Monday night I saw Griff at The Bowery Ballroom with one of my oldest friends. The vibes were immaculate from the very beginning when the overhead music played only the best from I Wanna Dance With Somebody to the ten minute version of All Too Well. A crowd, not too crowded, danced along and belted out the lyrics to most songs and didn’t even get that upset when Lorde’s Royals was cut short to introduce our girl Griff.
She emerged onto the stage in a stunning outfit complete with a full skirt that fanned around her as she glided from one side of the stage to the other with the best executed bubble ponytail I have ever seen. Her voice was so strong and filled the room from the first note, captivating the whole room.
There were a couple front row fans who gave their all the whole night, singing all the words and dancing their hearts out, they were acknowledged for their enthusiasm by both Griff and opener, Amy Allen.
Quick pause for Amy Allen! She and her guitarist/instrumental guru funnily enough also named Griff were absolutely wonderful. Their stage presence and connection to the crowd was so personable and real. Amy explained that she is a songwriter (an incredibly accomplished one, at that) and sometimes performing her songs is almost too personal. We were lucky enough that she decided to push through and perform Heaven along with many other amazing ones. The whole performance was so authentic, it was impossible not to feel like their friends after the set ended.
Back to Griff! The Bowery Ballroom is such an intimate venue, it would feel strange for the performer to act like there were thousands of people under the bright lights. Instead, she stayed with the cozy vibe and shared personal anecdotes between songs about the songs, bringing them to a whole new level of life.
Griff used a beat pad to make her own loops for a few songs which I always think is the coolest and most impressive skill. I’ve seen Jon Bellion do this a few times where he literally creates songs on the spot and spins them into wildly refined sounds by the end. The vocals Griff layered were exquisite and brought a whole new dimension to the sounds of her three-person band.
Keeping us on our feet, she pauses in the middle of her song Heart of Gold… the audience assumes it’s the end. She tricks us all – going right into none other than… Royals by Lorde. Picking up on the cut off song from before the show, she goes full steam into one of the best mashups I’ve ever heard. (And I’ve watched all of Glee many times over.) The crowd erupted and we belted out “no postcode envy” like our lives depended on it.
One of the most impactful moments of the show for me was during her song Earl Grey Tea, when Griff sings
“And you’re so scared of dying slowly
But why aren’t you more scared of dying lonely?”
This line made me catch my breath. Too many people I love have experienced great loss in the last couple of weeks. Sometimes it feels like one piece of bad news right after the last, leaving a cloud of dread and sadness behind. So I’ve been thinking about death more than normal. A podcast I found almost soothing was THIS with Alain de Botton where he talks about how when a person dies, it’s often said they didn’t have enough time. De Botton goes on to argue that maybe everyone does have enough time. If in the end, someone dies knowing they are loved and cared for by the people around them, isn’t that all we need? A few more weeks or years most likely won’t change that basic sentiment. Surprisingly, I found this way of thinking to be more grounding than insensitive for a topic that oftentimes is so daunting.
Consequently, the lyrics about dying lonely rather than dying slowly terrifies me. Once again, the idea of death snuck its way back into my brain. However, this time I was in a room full of people, who just twenty minutes earlier had been belting out the words to the ten minute version of a song that had come out ten years ago in perfect unison. Watching the crowd sway back and forth, some people holding hands or leaning their heads on each other’s shoulders, I felt a sense of peace. No one in this room was alone. After so long without live shows, we are graced with the true magic of music that brings people together to deep dive into our emotions and relate to one another on a more real level than we’re able to on any normal day.
I’m so grateful for the shows we get to see, the people who create them and the humans with whom we’re lucky enough to experience in person dance parties. I hope we can all stay healthy and continue buzzing at the first strums of the electric guitar and beats of the bass drum in anticipatory delight.