By Hanna Marchesseault
I have the bad habit of impulsively buying tickets for shows. You can often find me at two a.m., laying in bed, face lit up from the dim glow of my phone screen, scrolling through SongKick. If I see an artist is coming to Boston and tickets are under 25 dollars, I’m there. Is this a good habit? No. Am I going to stop? Never.
When I saw the band Arlie was coming to the Middle East in Cambridge, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see them. I had only discovered their music about a month ago when I saw someone I followed on instagram had recommended one of their songs. At the time, I quickly queued up their newest album, and was hooked.
Arlie has a sound that’s hard to push into one genre. They’re alternative, but don’t shy away from adding pop elements into their tracks. What they create are songs that can make anyone nod their head along to. It’s music that’s hard to not enjoy.
After buying a ticket for myself, I quickly called my friend to buy one, too. The confidence to go to concerts alone hasn’t particularly set in yet, so I found relief when she agreed to come along.
A week later, we were on the red line, making our way to Cambridge. The Middle East works to confuse it’s patrons. Having two seperate venue spaces all within the same block, we found ourselves in the wrong line. We circled the building until the hostess of the restaurant took pity on us and directed us through two doors, and into the back of a kitchen to where the actual venue was.
Hidden in the back of a bar, The Middle East Upstairs is every music lovers dream. You can feel an authenticity in the air that’s hard to find at many other concert venues. Names engraved into the walls, and dim lighting inviting any troubled writer or artist to turn this into their breeding ground. Waiting in line, waitresses and bussers dodge around you, and the rich aroma of whatever dish is currently being created wafts from the open kitchen. Your stomach grumbles with every plate that gets paraded by.
After our tickets were scanned and the infamous “under 21” bracelets were slapped on our wrists, we were led through another small door. We were met by another bar, and a small stage crammed with instruments. Somehow, we were one of probably three groups already there. The bands hanging out at the merch table, their eyes on us, daring us to come over and say hi.
Once the initial awkwardness of being the lame ones to arrive an hour early to the concert washed away, we moved up to the stage and solidified spots right at the front. Being the lame ones pays off sometimes.
After about 45 minutes of waiting, the first opener graced the stage. Jonathan Something (I’m not forgetting his last name), woke everyone up with alt rock songs that included a track detailing a dream in which he was ambushed and robbed by ex-Celtics player, Larry Bird. Yes, I’m being serious. After laughing quickly, we realized the talent Something, accompanied by a bass player and drummer, possessed. Wailing at his guitar, Something produced intricate riffs that would have been overwhelming if not for the talent of his voice. With thanks at the end, he quickly told us to buy his new album, shrugged, and walked off the stage.
We all turned to each other, blinking, a little stunned by what just happened.
Following Jonathan Something was Briston Maroney, a Nashville based artist that has gained an impressive following within the last year. I had never heard of him, but after his set I was kicking myself for not knowing who he was sooner. Jumping on stage, adorned in a crewneck sweatshirt with potted plants on the front, cowboy boots on his feet, and blue curly hair on his head, Maroney instantly had our attention.
Accompanied by his fiery red-headed bass player, Jack Filipovic, Maroney wailed on his shiny white guitar. Within minutes I was convinced I had found one of my new favorite artists. Maroney’s intense rock style proved he is an impressive instrumentalist and vocalist. He wailed on his guitar, singing about being young and different transitions in his life. At the end of his set, he and Filipovic thanked the crowd, and proceeded to pick up their own set.
Working up the courage, I leaned over to him and explained how impressed I was by his set. He graciously thanked me, and left the stage with an armful of equipment.
Finally Arlie took the stage, made up of two guitarists, a vocalist, bass player, keyboardist and a drummer. I’m still not sure how they all fit onto the small platform. It also struck me how much one of the guitarists looked identical to Lucas Hedges, but that’s beside the point.
They immediately started playing, kicking off their set with their most popular track, “Didya Think.” Everyone jumped in unison to the beat of the song, and screamed the lyrics at the top of their lungs. I thought the floor was going to fall through.
The talent they choose to show on their EP was not lost during this show. As they performed their entire discography, they laughed and joked with each other, clearly having as much fun as we were.
Once their set was finished, they bantered with the crowd for a few minutes, and then exited the stage. No one in the crowd was satisfied with this, though, and we all chanted for them to perform an encore. They all shrugged to each other, clearly not expecting this, and climbed back on stage. Considering that they had already performed all of their songs, they began to play “Since U Been Gone,” by Kelly Clarkson. Everyone screamed, and then sang every line verbatim. I think everyone felt connected in that moment, putting our arms around each other and just singing.
Arlie was the first show in which I fell in love with the openers just as much as I fell in love with the main act. As my friend and I exited the dark bar, we stopped outside on the sidewalk and just laughed. It was great to feel a way in which music is designed to make you feel. Connected with others and content.