Let it be known that I am the kind of person who has traveled the country and camped out on sidewalks for bands that I love. So when 5 Seconds of Summer were in town a few weeks ago to perform on Good Morning America, despite my glaringly obvious lack of tickets, I obviously (obviously) got my 26-year-old self up at 5 a.m. and headed over to Central Park on the off-chance that a group of teens and their moms would take pity on old-ass me and magically procure an extra entry to the show (bless you, kind 16-year-old stranger who came through). It was my first time seeing the band live ever after practically a year listening to everything 5SOS I could get my hands on, so my reaction to that is probably best summed up in the incoherent texts that most likely included things like "LIP RING IRL" and "ASDFGHJKL 5SOS."
And since they were coming back to New York a few weeks later to play at Jones Beach two nights in a row, I knew I was hitting up both of those bad boys like a mutha. And that second night — oh, that second night — that's when 5SOS played "Jet Black Heart" live for the first time and I practically ascended into heaven. Like, I think I left my body back at the venue.
Let me start off by saying that Jones Beach Night One exceeded any and all expectations I had of this band. It was my first time seeing the guys play a full set, and the phrase "effing killed it" doesn't even begin to describe their performance. The entire theater (and its 15,000-person capacity) was straight buzzing with such an infectious, vibrant energy that my pop-punk-loving heart could barely take it. Luke Hemmings, Calum Hood, Michael Clifford, and Ashton Irwin may be a solid 6-7 years my junior (WEEPING), but they played with the stamina, perfection, and raw talent of rock veterans twice their age. (Highlights of the night: "Disconnected," (<3) "Wrapped Around Your Finger" (<33333) and when Michael thanked Luke for giving birth to Calum or something).
So, when I found myself once again driving out to Long Island blasting 5SOS's entire discography and sing-screaming "Beside You" to myself on the Meadowbrook Parkway, I was secretly hoping that since they were performing at the same venue two nights in a row (and I'm sure I wasn't the only fan dedicated enough to attend both shows), the band would switch up the setlist a little for the second night. Truth be told, I would've totally gone for an entire set of just "Rejects" on repeat, but there was a part of me that hoping that Sept. 2 would mark the debut of "Jet Black Heart," especially since 5SOS tweeted they had been rehearsing it not that long ago.
When I got to the venue, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my seats were even more kickass than they had been the night before (here's to you, last minute StubHub deals) and that my proximity to Luke Hemmings was EVERYTHING. The audience on the first night was loud AF, but being on the floor this time and being a so much closer to the stage, there was no preparing for the decibel level of a 15,000-person crowd who was witnessing the first-ever live debut of "Jet Black Heart" all at the same time.
The stage was basically pitch-black save for ghostly white light shining on the guys, and, as the night before, I was expecting the guys to launch into their cover of "American Idiot" following "Everything I Didn't Say." But with a few guitar riffs to set the mood, Michael suddenly sings, "Everybody's got their demons" and I lose it, the crowd loses it, literally everyone in the venue is losing their goddamn minds because this is "Jet Black Heart" live and it already sounds better than anything we could've ever dreamed of. Of course everyone in the audience had been already playing that ish non-stop, so the crowd was pouring as much passion into the song as the band was putting out, resulting in the perfect blend of band-to-audience-and-audience-to-band interaction. (Side note: Calum's bridge may be the best thing that has ever happened in my life).
Experiencing something like that is to feel a kind of connection to the music that you cannot get anywhere else. To be so lost in the moment and in the music that it's like the band is singing directly to your soul, that when you're throwing your arms up in rhythm to the song it's like you've transcended time and place and the only thing existing is that performance in that exact moment. It is why I travel for my music and my bands. It is why I am in this profession. It is why my paychecks go straight into the pockets of my favorite artists.
And it is exactly why I will be seeing 5 Seconds of Summer for the third time this week on Saturday, ready to do it all over again.
Image: Michelle McGahan