Seeing Sounds and Pharrell: 18 Years Later
Seeing Sounds and Pharrell: 18 Years Later
It was the moment I had been waiting for what had seemed like a lifetime: seeing Pharrell, in the flesh, again. As soon as I found out about The Roots Picnic's line-up for its 10th anniversary, there was no doubt that I was going. And upon my entry into the Festival Pier at Penn's Landing, I tried every finesse trick I had in the bag to get better access to the front of the stage: it was that important. But alas, to no avail and without the press pass I so desperately wanted, I decide to forgo seeing Solange (again), and try to make my way to as close to the front of the stage as possible.
I say again because the latter was a performance I will never forget (read about my experience at the Broccoli City Festival here), and the former was a chance encounter that I will forever cherish. Here's some of the backstory: when I was a young and eager-to-do-grown-up-things-almost 20 something, I met Pharrell. I don't want to change names to protect the innocent, so I will omit them. It was on South Beach before South Beach was South Beach, meaning that celebs (and up-and-coming super producers) could casually walk down Colins Avenue or Ocean Drive without being mobbed. There were no smart phones, no social media, and no TMZ (ah, the good ole days).
Even back then, he had this exuberance about him that beamed directly from his eyes into yours and penetrated your soul. I told him I love him (like any star-struck fan might) because at that time I was deep into music in the same way I'm trying to immerse myself again at this stage in life. Most people didn't know who he was at the time, but I did and for various reason (still trying not to use fake names here). I blurted out something to my friend that I didn't think anyone else heard, we spoke briefly, and then like that, we went our separate ways, to my chagrin.
Then life happened. College, first jobs, first firings, first long term relationship, first time moving away from home, first and second children and first divorce all followed. When I started going through the most difficult time in my life was almost exactly around the same time Pharrell began to "pop" again. "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" was on every radio station; suddenly something I hadn't thought about in years became a memeory that seemed like yesterday. So I delved into his catalogue. The music made a hard time that much more bearable. What I find the most soothing about the production by The Neptunes are the flawless and dreamy bridges and the way colors seem to meld together in a way that is meant to enhance the lyrics of the song. I say colors because I too am synesthetic (mind you I have no musical "talent". I never had the chance to hone this, but I enjoy my own personal light show from time to time).
What is it about N*E*R*D?
What I love about N*E*R*D is their ability to capture an entire lifetime in one album. The essence of their collection, to me, brings the feelings and experiences of so many into full sound. They made it okay to be different AND to embrace it. Who doesn't feel like a "Rock Star" from time to time? I know I'm not the first to experience unrequited love like the sentiment in "Maybe". Teenage angst is a perpetual state when you are a creative, so I've felt like I wanted to "Jump" and "Fly or Die" before I could tap into my own form of creative expression. And here I am now, pursuing more of my passions and striving for my "Victory".
Listening to these albums for the first time after they had been released years prior felt like a wake up call in a way. Like, how did I miss all of this? This was also the time I realized I had been "Frontin'" on my own desires and true loves. For this, I am forever indebted. Call me a "Stan" (dictionary verified) if you want to; I could care less. What I care about is how things and people make me feel. I understand the laws of attraction and the power of the mind, so when I think of the things I love, I attract more of it. I wasn't always so positive and grateful, but I've tried the opposite reactions, and it sucked. "You Can Do It Too."
Music is life, and life is music.
Three years ago on June 3rd, I was rejected beyond repair and the dissolution of my marriage ensued. I can now reclaim that date by reflecting on my experience at The Roots Picnic this year. As I made my way to the very front of the crowd, I marveled at my own bravery and foresight (it was a solo mission, but I knew it would work out). Trust me, I wasn't the only Cusp Millennial right in front of North Stage. One thing Pharrell has is dedicated fans. I even met members of the #PharrellArmy and the #NERDArmy. He even had one of his super fans, angelamyv on Twitter, on stage for her birthday. They are dedicated with reason: the person they adore has so many qualities that "regular" people don't even have. It's his hard work, humility (but not too humble) and commitment to his God-given talents that, to me, are most admirable. These are all qualities that I am trying to embody as I continue on my journey.
So there I was front and center for arguably one of the best live shows I've ever attended (and I've been to my fair share of shows). What impressed me most was how the live instrumentation made the music I had come to love feel fresh and new again, like it was to me nearly four years ago when I rediscovered The Neptunes, N*E*R*D and Pharrell's massive body of work. While I didn't get a chance to thank him personally, I am still grateful that I have this platform and can put my appreciation into the aether. To see how NORE, Pusha T and Black Thought sang his praises is a real testament to his work ethic and, presumably, his ethics in general. And when it was over, I felt like it was a full-circle moment in a weird way. If I never have the chance to witness him perform or see N*E*R*D get back together, I will still be immensely grateful for my personal experience with the music and the man himself (*waits patiently for the new N*E*R*D 🖖🏾).
I never thought I would retell the above story, mostly because it's almost unbelievable. But here I am, 17-18 years (I can't remember exactly what year it was) telling this story. I tell it because it is a part of my story and sheds light on my past, present and future. I share because I know there are those out there that can use encouragement, older millennials that love the same things I do, and a host of other folks that might take away something from reading what I choose to share. It may not be for everyone, but not everything is. I just want to continue to live in my truth--flaws and all--and show that life has a wicked sense of humor, so you have to be willing to laugh at yourself from time to time. "Laugh About It." So I still chuckle when I listen to certain songs because I am still that girl on the inside from back when I had my chance encounter. I think we all have certain experiences in life that we will always cherish, the key is to find the lessons in the bad experiences as well. If you've gotten this far, thanks. This is not the typical concert review or event recap that I would normally do. It's sappy and cheesy, but for me important to write and share.
Thank you, Pharrell, for the experiences, the show, the music and the life lessons you blend into your discography and everything that you do. Your music is a "Gust Of Wind" when I'm having a bad day or am ready to celebrate. It also doesn't hurt that my daughter is adamant that "Happy" is her favorite song. My son recently came home with a paper he had written about his family, and one of the things he said he loves about me is how when we drive, we listen his favorite music (a lot of N*E*R*D, G I R L and the Despicable Me Soundtracks, no doubt). This is part of why I started this site to begin with: to show gratitude and appreciation for one of the things I love the most, music.
I know this is long, so I'll end with saying that if you have the chance to go to the next Roots Picnic in Philly, you should definitely do it. Thank you to The Roots family for putting on amazing event filled to the brim with culture, to Thundercat who had me "Drunk" before my first drink, to Karen Civil for humoring me and allowing me to thank her for her example and encouragement, to Shae for being an integral member of my favorite band, to NORE for saying what we all were thinking, to Pusha T for reminding us that The Clipse are hip-hop legends, to SWV for the surprise performance that made me feel 13 again, to Solange for being so Solange, to travel mercies and no check engine lights, and to the crowd of people that exemplified the saying "city of brotherly love".
This is the first YouTube video I've found that has the entire set; check it out yourself.