It was pouring.
We left campus around 7:45, stopping briefly to get coffee on our way out. Once we got on the highway, we blasted Noah’s newest records on the car stereo in excited anticipation of what was to come.
We got to Charlottesville in a downpour (it hadn’t stopped one bit). We found a space in the parking garage and admitted solemnly to ourselves that we’d have to make a run to the venue, as none of us had thought to bring raincoats or umbrellas.
We jogged down the quaint streets of downtown, and I stopped multiple times for pictures because I was in love with the way the rain made the street lights reflect off of the road. We walked into the venue, The Southern, and were instantly greeted by the ticket man, who had our tickets on will-call after a brief debacle some months earlier with mail-delivery. But I digress.
He branded us with neon green armbands to indicate we weren’t allowed to buy beer but could come and go in and out of the venue as we pleased.
The cafe was divided into two main parts, the seating area and merch table and then a darkened open area, headed by a stage with some sparse tables. The show was sold out– there was pretty much standing room only. We claimed our spot, rather close to the stage, and put our stuff down. We had gotten there right in time for the opener, Aaron Gillespie, to start his set. Strawberryish-blonde, tattooed and badass, his rasp mildly reminiscent of Gavin DeGraw and Springsteen. He closed his set with Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ and had the entire audience singing along.
I was not prepared for what happened next.
After a 15 minute or so break, Noah Gundersen took the stage and, without a word, started his set. Clad in dark denim, a worn masculine chambray shirt, graphic sleeveless tee with his long dark hair pulled up in a bun, he stood alone–nothing but a mic and a guitar accompanying him onstage.
His voice commanded the room, pierced the silence, and it was hard to tell that he was suffering even the slightest bit from the flu. I recognized some of the songs he played from the ones playing over the car stereo on the way over, but this was SO MUCH BETTER.
I remember taking some video clips, but in all honesty, I just put my phone away and stood there with Fish, hypnotized– by his voice, his lyrics, his playing. Opting for more of his slow grooves and songs that didn’t make it onto his newest album, he led seamlessly one song into the other, each a unique experience of its own.
Perhaps my favourite one he played was a stripped down version of his driving bop, “The Sound”– the chorus literally gave me goosebumps and grabs at my chest every time.
When he finally finished his set, we all begged him to come back onstage with our applause. He did, and, as it turns out, ended up playing one of Fish’s favourite songs, Cigarettes.
(his tALKING VOICE THO…!)
We waited, like many hopefuls, after the show, hoping he’d come out so Fish could talk to him [Noah was a huge musical influence for him growing up, so getting to meet him was a SUPER goal of his.]. We didn’t really know it at the time– but upon arriving at the venue we both hit the bathrooms really quickly. When we came back out, we saw Noah making his way through the cafe part of building, and he stopped to get pictures with some of the people who noticed him there.
It was nearing 11:30PM and the place was, slowly but surely, clearing out and the staff was clearing tables and sweeping up. We were two left of about 15 people still waiting to see Noah. Eventually they trickled out, us included. I suggested that we wait a bit by the stage door for a bit. Before we left, however, we got in line to get a t-shirt– the only one left was one used for display– so the guy selling them was like “I feel badly that you’re getting the beat up one… how about you just take it– it’s yours.” Our eyes lit up and our night was made. We were ushered by peer pressure outside, where we waited for a bit in a really cool alleyway, surrounded by brick, tree lights, and a windowed overpass with a rhino statue in it.
We waited until about midnight, out-waiting this group of obnoxious people who were vaping up a storm (did I mention I think that audience was the biggest group of hipsters I’ve ever seen in one place…?). Lo and behold, around 5 minutes after midnight, Noah emerged with some of his crew, moving equipment to his car. He saw us and smiled, and told us to give him a sec while he took care of some stuff.
When he returned, he asked us our names, and we shook hands with him. Fish told him how big of a fan he was, and I asked him if we could please get a picture with him. I snapped one of him and Fish– he had the biggest smile on his face. We thanked him and we went on our respective ways, elated at such an awesome end to the evening.
It made me think about how 1) good things come to those who wait
an hour after a show ends in a brick alleyway in the drizzling rain 2) how awesome live music is, how transformative lyrics can be and the power behind the simplest things.
We are, without a doubt, shaped by our experiences. I never imagined, in December when I’d gotten the tickets, that our night would turn out the way it did, full of blessings and small, exciting miracles. Never did I imagine also, the sheer amount of joy I would feel at someone else’s excitement and marvel.
Absolutely a night for the books.