Where do we begin?
And with those four words above, we kick off a post that is truly special to me in so many ways. So where, indeed, do we actually begin. I guess where we left off, in the first part of my Summer Madness blog series. From the moment we (Me, Christopher, Mihaela) had confirmation of an Oh Wonder headline show in Dublin on the horizon, we began the 4 month planning process, for we knew this had to be made as special as possible.
Pre-Concert Merchandise – And the curse of Royal Mail
I’d take the ‘Pre-Concert’ part of this title loosely. In April I pre-ordered the deluxe Merch bundle of everything that came as part of Oh Wonder’s new album they released called ‘Ultralife’. The album was released on July 14th, and we absolutely devoured it in listening to our hearts content. It was a much needed fix, and it’s an amazing album to follow on from their self-titled debut. Shortly after the release date, on the 20th of July, they began shipping out the deluxe bundle, short two items that would follow at a later date when available. And I waited… And waited… Turns out Royal Mail like to lose post, and I actually had to submit an application to get the items sent again in order to receive them. At long last, thus arrived the following: Ultralife CD – Signed, Ultralife Vinyl – Signed, Pack of 4 Oh Wonder Postcards, High on Humans Tote Bag, White Oh Wonder T-Shirt with silhouette design. Now, it’s bad enough that Royal Mail lost my original package… But they went and lost the SAME order twice, when the second half of the order was dispatched they legitimately managed to lose that too, and I had to go through the whole process again. It arrived on Friday November 17th, an Oh Wonder Journal and Signed Poster. Peruse those below.
Extra Special Plans
Like I said, this was no ordinary concert experience we were planning on. We had to go above and beyond and do something extra special to show just how much this meant to us. We wanted to make some form of gesture, but what? The answer came to me in a flash of inspiration from a video Oh Wonder posted in August, actually, and a very real plan started to take shape. Basically, the duo put out a teaser of them recording their albums titular track ‘Ultralife’ with a twist. It was completely in the ‘Simlish’ language to be used with The Sims video game. You can check that video out here. It was a funny little snippet, but most importantly it birthed a crazy idea with it that I simply couldn’t resist. The thought: Have Anthony and Josephine re-created as real life plushies/dolls, perhaps in the style of a Sim, and have Anthony wearing the shirt they have with ‘Ultralife’ on the front but translated to the Simlish version, which we learned from the snippet of video they put out was ‘Yibsife’. A crazy notion with no real bearing of possibility, right? Not necessarily, when your mother makes interesting and unique Plushies all the time under the handle ‘Mythical Critters‘. I pitched the idea, and to my delight she told me she reckoned she could actually make it happen. Thus began the construction of 4 unique Anthony’s and 4 unique Josephine’s. One pair for me, one pair for Mihaela, one pair for Christopher, and the ultimate goal: One pair to give to Anthony and Josephine if we could.
November 1st rolled around after what seemed an age. I made my way to Dublin early enough, carrying with me two spare tickets. One intentionally spare, as I had bought and attempted to give it away to some people I had wanted to come, to no avail. And the other, I had bought to pay back a debt to my friend Jessica who wanted to come, but did not make it in the end. The worst blow came in the morning in the form of realizing that Mihaela had unfortunately not been able to make it to the Concert either at the last minute. I was in Dublin earlier than Christopher would be, so I went to scope out The Academy, the venue for the evening and where I had seen EDEN both times prior. I was early enough that I saw the crew offloading a plethora of boxes of their travelling tour equipment and taking them into the venue, even catching a glimpse of Anthony throwing his weight into the mix and giving them a hand with the unloading. I let him be for the time being as he was busy, and I looked to the wall beyond the venue entrance where two people were already queuing – 6 hours before the concert was due to start. I watched a set of two fans run up to Anthony where he happily let them take a selfie with him before he disappeared into the venue, and I lamented at the fact that I had let that moment slip.
The two fans who got the picture vanished, but the two that were waiting outside the entrance forming their little queue were still there so I quickly joined their ranks while I would wait for Christopher. Two friends by the names of Lauren and Zac they were. We chatted for ages and got along quite well, butting heads over some musical tastes but for the most part bantering away. We saw Anthony and Josephine leave the venue with a couple of people with them and they went on one of their pre-concert long jogs that they’ve garnered a reputation for doing. On the plus side of things, I managed to offload my two spare tickets, opting to give them for a low price for no particular reason. When Anthony and Josephine returned, I didn’t approach them because they were after a jog and looked like they just wanted to get inside and refreshed – Hammered home by the fact that they kept trying to open the wrong door and thought they weren’t being let in which was quite comical as Anthony struggled with a door while Josephine rang through the intercom several times, before realizing they had been unlocking the door to her left the entire time. As it turned out, that’d be the last time we would see that duo before the concert would begin.
The Legend of the Bouncer
Chris finally arrived into Dublin and I met him at our usual spot at the Spire, where we then went away to grab food. Sufficiently filled, we made our way to the venue and caught up with the duo I had met earlier, resuming our wait at the front of the queue. Time ticked onwards, hour by hour, until finally it was beginning to approach the time for entry. They brought out the barriers, and it turned out the queue was meant to face the other way and go down the path on the other side of the entrance, so the snake of the queue inverted on itself and adjusted position and we kept our spot at the front. It was while we were in queue that it happened. Down the road from the venue, completely apart from anything to do with the people here for the concert or otherwise, two men started to get hostile with one another, and fists started flying. A movement from the entrance of The Academy caught our eye, as this bouncer came striding out in that moment hearing the commotion. Pure exhilaration in his eyes and wearing the biggest of grins upon his face, an air about him as if he had heard the fighting and just said to himself ‘Oh thank christ, I didn’t think there’d be ANY action for me tonight’. We watched in awe as this bouncer approached the fighting men and separated them like school children in a playground, standing between them and pronouncing the bout of fisticuffs to be over. He never once dropped his great big grin in the doing so, and kept his jovial but authoritative manner about him the entire time. Returning to the door after, he was full of quips and good-humour, and he became the hero of everyone watching. Proper sound bouncer so he seemed to be.
I had long been preparing for this moment. Tour photo’s of the merch counter before they got here had me anticipating already the extent to which my acquisition would go. I mean, they had me the moment I learned there would be Oh Wonder SOCKS among the merch. My money had taken a deeper hit than intended before the concert, though, so I fell vastly below my planned budget when I approached. That said, I still managed to acquire two pairs of socks, an Oh Wonder pin, a set of stickers, a poster, a hat, a T-Shirt and a Jumper/Sweatshirt, before heading inside. What a haul, perhaps some day I shall fill in the gaps of what I had to leave behind, my initial plan was to literally buy everything.
And this is where the first hiccup in the grand plan occurred. In the announcements for this tour, an artist by the name of ‘Jaymes Young’ was billed to support Oh Wonder for this show and most of their European leg of the tour, having already done so at the North America leg just prior. However in a vague lack of information at the time on social media, it turned out that Jaymes Young would not be performing that night, or in fact, at all for the rest of the tour. It was a shame, because I had been really highly anticipating that, having come to enjoy quite a bit of Jaymes Young’s music ever since I accidentally found him on Youtube in a spiraling trip down the related videos bar on the side in 2016 and chancing upon one of his songs and enjoying it. After some time out of the limelight of Social Medias, Jaymes Young returned on the 16th of November with a statement clearing up that he was still alive and had to drop out of the tour for health reasons.
To support instead, a local artist of Dublin/Sierra Leone descent took to the stage. I’ve already said this to Loah on social media before now, but probably the best honour I could give to her performance on that stage in describing it, is that it genuinely made me forget for a while that I was disappointed that Jaymes Young would not be playing that evening. She played a mesmerizing set, mostly consisting of songs from her debut EP ‘This Heart’. Among those is a song called ‘Cortège’, which was a beautiful ode to her heritage and sung entirely in the Sierra Leonean tongues ‘Sherbro’ and ‘Mende’. While this meant the words held no directly attainable meaning to the audience, to suggest the audience did not feel what was conveyed in the song would be entirely false. There was a potent power and emotion surging through the song, through Loah’s incredible delivery and the intense musical ambience in every single note. It gave me the best kind of chills down my spine to know that I may not understand the song in a literal sense but that I was entirely ‘feeling’ the song. As luck would have it, Loah is set to headline a show at Cyprus Avenue on Thursday the 30th of November. Given the twist of fate that put Loah’s music in my path, I intend to go to that show and enjoy her music once more in better circumstances.
And now, we reach the moment we directly built towards for 4 months, though anticipated for over a year. In the wonderfully intimate and packed setting of the Academy, and our spot at the barrier to the front left of the stage, we watched as the BIG show started. One thing to note is the stage is smaller than most they played on the tour, so they had part of their light set up but the great big signature ‘OW’ lights were not erected in the space of this stage unfortunately. At last, our dynamic duo Anthony and Josephine came out, with their two band members in tow, and started out the show in dazzling fashion. With their song ‘Dazzle’ in fact, as it were. It was only getting more and more epic from there, as their positive energy powered through an amazing set that had the entire venue hyped and loving every moment. And of course, they were drinking tea.
There was so many wonderful moments in the show, from interesting variations to songs that the live-version does differently to the studio version (I particularly enjoyed their uniquely different rendition of their song ‘Midnight Moon’), to the pure vibrance of emotions buzzing from Anthony and Josephine at every moment, when they spoke to the audience and when they played their music. Simply put, everyone was living ‘Ultralife’ for that evening. One of the funniest moments occurred when Josephine was dancing towards the back of the stage, then came back to the front. And misjudging the distance while lost in the moment, she straight up bopped her microphone with her face. I’ll never forget her face in that moment, bewilderment frozen for half a second like a rabbit caught in the headlights, before she cackled with laughter at the silly act she had just committed. It was sensational simplicity captured in a second.
Towards the latter half of their set, a surprise guest was brought to the stage – Josephine’s brother, wielding a Saxophone. He played with them on stage and it was all very amazing, so glad we were to actually be here in that moment and know that it was really happening, that we were seeing Oh Wonder in all their splendour, it’s the same feeling that overcame us when we were seeing EDEN on this very stage. When their set came to an ‘end’ and they left the stage, the typical ‘we want more’ chants started. And then, starting low and rising to a crescendo of epic proportions, every person in the audience in unison gave a tremendous rally of ‘Olé Olé Olé’ in the most Irish concert-ly fashion it gets. Anthony and Josephine came back out to to the encore, naturally expected since two fan favourites ‘Ultralife’ and ‘Drive’ had yet to be played, and they were totally stunned by the display the crowd had been putting on for them. With one last oomph for the night, they finished the set with the last two songs, and when they went to speak about how amazing the ‘Olé’ chant earlier had been, they stood dumbfounded when it sparked back up in even more tremedous fashion than before. And thus ended an absolutely amazing concert. I didn’t manage to get a set-list for myself, but Lauren did get one and thus I got a photograph of it at least. Interestingly, they added a joke to the set-list for whoever would get it by renaming ‘High on Humans’ to ‘High on Curry’.
And so, we went outside the venue and the wait to catch Oh Wonder coming out of the venue and meet them began. Christopher’s wait didn’t last long, as he departed for his bus. The next to drop was Lauren, who had long to travel and early to rise. Down to just me and Zac and a small rabble of other devout fans who were playing the waiting game. I personally had the next day off work and the latest bus home was 1 AM, so I was committed. Unfortunately for Zac the ease of time for travelling was not so fortunate, and so too did he drop off. Still I waited, patiently and proudly, as crew members began to load the boxes back onto the tour truck, and the legendary bouncer from earlier stood by and still as good humoured. Glancing inside the venue from outside, I oft spotted Anthony in the hallway. He wearing his hat, me wearing mine, we occasionally made under brim to under brim eye contact, but they weren’t ready to come out quite yet. There was more hope when Josephine was spotted coming into the hallway too. Eventually after an age, they began to walk towards the exit at last.
First one up I was, wearing a hat, a jumper, an Oh Wonder pin on my chest, clutching a brimming ‘High on Humans’ tote bag. Anthony’s immediate observation was to say ‘Woah, you’ve got all the merch!’ with a great big smile on his face. The pair of them stopped and I got to chat to them a little bit, and then I told them I had brought them a gift. As I reached into my tote bag, at the top of which I had pre-selected the pairing I’d give them, I explained that I’d had some plushies made for them. First out of the bag was the mini-Josephine, to which Josephine’s real face lit up immediately when she saw it, and she loved it. Next up was the mini-Anthony, mini-guitar equipped and all. To his credit, quick as anything Anthony passed the test when he spotted it and immediately remarked on the ‘Yibsife’ referring to the Simlish version of Ultralife they did, which saved the potential need to explain anything in that regard. They thanked me again and told me they would cherish them, and then I got a photograph with them. If you look closely at Anthony’s hand, he’s holding the two plushies in his hand. But more importantly, if you look to the background on the left, placed quite by accident there also stands the heroic Bouncer from earlier. Memories captured perfectly methinks! Personally I think it’s incredibly awesome, that of those 2 items there are only 4 in the world, one of which belongs to myself, and one of which is in the company of none other than Oh Wonder themselves. That’s all for this time folks, and remember, keep on Merchin’.