That awkward moment when you realize you’re stashing a breast pump under your seat at a rave.
That was me earlier this week, while attending Lady Gaga’s artRAVE, The Artpop Ball. Long a fan of the eccentric pop star, I’d been to see her at Madison Square Garden years ago at the Monster Ball—her first-ever show at Madison Square Garden in her hometown city, Manhattan. It was a fantastic show. So when ARTPOP came out, I strongly hinted that I’d like to see her in concert again and Santa (Krispin) made it happen. Smartly, he made arrangements to send me off to the city and attend the concert with my friend Danielle who lives in the area. And so our adventure began.
Arriving to MSG, we took stock of the parade of “Little Monsters” dressed up in their favorite iterations of Lady Gaga. Suffice it to say, I saw more parts of more people’s bodies than I needed to. I had contemplated dressing up myself, making my emerging baby bump look like a giant blue mirror ball in honor of the ARTPOP album cover, but I convinced myself I was too old for that (and too lazy, as I’d have to try and find a way to get everything I needed for a costume AND an overnight into a single carry-on bag for the flight). Meh.
We got to the security gate, and a male guard began going through my bag, which was a Medela Pump-In-Style bag that looks like a normal purse, except for there’s a huge motor built into it with some tubing and dials hidden in a zip compartment on the side. I watched his puzzled expression as he tried to make sense of the bag’s weight while sifting through the few items he could see in the top (a scarf, a lip gloss, etc.).
“It’s a breast pump, that’s what you’re feeling.” I offered as his hand cupped the large square shape that concealed the motor. His hands released from the bag in a flash. “Okay, you’re all set,” he said. No eye contact, no concern, just the little “yucky” dance of a grown man who had the heebie jeebies from touching a breast pump. Alright then. With the bag slung fashionably over my shoulder, I mommed my way into the venue with Danielle, and stared lustfully at the beer taps in all the vendor windows en route to our seats. I had no idea how badly I would REALLY want a drink once the show started.
The opening act was a “vocaloid” named Hatsune Miku, an anime-like cartoon with long teal hair who sings Japanese pop music. Yes, a cartoon was on the stage entertaining us (didn’t I take this mini vacation away from my son to NOT watch cartoons!?). It took Danielle and I about 20 minutes to realize it was the actual opening act and not some kind of funky, expensive advertisement. All around us, tweens were rocking out to the music. I leaned over to ask the girl next to me what “it” was. Her mouth said, “Hatsune Miku.” Her gaze said, “You’re old as hell, why are you here?” Danielle and I pondered the reasons why someone like Lady Gaga would choose such a horrible opening act. “Maybe she’s trying to be innovative by showing a different kind of medium in the performing arts space, that artists don’t have to be actual people,” I offered. “No, I think we’re just using our adult marketing brains to try and justify this,” Danielle said. Shit, she was right. We were simply NOT the target audience for this kind of thing, but it amused us all the same for different reasons.
After the cartoon was over, we thought Gaga would be taking the stage soon. We were SO wrong. Next up was Lady Starlight. Wikipedia will tell you she is an American musical performer. I will tell you she is a complete waste of your time. From what I can tell, her claim to fame is collaborating with Lady Gaga in the very earliest years of her career, when the pair did go-go dancing at local festivals and lit hairspray cans on fire to liven up their stage presence. That would have been loads more entertaining than what she did for nearly an hour as the second part of Gaga’s opening act. Armed with two drum machines (and WAY too much time), she “dazzled” the crowd with her tribute to techno. Looping random beats and sounds together for 10-minute blocks, teasing us with “this sounds like the end of the song” before going into another seemingly identical “set” of terrible, awful techno. (Full disclosure, I LIKE techno… I do not like watching someone attempt to fist pump off beat to a drum machine that’s being poorly operated. For 45 minutes). Danielle and I spent most of the set discussing whether or not she used to be a man (after some Google research, we determined she had not). But her outfit and wig (?) made her look like a drag version of Cher.
One hour and forty minutes after the opening acts began, Lady Gaga FINALLY took the stage. At this point the many empty seats around us were filled (people must have had a heads up about Hatsune and TechNO), including a row of young girls seated with their parents in front of us. Danielle, (unfamiliar with Gaga’s latest album), said she thought it was nice of the parents to bring their children to the concert. Later she would retract that statement. Somewhere around the song “Sex Dreams,” or perhaps it was one of the dozens of times Lady Gaga impulsively shouted the F-word into her lyrics or stage monologues. At any rate, the show began and it was pretty awesome.
The stage was always morphing into one captivating scene to another thanks to the vibrant lighting, and she wore a lot of great costumes (or not, at one point she did an on-stage change letting her breasts fall into plain view as three attendants fastened a clear plastic top to her, and some furry knee-high legwarmers with sneakers). But the best part of the performance was when she stripped down the actual music to SING. It was obvious that she wasn’t going to hit any of her high notes or put too much passion into her lyrics while she was on the move. Dancing seemed to take the priority in most songs, where strong back tracks and “masking” beats saved her from having to sing too much. Her piano-only version of “Born This Way” reminded everyone that she actually CAN sing, which I appreciated. And to her credit, she didn’t appear to be lip-syncing to her other songs, she just seemed to be (tele)phoning them in (she’s ka-kinda busy).
Did you get that last line? It was a Gaga pun. Just checking.
Another thing I’ll give her credit for is being comfortable with her body. Dressed in midriff-baring, skin tight outfits for the majority of the evening, Gaga treated the audience to the visual of what I would say is a pretty normal female body. You could see cellulite at times, muffin top, and “junk in the trunk.” It was all great, in my opinion. Given the struggles she had with her body in the past, and the message she has been promoting to love the skin you’re in, I thought it was refreshing to see a pop star performing with supreme confidence, without looking strained to try and meet some kind of “acceptable standard” in the process.
She also took the time to read a few of the letters that fans were launching onto the stage. Some of them were very touching, and my hormones definitely got the best of me when they showed a happy fan crying tears of joy while having his moment with Gaga reading his letter and inviting him back stage after the show.
As the concert came to a close, I had to muscle my way past drunk teeny-boppers to get a soft pretzel and some juice (it was 11:00PM after all, and a pregnant woman needs her snacks). My lust for the booze subsided, as I watched a pair of girls tripping on their way into the bathroom. Someone would be going home and laying down with the “spins” later, but it wasn’t gonna be me. Ah, the simple pleasures in life.
Back in my seat, Danielle and I discussed a game plan for beating the crowds (especially now that the crowds were intoxicated and stoned—the smell of weed was omnipresent). We decided to skip the encore performance. Since GAGA came on so late, it was getting close to midnight now and I was quickly fading as PREGO began to trump all. I just needed bed and to not have my pants on anymore. Point of fact, I don’t think anyone would have noticed if I took my pants off at that concert.
Danielle and I are old pros when it comes to “barely” catching forms of public transportation. Prior to living in Manhattan together as roommates years ago, we’d also spent six months together studying abroad in Europe. We’ve dived through the closing doors of many a train in our time together. And we succeeded again that night—catching the PATH to Hoboken with seconds to spare, giving us a tentative bedtime of about 1:30AM.
I don’t know which we were more excited about—that Lady Starlight had finally stopped pushing buttons on those damn drum machines when the evening started, or that we were getting home to a cozy bed and some sweatpants before 2:00AM.
We crashed that night with smiles on our faces, amusing ourselves with all the moments we felt “old” at the Gaga show. We compared notes on how many times (and for what reasons) we caught the alarm in the parents’ faces who brought their 9-year olds to the show. We made fun of Lady Starlight some more, and we swore to each other we’d brush up on the latest Hatsune hits before we got together again. (And yes, for good measure, we also talked about how great the show was overall. Lady Gaga is talented and I was happy to see her live again, and thrilled that my husband surprised me with the tickets).
The next morning, I got up with Danielle as she got ready for work and I set off on my adventures of mass transit to get back to the airport. I scrolled through pictures of my son on my phone, eager to see him again. It was the first time I’d left him overnight! When I got home, my husband was waiting in the car outside the airport, and my son was in his car seat smiling and laughing. I realized right then that THEY are the real rock stars in my life now. Nothing makes me as happy as spending time with them, and nothing is as entertaining as watching my son learn something new (he just learned to wave, and was giving me his very best hello as I approached the car that afternoon).
I might be feeling “older” these days, but it actually felt pretty damn good to be a 35-year old woman walking into Madison Square Garden with a breast pump in one hand and a ticket to Lady Gaga in the other. Like wearing a new pair of shoes to my old stomping grounds.
And I love me some new shoes.