sax that tumbled in tripped-up drum beats and deeper vocals. There was the twinkling of an instrument I can’t identify and the sincere blue light glow that spilled onto the crowd. No one on the patio was even bobbing their head; all one could do was stand there in stupid awe. It felt like a beckoning. We’d eventually come to with the disco-infused crowd pleasers “Best to You,” “It is What It Is,” and “You’re Not Good Enough.” Admittedly, I was too enraptured to take many photographs, and the photos I would take of Dev would come out pitch-black. As if it was a message from the machine to me that this is a memory you won’t be needing a camera for.
There was no encore because of the rain. As quickly as the magic was beckoned, it left. I waited briefly to see if this would be another one of those stunts artists pull where they bid you an all-too quick goodbye before returning back to the stage moments later after a string of fueling chants. But my wait was brief because the fluorescent stage lights flashed on, signaling that the rain really was coming.
We left the park, talking about what the show felt like.
“No one really danced.”
“That’s how his fans are.”
“Maybe, they’re just shy.”
“The songs from this album also just aren’t really that kind of music.”
We then started talking about something I can’t remember, for I was too caught up in the feeling of being in that park on a school night, miles and miles away from downtown where the sidewalks don’t take up nearly half as much real estate. This time last year, I spent many a school night going higher and higher on the Uptown 6 when I knew I shouldn’t had. So trips like these always contain a subtle note of smile-inducing mischief. I got out of my thoughts and onto the Downtown 6 with Shirley and Rita and an older couple, seemingly in their mid-50s, who saw the train load of concert-goers and said: “Is there a field trip going on or something?”
We got off the 6 at Grand Central to transfer to our respective trains. Shirley and Rita were headed for the Express 4 and I for The L. We hug goodbye and I walked to my train thinking about how cool it was for them to meet, imagining what kinds of conversations they were having.
I’m really thirsty. I got on the train where there was only me and another and made a mental note to stop in the CVS near the stop I would be getting off at to grab something to drink. I’m not really prone to feeling particularly thirsty, but this feeling was distinct. I got off at my stop and into the CVS and considered getting a Gatorade because the dehydration was so real. But then I was like “I’m no athlete” and ended up deciding on a Lime Perrier. I checked myself out and walked out the store.
During my walk to Astor earlier on in the evening, I realized soon into it that I had forgotten my umbrella. I knew it was going to rain later, but, like I said, I hate to leave people waiting. So I stood outside on the steps of CVS staring at the drizzle and just wanting to be under my sheets. I walked, and drizzle soon turned into a downright outpour. For ten blocks, I walked back to my building without an umbrella. It had been years since I last experienced rain without an umbrella or hoodie. So I walked in this rain for ten blocks without an umbrella, reaching such an undeniable state of soaked that no attempt at looking poised could dry. I loved it.
About twenty minutes later, I made it to my building but decided against going inside. I still had one more sheet of film left. I walked around my block; it was still raining. And because of how damp my camera now was, I must have accidently pressed the shutter button for the above image of some in-motion, unidentifiable body part of mine would become the last shot of the evening. The messiness of this image was perfect for the messiness of that rain which was perfect for the messiness of the day and the week I had been having. I was in need of a cleansing, of a reprieve from the hectic day-to-day. So I got under my sheets later that night after drinking my water that sparkled, and thought about “Jewelry,” being alone on the train, those phenomenal French fries, and how Dev absolutely brought the rain.