Overheard: Divine intervention at a music festival

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What would you do if Florence Welch from Florence + the Machine jumped on you and asked if you were OK? In this episode of Overheard, we take you back to a pre-pandemic scene of a music festival where Carlos Sanchez, CC ’24, embraced his idol in a moment he calls “divine intervention.” In response, reporter Avery Reed raises questions about monotonous routines and human connections.

Transcript

[Avery Reed]: Hey! I’m Avery, and welcome back to Overheard—a space for students to share snippets from college life and beyond.

Today we’re reminiscing about pre-pandemic lifestyle: concerts and festivals. So many images come to mind. I miss the grime and sweat of a sea of anticipatory bodies swaying in the hot sun, waiting. I miss the encompassing ambiance of people who are experiencing the same sound and space as you are. I miss the moments of connection between you and a complete stranger who you’ll probably never see again; the moment when you tear your eyes away from the performance only to lock eyes with someone belting your favorite lyrics. Remembering these moments feels like an escape from the isolation and solitude of a global pandemic—and it gives us something to look forward to as we begin to transition back to normal life. On that note, I’ll let Carlos Sanchez, Columbia College class of 2024, take you away.

[Carlos Sanchez]: So in August of 2018, me and my dad were planning a trip to California. And at the time, when we were planning the trip, I remember I saw a festival called Outside Lands in San Francisco. And so I told my dad, I was like, “Dad, can we go here when we go to California?” And he was like, “Sure, why not?” So when the time came, we were in LA, and we drove all the way to San Francisco. And so the reason I wanted to go to the festival so bad was because Florence + the Machine were headlining, and I’m the biggest fan of them. And so I really wanted to go.

And so I asked my dad, I was like, “Dad can we be really early and get front row?” And he said no, but he let me do it by myself. So I woke up at 5 a.m. that day and got there at 6, and I was the first one there. And so I waited outside the gates. And then as time passed, people started to show up, and I was the first one. Then they open the gates at 11 a.m. and I ran to the mainstage. And I was the first one there, center, and I was touching the rail. So I was very excited.

That day was really fun because I got to see some amazing acts. I got to see Bon Iver, Chvrches, and I actually got to see Lizzo before she was famous. This was before she dropped her album, and she wasn’t that popular. She was one of the first people to play. So the crowd was even that big for her. But I remember one of my first impressions of her was that she was really tall. And when she came to touch the audience, I got to touch her knuckle. So that was funny.

So when it became nighttime and Florence + the Machine were about to go on, I was very excited. You know, this is my idol, I got to see her live, front row and everything. As a visual arts major at Columbia, I definitely learned so much from Florence as a creative being, the way she lives her creative life. Because of her, I’ve applied the way I gravitate toward art to everything else I do with my life. And so I learned how to be an artist because of her. And so she means the world to me.

And so with this concert, I remember, I was really excited to see her. And then when it became the time, she stepped on stage, and she was barefoot. She was barefoot and she was super tall, super pale, and she was wearing this long chiffon, white, Gucci dress. And it was so beautiful. It was super flowy. And as concerts started going she was dancing like crazy. And so I was obsessed with just looking at her with this dress that was just moving with her. She looked like a ghost. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. She has such a demanding presence. You can’t get your eyes off of her. And she’s an incredible dancer and vocalist, of course.

So then as the concert is going on, she starts playing the song “What Kind of Man.” It’s a very aggressive rock song. And she jumps off the stage and she immediately starts running, she runs around the field, does a huge lap. And I lost her from my vision. But then I looked up and I saw the jumbo screen. And the camera was like following her around, she was running frantically. And she then starts touching people. And the crowd was turning up. Everyone was so excited because Florence was in the field running; everyone was touching her.

It was really, really chaotic but very fun. And she was having a great time, Florence was just running. And then halfway through the song she starts coming back to the main stage. And I kind of lost her but then all of a sudden from my left, I could see her and her security guards started coming, running. Then all of a sudden, I don’t know, she just jumps on me. So Florence at the moment, she jumps on me and grabs my face and then her left hand touches my cheek. And her long red hair kind of made a curtain between our faces. So our eyes were just directly locked and we were just staring at each other. And she has really, these beautiful eyes, but they also looked kind of sad. It was a lot to take in.

I was so scared when it was happening. I was practically speechless. You know, I was very young, just seeing my idol touch my face and grab me like that, I was so shook. So she looks at me directly and then she pulls down the microphone and she asks: “Are you OK?”

That question just kind of hit me really hard. I was like, “Whoa, this is my idol just asking me such a deep question.” I even took it like a divine intervention. It was a lot to take in, but it meant a lot.

[Avery]: I love this story—it gives me goosebumps.

When Carlos was driving to California, he was expecting to witness the majesty of the festival from the safety of an anonymous crowd. But Florence singled him out in what felt like “divine intervention.”

Listening to Carlos’ story, I can’t help but think about how many of us live our lives without expecting the extraordinary. We’re so busy. We schedule, we organize, we plan. We get lost in the monotony of everyday life. When we rely too heavily on our routines, we can fall into the trap of being like that sea of anticipatory bodies under the hot sun, mindlessly swaying, waiting for the next big act. We plan and prep for that interview. We revise the résumé for an impressive new job listing on Handshake. We lock ourselves in the library in hopes that we’ll be productive. We trap ourselves in monotony and sway with the crowd.

But what happens when we are shaken out of this reverie? What’s our equivalent to that fierce but caring moment of eye contact? Unfortunately, most of us may not be blessed with a brief celebrity therapy session. So how do we pull ourselves out of our own routines? What moments in our daily lives can serve as reminders that we’re human and not machines operating on a system of stress, schedule, and productivity?

I don’t have the answer, but I think it lies in connection and caring. Maybe it lies in moments at the cash register where you look someone in the eye and give them your best shot at a masked smile. I wonder how much would change if we asked each other more often: “Are you OK?”

Thanks for joining me on the pod today! If you have a story or a funny moment you want to share on an episode, shoot me an email at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you! Stay tuned for the next episode of Overheard!

Credits

Produced by Sam Hyman

Sound Design by Sam Hyman

Intro and Outro Music by Maxwell Lu

Other Music by Sam Hyman

Check out the previous episode of Overheard or listen to our other podcast, The Ear.

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