The Best Day of My Life
Part 1: The History
Nine years ago, I first discovered David Archuleta on Idol. It was the week he sang Smoky Mountain Memories. And I was completely hooked. From then on, I watched Idol every week, scoured the web for David songs and interviews, and became a full-fledged fangirl.
Back then, I lived in India, and it did not seem likely that I would ever meet David. I felt sad knowing that I was unlikely to meet him, but reading others’ concert recaps and their fangirl flailings kept me going for several years.
I used to read about people going to concerts and their first time meeting David. How surprised they were by his tiny-ness, how charmed they were by his David-ness, and how happy they were to experience his light. It made me happy to know that what I was experiencing virtually was also what people were experiencing in reality.
Two years ago, I moved to the U.S. for graduate school, and conveniently lost touch with my fangirl side because I was so busy with adjusting to my new life. However, somehow, I was “called back” when David released the Orion EP.
Just like that, I was back in the fandom: I watched David dance to Up All Night on repeat, and cackled in glee, I remembered all the old songs almost as if they were muscle memory, that special David feeling was back in my heart as if it always belonged there.
Just a few days later, David announced that St. Louis would be his final stop on tour and I could not believe it. St. Louis was just two hours away from where I lived, and I went there regularly almost every month anyway!!
I screamed and cried on twitter (with happiness), and bought VIP tickets the very second they were made available. It was expensive for me, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a chance to live a dream that I never ever thought would actually come true.
Part 2: The weeks that followed
During the weeks that led up to the concert, I tried to protect myself by preparing for the worst: that things would come up and I won’t get to see him after all. It was necessary to do this because the disappointment would have been too much to handle. Nevertheless, I compartmentalized and made all my plans.
Every now and then, my mind slipped past its safety net, and I let myself believe that I would be able to see and hear David sing in real life, and I cried every single time at the sheer possibility and momentousness of it all.
Part 3: The VIP
Everything worked out fine, and I found myself in St. Louis on July 1st at the Old Rock House. I got there 45 minutes before the VIP, but there was a line of fans already waiting when I got there. Talk about dedication!
I was there by myself, and it hit me that I did not know any of David’s fans in real life, although I have probably been acquainted with them on twitter.
At first, I felt a twinge of loneliness. But suddenly, for a very brief moment, I heard this beautiful voice belting out very high, very familiar notes. The voice faded away quickly, and I was left wondering if I was going crazy hearing things.
Could that have really been my first real life snippet of David singing?
At 6 PM, the doors opened, and they invited the VIP guests in. I walked in and Kari checked off my name. I was so happy to see Kari in real life: it was like seeing a long lost friend, but of course, Kari had never heard of me before. The same with Amber.
It felt like a strange foggy dream where I knew everyone but no one recognized me, except that every second was charged sharply with the anticipation of seeing David. I was shaking a little bit because I was suddenly nervous.
We walked into the performance area, and most people found a place to sit. I sat down too, but all the tables and chairs were pushed to the side, so I wasn’t sure it was the best place to sit. I looked at the stage and there was the Nord!!!
I remembered that Nord had been famous at some point. Was it THE NORD?
We all sat there waiting, me trying to take deep breaths and not get overwhelmed by it all. And then, suddenly, the girl sitting opposite me who was looking out the window gasped. I turned, and there he was, walking into the room from outside.
Despite knowing this already, the first thing that popped into my head was “awww he’s tiny”. And then my thoughts became a complete jumble because I was in the same room as David, and he was saying hello and talking, and none of this was statistically probable, and so of course, it had to be magic.
He went up on stage and someone said that they’d traveled many hours to see him. So he asked everyone where they’d come from. As he went around the room, I forgot that I now lived in Missouri, and blurted out “India”. There was a pause.
“Well, you take the prize!,” David said. I smiled and just stared because David was talking to me and I couldn’t believe it. And then, as if he could read my mind, he narrowed his eyes, and went “But where do you live NOW?”.
“Uh, Columbia, Missouri”, I responded feeling very stupid.
“Oh, well, that’s not far then”, he said, before focusing his attention on the next person.
So of course, David’s first impression of me was probably that my spatial perceptions were lacking, but that was a mini-conversation that I’d just had with David, and all of my dreams had come true, embarrassment or not.
And then he sang for us. I already knew that he sounds fabulous live, and that his voice is divine. I had sky-high expectations. And YET. I was taken aback completely at how good he sounded. It was surreal. It was beautiful.
I stood there listening to Invincible, Up All Night, and Fast Car, with tears streaming down my face. I hoped no one would notice, and subtly tried to wipe them off.
His voice evoked such a strong emotional response, and all my fears, nervousness, and loneliness melted away. And I felt invincible. I felt like I was a part of something really special.
With Fast Car, I usually fast forward concert videos because I am impatient with the song. But hearing him sing it in real life, I never ever wanted it to end.
His voice has a magical, angelic, floating quality, and I know many other fans have tried to describe it, and all of their descriptions were spot on. It was comfort and home and beauty and happiness all mixed in.
I wish I’d taken fuller length videos, but I was unsure if recording was okay or not, and did not want to get kicked out of the venue.
Next time, I plan to take full videos. I’ve lived on people’s David concert videos for many years, and I hope to do the same for others who don’t get to be there ❤
At some point during the VIP, fans could ask him their questions. I really liked how sharp he was in monitoring who raised their hand first, and not leaving anyone hanging for too long.
When I raised my hand, he assured me that he would come back to me in a second after another person. And then, when it was my turn, Kari almost picked someone else, but he stopped her, and insisted that I go first.
That was the second time I realized how sharp and aware he was of people.
Because I couldn’t think of anything else, and because I’m a geek who does science and research on parks, I asked him what his favorite national park was, hoping to give him an opportunity to talk about the St. Louis Arch, but he didn’t pick up on it.
He thought for a while, and said, “Hmmm I don’t know. What’s YOUR favorite National Park?” I was completely flummoxed that he turned it around to me and I said I hadn’t been to any national parks, and immediately kicked myself a second later because I had indeed been to some national park sites, just not the big ones.
“I did go to Crater Lake a while ago…,” David said, tentatively.
Then, someone in the front brought up the Arch, and he was surprised that the St. Louis Arch was a national park site. “I was thinking more about natural areas,” he said, “like Yellowstone or the grand canyon or something.”
Then the conversation moved on, and I felt guilty for asking David a question that made him think so much.
Other people asked him whether he was a cat or dog person (cats because he’s very sensitive to smells), what his future tour plans are (new EP coming up and more tour dates to come!), and whether he had any toasted ravioli (no but he went to this REALLY amazing food place in St. Louis and we should all go check out, and that Amber would highly recommend it too “where’s Amber?”). Classic David.
Then Kari made us all get in line for pictures.
I watched the line in front of me grow shorter and shorter, and then it was my turn.
I suddenly felt too small, too skinny, too inarticulate to be around David, but I took a deep breath.
“I made you a card,” I said, handing it to him.
He took it, and said “aww wow thank you”, and seemed genuinely surprised and touched that someone made him a card.
“Thank you for EVERYTHING”, I said, and accidentally touched him on the shoulder. And then I felt horrible because what if I invaded his personal space???
Had i made him uncomfortable? And then, because a friend asked me to thank him for signing his Christmas CD, I relayed that message, but I’m really not sure if my words came out in the right order.
I said thank you several more times (I think he thinks I’m a thank you machine), thanked Kari for the picture, and found a place to sit down and breathe.
He’s holding my card haha
I clearly need more practice with this LOL.
I decided to introduce myself to people and make friends. I went and introduced myself to the lovely Pam because I remembered we had a mutual friend. Pam was really friendly, and I found myself relaxing and blending into the crowd.
I also chatted with some folks who came from Central Missouri, like me, and others who drove down from Wisconsin. Some were seeing David for their first time and others were seeing David for the 28th time.
Regardless, everyone had that sparkle in their eye, that leap of joy in their voices while they talked about how amazing David is.
This was the first time I found myself in a crowd of people who knew and enjoyed David’s music as much as I did, and I felt a sense of special kinship.
Part 4: The concert experience
As I mingled with folks, I found a place to stand: over by the third row from the front. I didn’t think much of it and was just happy to be there. And then, fifteen minutes before it was time for David to come on, a very kind woman from the front beckoned to me and asked me if i’d like to take her spot so she can go sit down.
Later, I learnt that her name was Laurie, and I am still so touched that she gave me her front row spot when she didn’t even know me. If you’re reading this Laurie, THANK YOU. Ever so much.
The front row experience was very very special. There was no one between me and the stage (“only me only you and the band”) and he would be so close.
Robin was right by me, and Pam too. We tried to read the set-list from where we stood, and another guy beside us was smart enough to reach out towards the stage and take a picture of it on his phone.
By then, I’d completely relaxed. Talking to people helped me feel more like I belonged and I was no longer overwhelmed. Just living in the moment. Two more hours of pure awesomeness to come.
When the crowd screamed at 8 PM, I felt like I would explode with happiness, as the opening chords of Parachutes and Airplanes unfolded.
I one-hundred percent felt like I was walking on a trampoline and I couldn’t get much higher. I just wanted to steal that moment right away from time ❤
For the next two hours, I had a permanent smile stuck on my face. I cheered for every song, and laughed along with everyone at his banter.
My heart stopped every time he walked to our side of the stage to sing to someone, and then restarted again when he moved away.
I admired how easily he interacted with the crowd, checked in on them, engaged them by making them sing parts of the chorus.
I greatly appreciated his background story before he sang Beautiful/Scars to Your Beautiful.
Like I said earlier, when I took that picture with David, I felt small, and insufficient and skinny. But then I thought of that picture again, and I realized that what stood out was that I was happy, and David looked happy, and the light was most definitely there, and nothing else mattered.
There was one beautiful moment during the song where he sang a line of it directly to me, and pointed at me to let me know that he was singing to me. I had no idea how to respond to it, so I just smiled at him and blinked and the moment ended as quickly as it begun.
Scars (he part where I think he sings to me is 2:19 – 2:21. (suttygal’s video))
Elevator was really special to listen to because I’ve always loved the little hand movements that accompany the song ❤ The medley from the first album brought back so many memories, and yet again, I marveled at the improbability of all this happening.
I had not heard him sing Don’t You Worry Child, or He Lives in You or Higher Ground (having avoided spoilers so that I would be having an entirely first hand experience) but WOW DID HE ROCK THOSE.
His confidence on stage is unbelievable. He is so comfortable dancing, and talking, and singing, and is so fully in command of himself and completely at peace with his surroundings.
It was inspiring to see him in his element, and made me believe that I can achieve that level of confidence.
Yet, he was humble and wise and down to earth.
He reminded me to be the best person I can be, and to be nice to people, to pay the kindness forward.
Heaven was another very special song and I can’t remember exactly how I felt listening to it but I’m sure you can imagine.
Crush was the last song he sang before leaving the stage, and once again, I felt like I was in a comfortable, happy place.
As he left, he made sure to grasp the hands of fans and thank them for coming. I reached out and he grasped my hand and said “thank you for coming” and I said “thank YOU’, and wondered how he was strong enough to avoid being pulled right into the crowd.
Part 5: Post-concert
After David left the stage, I hung back, taking in my surroundings and reflecting on this wonderful life experience. It was getting late, and I didn’t want to go (haha!).
I met Tina at the HOLT stall and we took a picture and she is the best person to fangirl with EVER!! She brought some library friends along to introduce them to David’s music and they all looked SO HAPPY.
It felt like I was in the Up All Night video: the magic of the midnight air, the strength of finding somewhere i belonged, and just ALL THOSE FEELINGS INSIDE.
~ Vidya (@VeeBee123)
(Pics & snippets also by the lovely & amazing Vidya!)