Pentatonix + Madison Square Garden = Best First Concert (Ever!)

A clear stage, superimposed with technicolor moving images. Five musicians, each talented in their own unique and, to be honest, mind-blowing ways, dressed in outfits that coordinate but don’t match perfectly. A New York crowd already primed for a good show, thanks to openers Citizen Queen and to Rachel Platten. All coming together on a Thursday night at Madison Square Garden: iconic, legendary concert venue.

All signs point to the MSG stop on the Pentatonix World Tour being nothing short of E P I C.

All signs were so, so freaking right.

Note: photo quality will not be the greatest; we weren’t close enough!

Note: photo quality will not be the greatest; we weren’t close enough!

It was while I was in Mexico that I got this random urge to listen to Pentatonix’s music. This isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary for me — I’ve harbored a sideline fandom for the group for years, and every once in a while said fandom spikes. I was watching their YouTube videos and of course the ads for their World Tour were just…right there.

I didn’t think it was realistic, to be honest. I’d never been to a concert, much less one for a group I adored, much less one at Madison Square Garden. I just assumed the tickets would cost $100+, I could look at it and laugh at how silly I was for daring to dream, and keep crying over how beautifully produced their music videos are.

I mean really. This is just unfair. Plus they sound like angels.

Obviously — that’s not what happened (LOL). I guess I have some preconceived concert notions.

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But enough about the backstory. Let’s talk about the story.

First things first, the opener for Pentatonix is this five-member a cappella group called Citizen Queen, who, from what I could tell in my post-concert research, kind of burst onto the scene in December with a cover video of Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left to Cry,” and are now killing it as the opening act for Pentatonix.

They brought so much energy onto the stage and were so joyous and just…listen, this word kept running through my mind all through the concert, which was “high-octane,” and I was like, Ugh, Karis, don’t use that in your post, it’s so clichė, but at the same time it really feels like the best word.

The energy on that stage, the joy, the sheer desire to be there and happiness about it and borderline disbelief but also determination to fully crush it: this is what it’s about.

And that’s what I got from Pentatonix’s set as well. There was this moment, right after Kevin Olusola finished doing an omg-holy-cow-wow celloboxing (watch the video, for real) solo, and as a crowd we were losing our COLLECTIVE MIND because I just…I don’t have the words to describe what it was like to watch that in person.

But anyway, the point is, after he finished and the whole stadium was erupting in cheers and applause and it just went on and on, he just sat there for a second and just…took it in. And it dawned on me: this is a big deal for them.

Which, like, I should’ve known, right? I, concert novice that I was, recognized how exciting it was to go to Madison Square Garden for a concert. But I just looked at this group, who’ve been together eight years now, who have released multiple albums and won Grammys and traveled the world performing, and assumed: they’re living their dream. They’ve done it all, and there’s nothing else they want to do but haven’t yet.

And I was wrong. I mean they said it, multiple times. Kevin and Scott (Hoying) both told the crowd later just how mind-blowing it was to be able to perform in that space. And Matt Sallee, the newest member of the group, mentioned how when the group was first created and were performing on the competition show The Sing-Off, he watched them and thought about how he wished to someday sing with them.

So there he was. Last night. Performing with them. At Madison Square Garden.

And I just…it hit me. So hard. So beautifully. Getting to this point for this group, it’s taken a lot of hard work — I mean, they’ve been at it eight years!

But they did it. So…it made me feel like I can do it, too. It made me feel like, yeah, sure, I’m not where I want to be with my writing yet. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never get there.

It’s a beautiful feeling, to be able to take hope in someone else’s success, rather than despair. Usually when I see others’ success, whether that’s in writing or acting or art of any other kind; or in being really talented in a field I have no interest in, even, it bums me out.

Not last night. Last night it lifted me up.

And one more thing.

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Rachel Platten performed as well. Her set was just…can I say refreshing? Can I be clichė again? Rachel danced around that stage like it was hers, like she didn’t care what anyone thought and never had, and I found myself thinking — I want this energy. I want this confidence.

And then she stopped. And she told us that less than two hours before then she’d been sobbing backstage, sure she couldn’t perform. And then she performed this most beautiful song, “You Belong,” written for and about her newborn baby, and I…it was so beautiful. She told us, “You do not need to be perfect to be loved,” and I gasped (yes, really, and dramatically) and leaned back in my seat, crying.

After she shared with us the backstory of her incredibly popular “Fight Song,” and then when she performed it, I just…I bawled. I was trying to sing along, but I was crying so hard I couldn’t even do it.

I feel broken so often these days, guys. I feel like I’m wading through mud carrying heavy burdens on a back screaming in pain. I feel like I can’t do it.

And that set reminded me: push through it. Carry on. Fight on. There are people fighting with me, cheering me on. I have the strength to make it — or I wouldn’t have made it this far already.

Yes, life is hard. Guys, it’s so hard. Just when it seems like things are getting better, something hits me again and it’s like…how do I even deal with this? Where do I go from here?

Forward. Onward. Upward. Always.

Fight on, lovelies. If Rachel Platten can do it, if Pentatonix can do it, if I can do it, you can do it, too. Give me a holler if you need to chat — here, or Twitter — or talk to a friend or a therapist or sit down (or stand up, I don’t know what kind of movement your dream might entail!) and get it done. Let’s all get it done.