Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions
A quote from the book I’m reading right now. More to come…
“Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together,” I sing to myself while I walk the wet streets of my hometown, Rosario, Argentina. Apparently, it has been raining for a week, but I wouldn’t know since I’ve only arrived from Europe last night.
The song proceeds and while my umbrella twists and bends to the sound of the wind, the First Aid Kit cover of America is all I can hear. Their flawless harmonies sound deeper and more perfect than ever. Not even the rain or the car horns can change my First Aid Kit-state of mind; I’m in my musical zone.
A guy rushing in my direction almost slams his umbrella in my face and all I do is smile; so does he after apologizing regretfully for his clumsiness. Now I walk with the feeling that love is in the air… I sigh while the sound of Klara’s guitar moves swiftly to the following verse.
“‘Kathy’, I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh, Michigan seems like a dream to me now.” When I listen to this verse, I cannot help but think that Stockholm seems like a dream to me now, but a week ago it was real. I was there, walking the enchanting streets of a city that I can only describe as contradictorily vivid and nostalgic.
For a moment, I forget that I’m walking to work and I’m back in Stockholm. I can see myself packing my backpack and leaving the hostel early in the morning to go to the festival venue where my favorite band, First Aid Kit, would be playing later that night among other bands. It was a cold summer day in August (bear in mind that my idea of summer involves 40 degrees and not 15) and I had been waiting for that moment for nearly three months.
Since I had arrived to the venue very early in the morning and the doors would only open after noon, I decided to sit around and enjoy the Haruki Murakami book I was reading, while listening to First Aid Kit—a combination which I had discovered worked pretty well. By the time the doors of the venue were open, not only had I read three chapters of my book but I had also talked to nearly half of the Swedish population, asking each and every person I’d meet if they were a First Aid Kit fan and if they knew the band. Whenever someone would ask me why I liked FAK so much as to come all the way from Argentina to see them, I’d say “Imagine reading your favorite poetry book but with music. Can it get any better than that?” The responses varied but most of them involved an awkward stare and I’m pretty sure even the ones that did smile thought I was completely insane. Luckily, one of the people I met was actually First Aid Kit’s biggest fan ever so I stuck to her for the rest of the day. She told me she had met the band a couple of times already and, therefore, she could help me meet them. Now I was even more nervous with a chance of panicking any time soon, but the dream was getting even bigger than I had expected and I was ready for the challenge.
While drinking some tea (not beer, yeah, I’m very responsible, apparently) and discussing with my new acquaintance why I think that Johanna’s verses are sometimes more difficult to sing than Klara’s—because leading the melody tends to be easier than singing the accompaniment—a tall, flawless blonde girl who looked very much like Johanna Söderberg walked past us as if she were walking along a runaway in slow motion. It was her indeed; my reaction was pretty simple: I panicked. The band was already in the venue. It was all happening.
I was more than satisfied with just seeing one of the siblings pass by, but my new pal was not going to give up so easily. After a few more hours of discussing favorite songs, albums, more songs and albums again, I noticed a girl who looked very much like Klara Söderberg rushing past us as swiftly as a shooting star. It was her, without any doubt. My new best friend ran after her and while she greeted Klara, I, on the other hand, was trying to move my backpack which suddenly had gotten much heavier. When I finally made my way to where they were standing, I introduced myself to Klara and smiled repeatedly without finding any words to say. I wasn’t able to thank her for writing the soundtrack to my life with songs like To a Poet, Fleeting One or Tangerine—like I had practiced in front of the mirror and even with my co-workers—because I froze completely. However, I did manage to smile in a non-creepy way, I think. Take a look for yourself…
Okay, maybe I do look 70% freaked-out and 30% normal but still OMG!
As if that wasn’t enough, after a few more hours of talking and also listening to the other bands that were also playing that day, Johanna walked past us again and this time I managed to look almost normal. Just as before, I wasn’t able to tell her how amazing I think her voice is and how she owns the concert once she starts to sing and play the keyboard, but still I look pretty happy in the picture and that is all that matters.
Well, maybe I do look like a complete mess but anyway…
“‘Kathy, I’m lost’, I said, though I knew she was sleeping,” the song emerges one more time begging me to come back to reality and I have the feeling that their voices have grown at the same pace as the song has and I’m dragged into the concert again: The lights, the band, the string quartet and, of course, the music…I can remember Klara smiling at us, and Johanna waving at the end of Emmylou and the whole crowd responding to these gestures with exhilaration, hoping to become part of their memory that night…
As I reach my office and say hello to the guard with a smile on my face—which he doesn’t seem to understand because it doesn’t match the awful weather—I think of all the fears and doubts I had before going on this musical quest and how small they seem now after everything I experienced that day. I didn’t need to compete for Klara’s smile or Johanna’s waving, they had become a part of my history that day and that was more than enough for me. When I left the venue to catch a plane as soon as the concert was over, all I could think on my way to the airport was “I made it.” And you know what? I’m pretty sure First Aid Kit thought the same, since 10.000 people came to listen to them that night, while only 6 years ago, they had played in the same festival but in a smaller stage and with a much smaller audience. In that moment, maybe singing in the bigger stage felt like a distant dream to them, but now it feels like the sky is their only limit.
In a way, we were all part of history that night. They became a part of mine, and I like to think I became a part of theirs…The song ends, but luckily there’s always the next one to look forward to.
By Annie, September 5th 2014
Images by annieandlilian, Linnea Gröning and Frida Birgersson
My best friend in the world Annie got to meet our favorite band, and this is the story of her journey <3