Originally published July 1, 2011 on Intersections.
Since the beginning of time, I have had two desires: 1) to be one of those crazy fools who wakes up before the buttcrack of dawn to scream in front of a camera for Good Morning America, and 2) to see Florence + the Machine in person. Last Friday, these two longings merged into one glorious, glorious morning. Read all about it after the jump.
I finalized my New York plans just before Dead Week this year, which meant that for the brief window of time after the end of exams and before the start of Reunions, as I lazed about on a mostly empty campus, scrounging for food and venturing out of my cave in interim housing only to go to work at the library in the afternoons, I spent a lot of time Googling “free things to do in New York City.” I think it was probably on Yahoo Answers or some other extremely reputable source of information that I found word of the dueling early morning concert series(es?). Every Friday morning from late May to September, two free shows happen at either 7 or 9 a.m., either at Central Park’s Summerstage or the Rockefeller Center. They always feature some pretty big-name acts: everything from your requisite Lady Gaga and Rihanna to pop staples Bruno Mars and Maroon 5 and country stars Blake Shelton and Kenny Chesney. Journey is coming to the Today Show’s series at the Rockefeller Center on July 29, by the by. This Friday, it’s Beyonce at Good Morning America’s Central Park stage–I’m hoping to get there at 4 in the morning to stake out my spot.
Last Friday, I grabbed a few friends and woke up at 5 a.m. sharp to get to Florence. We got to the stage at around 6 or 6:15, just before the crowd got really thick. Following the wisdom of a friend who frequents these early morning concerts, we nabbed a spot just behind a gaggle of short high school girls, probably 10 or 15 feet from the stage, just off to the left of the VIP section. I don’t know how those bitches managed to get into VIP, but I’m jealous: one of the crew got really happy and threw flowers from the setup out into their section. Florence’s band was setting up and starting soundcheck, which gave me an opportunity to take lots of picture of the setup and stare at her extremely attractive bassist, a dapper Ryan Reynolds lookalike in a suit and tie.
After I spent a little while seething with jealousy at the VIPs and thinking of ways to jostle to the front, Florence peeked out from backstage and came on for soundcheck. Hear this: Florence Welch is flawless. She’s got this gorgeous dark red hair, she’s incredibly pale, tall and thin, and she is quite possibly the cutest human being alive. “Thank you,” she whisper/murmured demurely into the mic when we all screamed for our queen, with this adorable, wide grin. Then she started singing, and I fell in love. Her voice is amazing live: rich, throaty and haunting. Watching her sing is a religious experience.
We sat there for a little while at the mercy of Tom, some random comic GMA uses to entertain live audiences as the broadcast plays out, before Florence reappeared in this gauzy, dark maroon dress and a sash of dark red flowers for the real deal. Hear this also: Florence Welch is a great performer. She twirled across the stage, rocked her mic stand, threw her hands up to the sky–her songs are the kind that wrap you up and hold you there through your headphones, enraptured, and in person the overall experience is nothing short of perfection.
The best part about arriving at these things obscenely early is getting to see the artist in her downtime, outside of the choreographed movements of an actual show. I am pleased to report that Florence is genuinely adorable: “I’m nervous,” she mouthed to the crowd in between rounds of “Dog Days Are Over”. At random intervals, she would look up from her mic and wave at whoever was waving to her, or hop over to the keyboard to chat with Isabella Summers, the Machine part of Florence & the Machine, or exchange laughs with the bassist. At one point she made a heart with her hands and held it out in my general direction! Highlight of my young life so far.
Florence might have been flaw-free, but the overall experience was definitely inferior to seeing her actual show later that night. (For the record: I tried. Tickets were sold out long before I found out I was going to be in New York, Summerstage was no longer taking volunteers, security was pretty legit…) These early morning concerts are just breaks in the broadcasts for GMA and the Today Show, so she only played three songs (her three biggest: Dog Days, Cosmic Love, You’ve Got the Love), stopped and started when the producer told her to, and seemed to alternate between waiting anxiously at her mic for direction, beaming at her audience and practicing her hand motions. Still, it was definitely worth waking up early, standing for hours and listening to GMA’s production team try to entertain us between songs. I’m going to try my damnedest to actually see her full show the next time she’s in my area. I will see “Hurricane Drunk” live before I die.