The Gospel According to Saint Pablo

For the second time my boyfriend, Eric and I braved heavy traffic and long merchandise lines to go and see one of the artists we  share a love for, Kanye West. West was playing his second of five (afterwards West added a sixth show) concerts at The Forum in Los Angeles for his Saint Pablo Tour. The first time we had seen Yeezy he was playing at The Staples Center for his Yeezus tour (which was amazing, Jesus was there, it was a spiritual experience.) Once we parked our car, hid joints inside my bra, and bought all of our much coveted Pablo merchandise, we made our way down to the floor.

I had bought these tickets for Eric’s birthday at the beginning of August and the anticipation of the show had been building in our apartment ever since. Because we also had general admission floor seats for the Yeezus Tour, there was no way I could downgrade Eric to regular seats; especially since Kanye would be floating above the stage for the Saint Pablo Tour. There was no way, no how. In pure Kanye fashion, there was no opening act. Eric and I drank beer and watched the floor fill with all kinds of Kanye fans: celebrities, hip-hop fans, and my personal favorite teenagers with there moms. In fact, there were more teenagers there then I had ever expected to see, and their moms looked happy to hold their purses and stand against the wall while their teenage sons followed Kanye’s stage back and forth, side to side all while jumping and rapping every single lyrics. This is one of the few times that it is good to be a Ye fan,because most of the time I am defending why I am actually a fan. It is exhausting, to be honest, everyone wants to know WHY you are a Kanye fan, they want to know HOW you could be a Kanye fan. But then as the lights dipped low above us and started to brighten under Kanye’s feet, the question that I’m constantly trying to answer, surrounded by Ye haters, is answered and his music started.

He opened the show with Father Stretch my Hands Pt.1 the intro was extended and the audience vibrated with anticipation to start the song. When it did, and Kanye’s stage started to move, you knew why you were there, because everyone there was a fan of Kanye, everyone knew every word, everyone was on their feet and jumping (even the moms), following Kanye’s stage from one end of The Forum floor to the center, where Kanye was stationed for majority of the concert.

For the beginning of the show the music was the main focus, mostly because the lights were kept low, there was smoke and fog machines in every direction and Kanye was sort of an omniscient, invisible being that floated above us, making sure we enjoyed the music and the emotion of the people we were surrounded by. There were times when I couldn’t even see Kanye, he was just there, and that was all part of the planned experience. Because part of the vision is that we didn’t need to see him, we heard it and felt it blanket us in this world of bass, attitude and ego. If anything, the Saint Pablo tour is a live cultivation of Kanye’s relationship with his fans.

The first set of songs, which included both parts to “Father Stretch my Hands,” Nike diss track, “Facts,” “All Day,” Can’t Tell me Nothing” and his verse to “Don’t Like,” were an ode to this ego. It was the smart, sarcastic, Kanye with attitude, shown through songs and performances orchestrated by West. He even told the crowd when and how much to crowd the stage, made the crowd sing the opening lines to Famous, repeating his continuous dig at Taylor Swift, 3 times. It was the Kanye that everyone in the world hates, the arrogance and reason that most of us have to defend our fandom, and everyone there relished in the attitude.

The second set was a thought provoked transition that allowed Kanye’s attitude and ego to collide with his musical talent. The set list included, “Jesus Walks,” “Wolves,” “Flashing Lights,” Highlights” and ended with “Runaway”. In this set Kanye connected with the audience on that common love that we were sharing, which was the music.  He danced his own “kanye dance” around the floating stage and was feeding off the energy of the crowd.He had the audience sing the finishing verse of his song “Heartless” off of the “808s and Heartbreak” album. You could tell that Kanye was truly living his greatest dream right there, he laid his arms out, closed his eyes, and enjoyed hearing thousands of people singing his song. He enjoyed it so much, that he made the audience sing the same lines THREE times. (In my video you can hear Eric turn to me and say, “So fucking Kanye…too many times tho”.)

It was during the second set where Kanye stopped the concert and told everyone to move to the outside of the stage in order to see the screens playing for the people in the seats. What I thought would be a transition into a rant, perhaps about Jay-Z, or what has happened to his wife, or pretty much any kind of Kanye rant you would expect at one of his concerts. But that’s not what we got. What the audience received was a shorter version of the video Kanye had made for Kim on her birthday. It was a personal moment in the show for Kanye, who just stood on stage in the dark with his hands folded; while also giving the audience the perfect photo opportunity of him on stage, never one to miss an opportunity. The video concluded and Kanye moved into “Only One” a song written from the perspective of West’s late mother about his wife and daughter. This was the part of the show where West showed his sentimental side, if you can believe he even has one.

The third and final set of the show was then a thank you to everyone that had come out to see the show. He opened with the acappella “I Love Kanye”, a song that is aims to encompass everything Kanye knows and perceives about himself. He then transitioned into a range of songs that encapsulated his creativity with “Waves”, “All of the Lights” and “Fade”. West ended the show with “Ultra-Light Beam” the gospel track that opens the Pablo album. West ends the show with his stage moving towards the beam of light in the middle of the auditorium. Throughout the show, the stage moved from one end to another and then, side to side. The stage even leaned from side to side allowing West to be even more closer to fans. So when the stage started to move to what looked like it’s final resting place, playing to the song of “Ultra-Light Beam” it made the moment even louder, a grand final.


Happy Anniversary to You, Los Angeles, with Hard Earned Love, Me

Recently October 1st to be exact, was my anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. 8 years, all of the 8 years found within my twenties. In which case you could call these “formidable” years. I grew up in a small town and then grew up again in a huge metropolitan city. Ironically I spent my anniversary with Los Angeles in my hometown of Niagara Falls; and while I reflected on the days leading up to moving,(in all thanks to that friendly Facebook Memories feature) and what has happened since I moved for good, I began to figure out whom I’ve become from memory, circling back to where it began.

I was 20 years old when I moved to Los Angeles from Niagara Falls, New York. In hindsight it was an impulsive move. Not very enthused to attend the local junior college, when my two years were up at Niagara County Community College I jumped at the chance to escape and to be somewhere, anywhere, other than there. This rush impulsion was the first step into me trying to be someone I am not. I applied to The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Downtown Los Angeles and wanted to do my very best Lauren Conrad impression of life. I mean fashion school,really? I literally wore sweatpants and a ponytail everywhere I went and suddenly I found myself surrounded by rich blonde girls who wore 4 inch heels to pump gas. I was way out of my league, I was way out of myself. But I was determined to finish and figure it out, I was determined to make it work. I graduated from FIDM with a school made friend, a boyfriend and an internship at Nordstrom so maybe I could make it work.

I began working at Nordstrom and felt very comfortable there, I was a sales girl working off commission and with years upon eons of retail experience fit directly into the flow. Of course there were many things that I had to get used too, like moms spending thousands of dollars for their preschooler to go back to school. But these were just examples of the differences between where I grew up and where I was.

After a year or so working at Nordstrom I was promoted to Assistant Dept. Manager, I also moved into an apartment with the friend I had made at school and my boyfriend. I would like to label this the “dramatic years”, and lets be honest I was 22 and everything was dramatic, but really I was perfectly placed within my role as a 22 year old. I was recently graduated and trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do while being stubborn enough to continue on. I struggled with the fact that my roommate was younger than I was and still wanted to party while I had to wake up at 7 am to get to work for an 8 hour shift. My boyfriend and I were continuously learning about each other while simultaneously learning about ourselves. But within that year while I was trying so hard to continue this facade of being someone I wasn’t, I finally started to see myself as who I was.

A little after I had been promoted Eric and I moved into our own apartment. It was our first apartment. We had nothing but a saucepan and $20, that we had to pay back. We spent our first Christmas in that apartment with a tree and lights to compensate for the lack of furniture and food, but we continued working and continued to build our little home with each other. It was around this time, while I was an Assistant at Nordstrom that my depression started to seep into every aspect of my life. My managers at work were constantly reminding me that I was and never would fit into the fashion world here in Los Angeles, and my lack of funds constantly reminded me what living paycheck to paycheck felt like. I no longer felt strong, I no longer felt empowered or ambitious. I felt like I was on autopilot going through the motions with no emotion attached to anything. I tried latching on to Eric for support but there was only so much support he could give me. I had gotten lost in this dream that was my life in Los Angeles and I had forgotten who I wanted to become. I look back on my years at Norstrom now and tell myself that if I was who I am now it never would have gotten that far, it never would have affected me that much. But then again don’t we all say that? Aren’t we all stronger retrospectively?

After 3 years of trying to fit into the world of Fashion I had had enough. I was done, I was over it and I was ready to figure it all out again. I was ready to be different, I was ready to figure out who the fuck I actually wanted to be. To do that though, I needed some time and because time isn’t cheap I needed money. I got a job at a restaurant and applied to the local community college. If my time in Los Angeles had a theme song it would be irony playing constantly in the background of every decision I made. It was however during this time working at a restaurant that I started to actually like the people around me. I found my coworkers to be relatable and as genuine as a bunch of non working actors in Los Angeles could be. And for once since moving to L.A. I was not only good at my job, but recognized as such. I could be myself while paying my bills and show my personality.

School on the other hand was a totally different experience, and I wanted it to be. I had such a rushed and negative perception of my first go at college that I really wanted to be involved during this second chance. Although I was excited about this new start, the universe still wanted to remind me that nothing I ever did was easy. At the end of my first semester at Santa Monica College I learned that none of the classes I had taken back at Niagara County would transfer and that my new college experience would be a full four years. When I learned this I sat in the counselor’s office and cried. Why exactly was I doing this to myself all over again? What the fuck was I thinking that this would be a good idea? Or that it would be different for that matter? That everything would just work because I had a shitty college experienceย as well as a shitty post college experience so the universe owed me a better one. The universe owed me nothing. Mostly because I expected it to owe me something and I wasn’t willing to change my attitude/energy. So I made the decision that if I wanted a better outcome from the universe I had to change my relationship with my own energy. I also had to figure out how to defeat my depression. I started going to yoga to figure out exactly what I needed to change. Yoga transitioned into a constant practice through the changing of jobs, seasons, and transferring to a major university. My first major, four year university; and just like my headstand pose, my energy slowing started to change and take shape.

Once I began my first semester at Cal State Northridge the desire to become immersed in the full college experience was back in full force. I wanted to join clubs, get straight As, sit in the front. There was nothing stopping me now. Not everything was an obstacle it seemed, or if I did meet an obstacle I was just better at adapting and adjusting; and that in itself was an accomplishment. My school spirit however last about two weeks. Although I did get straight As and sit in the front, I did not join any clubs. I did however privately worry about the future of America. College kids annoyed me to no end. If anything watching various younger versions of myself and my friends walk around campus wearing slippers, not doing basic homework tasks and complaining that life is too hard made me only want to figure out my own life even more. Even though I was only 26 while attending CSUN I felt old as hell, I now know what my parents feel like when they say “back when I was kid” and that is sad. As my two years at CSUN came to a close I wanted to be over but to never end. I found a great love for school, and maybe it was that I was finally engaged in a subject matter that never felt like school work or maybe it was because during this time I had finally embraced my introverted, nerdy self. I wasn’t constantly worrying about fitting in with the blondes and their high heels, I wasn’t worried about making friends or going to clubs on the weekends. I was happy to be at home writing papers. And while everyone around me thought that I was a little weird for liking a 10 page term paper on Friday night, I for the first time was fine with the fact that I didn’t care what they thought. I was finally becoming who I wanted to be, I was finally comfortable with what I was doing. And I really enjoyed not giving a shit.

And now here I am, post college grad and still waiting tables. But that is okay, because I am okay with where I am and what I’ve done so far. I’m not trying to be anything other than what I want and what I want takes time, it takes energy. Headstand is a level three pose and I am okay with working through level two. Eric and I still live in our apartment that we both grew up in, and maybe it’s because we are not done growing up.

Coming back to my hometown is always a great break from life in La La Land, but La La Land has made me who I am just as much as Niagara Falls has and who knows I may not stay with Los Angeles forever and that’s okay but after everything that Los Angeles has taught me, I can’t wait to see where else I have in store for myself.