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Gonzo Report: A first-timer at the family reunion with Paramore

Moving on with the middle school muse

Post-show at Paramore, with three pieces of promotional confetti.
Post-show at Paramore, with three pieces of promotional confetti.

My first impression outside Viejas Arena before the Paramore show on July 16: so many people, so much black clothing. But not all black. Bright accents: usually neon, frequently orange, possibly in honor of lead singer Hayley Williams’ hair color when the band broke through in 2000. A few flamboyantly colorful exceptions to the darkness, in keeping with the spirit of the band’s 2017 pop detour After Laughter. Lots of moms and daughters and dads and daughters and even moms and dads and daughters — family night at the rock ‘n roll show. The parents of an eight-year-old girl in a red dress who had glitter all over her face told someone that this was her first concert. Where does she go from here? I wondered.

Inside, Williams told us that we, the fanbase, were her family, which was probably great for the little girl and also for the people who had been to multiple shows, but made some of us first-timers feel a little bit like the loser cousin who never gets invited. Well, maybe just me. But there were a lot of us first-timers: at one point, Williams asked us to make some noise, and she seemed surprised by how many of us screamed. Maybe she was acting. That’s possible, and it’s okay. This was a performance. On the other hand, she said that tonight, it was just us and we were going to keep the world outside outside and we were going to cry our ugliest cries, which sounded pretty real. I didn’t see anybody cry, but a whole bunch of us danced, which was better.

I was so glad she sang “Last Hope,” a song with lyrics about a spark that keeps her going, a tiny never-ending spark that keeps her motivated and pushing through. A lot of Paramore’s albums are pretty punk rock, full of anger and...maybe not despair, but toying with it. “Last Hope” is a good counter to all that. She said it hadn’t been in the set, but that at every show she played, she felt like there was a moment where it would be perfect. That kept happening, and so she finally put it back in. The spark means a lot to me.

It turned out her lyrics mean a lot to a lot of people. Lina and Haley both related to the lyrics of her song “Ain’t it Fun,” “and how it’s not actually fun to be an adult.” Ain’t it fun/ Living in the real world/ Ain’t it fun/ Being all alone? I could relate to their relating.

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Lina also liked the way Williams represented relationships — she had the new album This is Why on repeat throughout the pandemic, when so many relationships were strained and put on hold — while Haley liked what Williams represents for women: “She’s an icon.” Another girl, Mikah, went so far as to say that she related so much to Williams back in middle school that she gave her “a passion for life.”

Guy fan Brandon echoed the middle-school attachment; the music made him feel like he was back there, back before the gut-kick of “Ain’t it Fun.” Karen and Kayla grew up with Paramore as well; they said that whenever she releases new music, “it just always fits.” I smiled. That’s how it is when you grow up with a band, I think. You feel like the music fits your life, when really, you’re fitting yourself and the way you see your life to the music. The sweet solipsism of youth. So what are you gonna do/ When the world don’t orbit around you?

Williams never sang any of her songs all the way through, or even straight-up. Always, she would pause for the audience to fill in on certain lines, like the songs were beloved in-jokes that we, the fanbase family, shared with her. And always, she would change the notes here or there, because actually, they were her songs, to do with as she pleased. That’s okay, too. But I wished she’d kept the notes the same a little more often. I like to sing along.

Speaking of sharing: when Williams did her biggest hit, “Misery Business,” she picked two people in the audience to come up on stage and sing along with her. The crowd counted them in and they got to sing: I watched his wildest dreams come true/ Not one of them involving you/ Just watch my wildest dreams come true/ Not one of them involving... Speaking of watching wildest dreams come true; I felt like maybe I was doing just that.

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Post-show at Paramore, with three pieces of promotional confetti.
Post-show at Paramore, with three pieces of promotional confetti.

My first impression outside Viejas Arena before the Paramore show on July 16: so many people, so much black clothing. But not all black. Bright accents: usually neon, frequently orange, possibly in honor of lead singer Hayley Williams’ hair color when the band broke through in 2000. A few flamboyantly colorful exceptions to the darkness, in keeping with the spirit of the band’s 2017 pop detour After Laughter. Lots of moms and daughters and dads and daughters and even moms and dads and daughters — family night at the rock ‘n roll show. The parents of an eight-year-old girl in a red dress who had glitter all over her face told someone that this was her first concert. Where does she go from here? I wondered.

Inside, Williams told us that we, the fanbase, were her family, which was probably great for the little girl and also for the people who had been to multiple shows, but made some of us first-timers feel a little bit like the loser cousin who never gets invited. Well, maybe just me. But there were a lot of us first-timers: at one point, Williams asked us to make some noise, and she seemed surprised by how many of us screamed. Maybe she was acting. That’s possible, and it’s okay. This was a performance. On the other hand, she said that tonight, it was just us and we were going to keep the world outside outside and we were going to cry our ugliest cries, which sounded pretty real. I didn’t see anybody cry, but a whole bunch of us danced, which was better.

I was so glad she sang “Last Hope,” a song with lyrics about a spark that keeps her going, a tiny never-ending spark that keeps her motivated and pushing through. A lot of Paramore’s albums are pretty punk rock, full of anger and...maybe not despair, but toying with it. “Last Hope” is a good counter to all that. She said it hadn’t been in the set, but that at every show she played, she felt like there was a moment where it would be perfect. That kept happening, and so she finally put it back in. The spark means a lot to me.

It turned out her lyrics mean a lot to a lot of people. Lina and Haley both related to the lyrics of her song “Ain’t it Fun,” “and how it’s not actually fun to be an adult.” Ain’t it fun/ Living in the real world/ Ain’t it fun/ Being all alone? I could relate to their relating.

Sponsored
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Lina also liked the way Williams represented relationships — she had the new album This is Why on repeat throughout the pandemic, when so many relationships were strained and put on hold — while Haley liked what Williams represents for women: “She’s an icon.” Another girl, Mikah, went so far as to say that she related so much to Williams back in middle school that she gave her “a passion for life.”

Guy fan Brandon echoed the middle-school attachment; the music made him feel like he was back there, back before the gut-kick of “Ain’t it Fun.” Karen and Kayla grew up with Paramore as well; they said that whenever she releases new music, “it just always fits.” I smiled. That’s how it is when you grow up with a band, I think. You feel like the music fits your life, when really, you’re fitting yourself and the way you see your life to the music. The sweet solipsism of youth. So what are you gonna do/ When the world don’t orbit around you?

Williams never sang any of her songs all the way through, or even straight-up. Always, she would pause for the audience to fill in on certain lines, like the songs were beloved in-jokes that we, the fanbase family, shared with her. And always, she would change the notes here or there, because actually, they were her songs, to do with as she pleased. That’s okay, too. But I wished she’d kept the notes the same a little more often. I like to sing along.

Speaking of sharing: when Williams did her biggest hit, “Misery Business,” she picked two people in the audience to come up on stage and sing along with her. The crowd counted them in and they got to sing: I watched his wildest dreams come true/ Not one of them involving you/ Just watch my wildest dreams come true/ Not one of them involving... Speaking of watching wildest dreams come true; I felt like maybe I was doing just that.

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