Finally, the day we had been waiting for.
I have never been able to accurately explain why the Killers´ music is so important to me, it just is. Every song takes me right back to some phase in my life – riding in my mom´s car at fourteen, the cross-country running races of 2005, the early years of high school, ski races, the nerve-wracking bus rides of my first days in Norway, and the unbelievable happiness that accompanied all these phases of my life. I never tire of it, and it´s all these things that made the experience so exciting and worthwhile.
As usual, the day started out abruptly as we were awoken by our own survival instincts. Stripping off our clothes and flinging ourselves out the door, the shade was the only place possible to be. The sun gradually moved higher in the sky until all shade was eliminated, at which point we rolled out of the grass and cooled off at a water spigot before making the daily cream cheese run at the campsite grocery store. This detail has previously gone unmentioned, but cream cheese was the definition of our breakfast, every single day. Anything perishable died within minutes of entering our tent, and our only option was to buy individual bread toppings from the grocery store every morning before breakfast. Those individual bread toppings took the form of cream cheese with herbs. Every day. I will never think of cream cheese the same again.
Restlessness set in. We were going to see The Killers that very same day, and seconds were passing by. It was really way too hot outside, and indoors were nowhere to be found. We made our way through the forest to a beach so overcrowded we were forced to sunbathe amongst the trees instead of in the sand. Played a difficult version of ping-pong. I watched the clock.
We were going to bathe in the ocean, but upon splashing around in the shallows, were put off by the abundance of boat motor oil and decided to investigate our other options. The good showers were closed and there were about 90 people in line for the portable ones. We turned instead to the icy water spigot as our only hope, which gave one quite the brain freeze, but got us clean. We were ready to hurry up and wait.
Handmade Killers t-shirts on, we arrived at the stage precisely seven hours prior to the concert. The best places were along the gate shielding the public from the stage, and the most desirable and central ones were already occupied. We found a place more to the left of the stage and tried our best to make ourselves comfortable despite the blistering heat. Made friends with the girls next to us, took turns taking trips to the tent for water, or in one luxurious case, iced coffee. Donned celebratory makeup. Waited.
Seven hours sounds long, but four other artists would play in that time, and the hours flew by. The New Wine started off with an incredibly impressive concert, especially in comparison to the first one we had seen. The line “There´s a problem in our heads, there´s a problem in our, he-ads…” has stuck with us since then. Catchy. Next was Hockey, a hilariously energetic young group from Portland with a crazy vocalist. I loved it.
During all of these concerts, the crowd, like most crowds do, screamed, clapped, danced, jumped up and down, and generally went crazy for the artists. When the Fleet Foxes began to sing, the thousands of fans before them fell silent. Their voices are magic. Angel-voices, said Nina. We´ve never heard anything like it. The music is wonderful recorded, but live was absolutely incredible. It seems completely unreal that three young men can produce a sound like that vocally. I was deeply impressed. The crowd caught on and picked up after a minute or so, but that first silence was chilling. In a good way.
After the last song, the lead vocalist mumbled “The Killers are next” into the microphone and walked away. I started a countdown, which can be seen in my video blog. No words can describe my excitement at the time. Two hours until the Killers. One hour, fifteen minutes. An enormous crew of backstage workers stormed the stage and set up everything from a zebra-stripe background to extra lights, mirrors, palm trees and pianos until it resembled Las Vegas. We waited. We prayed they wouldn´t be pathetic and warm up first like the Fleet Foxes.
The evening sun was too much to bear. I had to have water. Four people worked together to hold my place as I wrestled my way to a stand and asked for a glass. Seven dollars. I considered this. One hour of work in Alaska would buy me a glass of water at a Killers concert in Norway. I thought about terrible experiences with angry customers on the phone. The times when my parking tickets exceeded my day´s income. I was really, really thirsty. I bought that water, and will try to view it as a kind of “take that!” to every bad experience I´ve ever had at a workplace. I was going to see the Killers, live, I had gotten here with my own, hard-earned money, and I was not going to be thirsty.
At about forty-five minutes left, we were forced to stand by the thousands of people packing in behind us. We secured a firm hold on the gate. Security guards stalked the area between the gate and the stage with worried expressions. The woman standing behind me assured me she would attempt to protect me from the masses as much as possible. I began to reconsider the wisdom in where we stood.
Twenty minutes left. The thousands of people in the crowd were restless. We felt waves of them pressing us back and forth, heard screams from behind us. The stage was still under construction. Instruments were being tuned. A stressed-looking manager stood behind a palm tree, talking anxiously into his cell phone. The tension was building.
Ten minutes left. The crowd cheered whenever anything on the stage moved even the slightest bit. You could feel the energy pulsing already. I wondered how anyone in there could breathe. Standing completely at the front, ventilation systems blew cold air into our faces, but everyone behind us was trapped amongst walls of people.
At five minutes left, unconscious bodies were being carried from the crowd behind us. This gives you a glimpse of how big the Killers really are. The press was issued an order neither to take or publish any photographs of the concert. Lights began flashing on the stage.
Two minutes left. The security guard in front of us wiped sweat from his brow. Audience members were lifted out with what appeared to be broken bones.
And then, suddenly and finally, it started. The Killers, creators of my favorite music in existence, stormed the stage. The throbbing first notes of Human hit the crowd. We danced. They were right there in front of us, and it was incredible. We watched them making that music, they looked at us and smiled. Brandon Flowers sang the most caring lyrics to the unconscious girls being pulled out of the crowd. We, standing completely at the front, were safe. We could breathe. We were squished on all sides and involuntarily tossed about to the rhythm, but it didn´t hurt. Standing directly in front of the speakers, we felt every note.
Among the obvious hits, like Mr. Brightside, When You Were Young, Spaceman, and every other favorite, they surprised us with a cover of a song by none other than the Fleet Foxes themselves. Their explanation was simple. “So, this is going to be a cover”, they explained. “But it´s just a really good song”. And they had made their own version of He Doesn´t Know. It was beautiful in an entirely different way, and quite the surprise. Personally, I found the live versions of Dustland Fairytale and Bling (Confessions of a King) to be the most moving, but the entire thing was an amazing experience.
We were hysterical after that. We ran and skipped and danced through the crowded forest, singing Killers songs at the top of our lungs and being joined by strangers left and right. A man approached us with a desperate expression. “Are we human, or are we dancers?!” he asked us in Norwegian. (Er vi mennesker, eller er vi dansere?) “DANCERS”, we screamed, (dansere!) and skipped into the night. The Crookers concert afterwards was precisely what we needed to dance out our energy.
We found a nightclub in the woods. An enormous disco ball hung from the trees. Dancing people were packed amongst the vegetation.
It was a glorious day.