Philadelphia to D.C. and Back: A Tale of Two Cities in One Night

What we do, we do for love.

I left my workplace at 2:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday, forgoing two and a half hours of paid work to make sure we’d make it. Chris rushed to my car in the parking lot outside of his work at 3:38, two paper bags, a laptop bag, and a shirt in tow, sweating and explaining why he was eight minutes later than he said he would be. He shoved something in my hand. I looked down: A milkshake. He shoved one paper bag in the backseat and sat down with the other in his lap, gave me a sweaty kiss, and shouted, “Let’s go!” (in a nice way). We hightailed it toward 76. Why the rush, you ask?

We were rushing because we were heading from Ambler, PA (in the Philadelphia region) to Washington, D.C., just for the evening. We were going to see Ludovico Einaudi, a pianist whose songs are swoon-worthy, often stopping me in my tracks to have a listen. Chris was familiar with Einaudi’s music through me, but hadn’t quite developed the same admiration. And, he had a ton of work to do. But he came with me anyway. 

Chris revealed to me that the milkshake was blueberry cheesecake, the sandwich was chorizo, and the fries were to be dipped in sriracha ketchup: amazing. He also explained that the bag in the back was full of potatoes and apples, overstock from the Feedstore: score! I told him I brought him is “casual khakis” (his favorite sweatpants) and some baby wipes because I knew he’d be sweaty: omg, thanks. We were good to go. 

We asked Gerdie Deuce to tell us the best way to get to Lisner Auditorium on George Washington University’s campus, and continued west. She took us off the beaten path, but seeing as we were going from one city to another, the road less traveled was still fairly heavily traveled.

See how inviting it was?
See how inviting it was?

Anyway, we got off to a pretty good start, hitting pleasantly steady traffic as we sailed on past the City of Brotherly Love and toward our nation’s capital. In the car ride, we decided, with finality, that we were going to cancel our big wedding in favor of an elopement ceremony and a party at a bar, a topic we’d been toying around with. The weight of this decision off our shoulders, we settled into the long drive. We were guided through beautiful farm country as the sun set delicately over the fields and leaves fell around us.

It feels like I’m setting the scene for some kind of surprise or terror, or at least a twist of some sort, but I’m not. Real life doesn’t work like that most of the time. I am, however, setting the scene for an amazing concert that re-instilled a sense of calm in my mind that I’d forgotten about.

We got to Lisner, and parked easily in the G Street Parking Garage (only $11!) and walked two blocks to Lisner (read more detail on Yelp). There was a weird fog in the auditorium and a big crowd in the foyer. We went downstairs for the restrooms and found an empty bar there as well. We decided to stay down there with our $10 cocktails and look at the art. It was labeled with letters, but no names. I never figured out anything about the pieces we looked at.

Once inside, we were invited to switch with people so that a group of friends could sit together, so we got to sit a few rows closer. The show started a few minutes late, but the weird fog had cleared, so it was better. (We never figured that out either.) It began with Einaudi walking out on stage solo. He played, and his band joined him. They shared some fan favorites, and some I hadn’t heard before. I was quickly reminded why people shouldn’t take pictures during concerts, at least imho. 

Chris’s uncle once described Einaudi as having “a light touch,” and watching him play helped me understand that concept more completely. Even though he mysteriously kept his back toward us (which I actually thought was wonderful), you could see his hands and his movement enough to get a tiny glimpse of how he felt and what must have been going on in his mind. 

I don’t know if I like his music so much because it makes me feel, or because I can hear him feeling. I don’t know if I feel like something is being shared with me, or if I am being urged to think a certain way, or something else entirely. Or maybe, I enjoy his music so much because it is a blend of all of those things. 

As the group continued to play, I began to pay closer attention to what each person was doing. Two were on string instruments, one percussionist moved between several instruments, another percussionist played multiple instruments and worked the controls to play synthesized sound accents. Another person played bass. Together, they created soundscapes designed to transport the audience, and they did it without even looking at one another.

Then, Einaudi turned around to face the crowd and bowed, managing to emit grandeur without getting off of his seat. We finally got a good look at his signature tennis shoes. He smiled and waved. This made the crowd very happy. His band had laid down their instruments and gone backstage, with hardly any fanfare–I barely noticed. Then, alone, Einaudi played snippets from Nightbook, a highly regarded album released in 2009. The spotlight shone on him brighter than it had yet, and we could see how he not only presses keys with his hands, but almost seems to be directing the sound waves from the piano in moments between notes. It was a beautiful, calming experience, not only because the music itself is gorgeous, but because it tied together the experience of being human and the fine line between emotion and thought, if such a line even exists.

His band returned, and they played a more intense set, with backdrop changes and lights flashing to guide the audience through the experience. The spotlights played with the band’s shadows, and the images on the backdrop reinforced what I thought I was supposed to be feeling. I felt like everyone in the room was on board with what Einaudi was telling us, and that we were all also being asked to project our own thoughts and experiences onto what was being presented. 

When the show was over and the audience was on their feet, Einaudi and the band bowed together and then clapped back at us for our enthusiasm. It made me laugh out loud for the awkwardness of it, but I didn’t really mind. They exited, but we didn’t let them leave. They came back and played a few more songs, and it was delightful.

During the encore, a picture of a huge bloom of some sort was projected behind them. It was hard to tell what it was, but it looked like an ice bloom, or a tiny molecule blown up a billion times. It also looked like a flower, and it moved ever so slightly, then, during the last song, it changed. The colors reversed and it moved faster, and the lights flashed and the shadows danced, and then the sound crescendoed and grew, and then stopped.

At the end, he thanked us for being there, and asked us to sign the Greenpeace petition he cared about very deeply, a bid to save the arctic from being farmed for oil. His asking us to do such a specific thing to impact a behemoth of an issue helped me understand what I had just felt and seen: that we are responsible for using our skills in the most compelling way we can, and that we are obligated to strive to have a positive impact in whatever way we know how.

What Einaudi was doing was dedicating his music to that cause, at least for the time being. He was getting our attention not only so we’d enjoy the show, but to urge us to feel something, do something, and be something. On the ride home, I didn’t think about it, not directly. I felt it somewhere, but didn’t address it. But later, I did. Now, I am. That’s what Wanderous.Life is for in the first place; this is our urging you to feel, do, and be. And that doesn’t mean learn the piano or petition for Greenpeace or live in an RV and write about things you think are important. But it does mean to think about your impact on the world and those around you. Is it a positive impact? Do you want to do more? Are you stretched too thin? How can you live each moment for the better? 

I challenge you to think about these concepts every day! Do you have a cause you really care about, or have you done something to help people lately? Tell us about it in the comments. We love to hear your stories.

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