Concert Reviews

Is Going Alone to Maggie Rogers Worth the Price?

Maggie Rogers plays two nights at the Ogden Theatre.
Maggie Rogers plays two nights at the Ogden Theatre. Katia Temkin
Update: Maggie Rogers, who was slated to play two Denver concerts April 9 and 10, announced over Twitter she is too sick to perform. The shows will be rescheduled for August 6 and 7. Refunds are available at the point of purchase.

I am not the kind of person who buys expensive concert tickets. I don’t buy clothes at full price, and I routinely shop at three different grocery stores to get the best deal on butter. But my dear friend had had a year from hell and the Philadelphia show was sold out, so I ignored my inner spendthrift and went on StubHub. I spent a ton of money, $400 in total, to give her a night to remember — a night with our new favorite artist, Maggie Rogers.

When I surprised her with the tickets, my dear friend was overjoyed — until she realized she was out of town the day of the show. I put out feelers to a handful of people, but when I told them how much I’d paid, everyone said, “Whoa, that’s a lot of money for a general-admission ticket.” And it was. I know. I could have flown across the country for that kind of cash. I wouldn’t have done it for myself, but my dear friend deserved to see Maggie and feel inspired, even if it came at an inflated price.

I sold my friend’s ticket to a girl through Craigslist. We met a block from my apartment, and she thanked me profusely — her birthday was the day of the show — and said if I knew of anyone with any more tickets, her friend was dying to go. I told her I might have one — my own — because I was on the fence about going by myself and explained the situation. “Oh, you have to go!” she blurted out. This was not the response I expected. All I could think about was how much I’d paid for concert tickets. But the girl from Craigslist was insistent: “You can just dance, and it’s dark and, I mean, it’s Maggie! You’ll be in a safe space.” What she said was true. All of it. And the fact that she was encouraging a stranger to go by herself when she could have swiped my ticket for her friend made my heart swell. This was such a Maggie person. And if I went to the show alone, I would be surrounded by Maggie people, and maybe they would offset the potential loneliness of not having a friend of my own next to me.

I reached out to Bernadette in Maine, my friend who is four years older and very much my mentor. She’d seen Maggie in Portland just days before. “I go to concerts by myself all the time!” she said. Of course she did: She was well-adjusted, socially flexible Bernadette. She accepts and adapts to change, while I have the turning radius of a cruise ship. This concert, however, was an opportunity to be more like Bernadette. This was a chance to intentionally veer toward the person I wanted to be. I decided I would go to the Maggie Rogers show alone. I was either crazy or growing up.

The day of the show, I find myself eagerly awaiting that sacred hour in which it is Time to Get Ready. I am surprised to find that my rituals are not altered by my going alone; I daresay they are enhanced. Everything is on my time. First, I make a drink. I use the Good Tequila because this night is going to be Good for Me. I put on jeans, a black shirt, my silver Nike high tops, and no one gives me elevator eyes that make me second-guess my outfit. I blast the songs I want to hear in the order I want to hear them without any riffraff from the peanut gallery (I repeat Maggie Rogers’s “The Knife” three times as I perfect a new dance move). I don’t have to share the mirror or ask someone, “Is this too much eyeliner?” I KNOW it is too much eyeliner, and I am deeply into it. I’m going to see Maggie Rogers! I call a Lyft and am outside waiting for it when it arrives, because I am ready to go, and I don’t have a friend upstairs who needs “one more minute.”

I arrive at the venue at 8 o’clock on the dot. This is according to my plan to get up close to the stage. It is still early enough that the line to get in moves quickly, and security is still in a good mood. The woman who pats me down even calls me “honey,” which carries me past the couples and the groups of friends crowded at the bar inside. I flirt with the idea of a drink but decide I don’t want to risk needing the bathroom later and giving up my spot by the stage. Instead, I make a quick stop in the bathroom and float past the line of girls looking at their phones while waiting for their friends to emerge from the stalls.

In the concert hall itself, a concentrated crowd of people lines the perimeter, but the floor in front of the stage looks relatively welcoming. There is a sign that reads "No Alcohol Past This Point," which explains the dense perimeter population, and I have never been prouder of myself for passing on a drink. I skip past glittered-out babes holding beers and try not to run toward the empty stage. I am six people back, which is good enough for me, and sandwiched by couples, which is surprising. I’d been to many shows with my ex-boyfriend, and we’d had fun, but that’s not where I am tonight. I realize I am happy to be alone — thankful, even. Tonight is my experience. A voice inside my head hisses, “Yeah, for all them dollars!” but before she can remind me of all the more pragmatic things I could have done with that money, the lights dim, and everyone starts clapping, and I know I won’t be able to hear her for the rest of the night.

The opener, Melanie Faye, strolls out in a baggy rainbow sweater and with crazy guitar riffs. I’m not a musician, but even I can appreciate that what she is doing is not the least bit casual, even if her demeanor is. “I started playing guitar because of Guitar Hero 3,” she says between songs. “How are we feeling, um...Philly?” After her bandmates confirm, Faye explains she is on tour and hasn’t slept all day. In that moment she seems young to me, so I look her up on my phone and learn she’s 21. No wonder she’s tired: Aren’t your bones still growing at 21? “Follow me on Instagram,” Melanie instructs us at the end of her set. “Don’t be stingy with the follows!”

Between Melanie’s set and Maggie’s arrival, I take in the crowd and eavesdrop on conversations. I realize that talking with friends at concerts is kind of impossible; it’s so loud that you have to yell. Most people are staring at their phones with their friends right next to them, doing the same. There are two girls behind me listing everything they ate today in voices that seem familiar before I identify them as Alvin and the Chipmunks. “What was the meat in that sandwich?” the one girl asks her friend. “Fuck if I know,” the friend responds. They laugh. It sounds like teenage boys at a party after sucking down helium balloons. It’s hilarious and endearing. I swear these girls have stood behind me at every show I’ve ever attended.

Less than an hour later, the house goes dark, and hazy orange lanterns glow on stage. It reminds me of a campfire, which seems intentional, given Maggie Rogers’s affinity for hiking. It’s incredible, how much I know about this young woman — how her songs have allowed me to hear her and also feel heard. As the crowd starts to clap and the guy next to me yells, “Let’s go, Maggie!,” I clap and cheer and find myself grinning ear to ear. Maggie’s album is called Heard It in a Past Life, and knowing she’s here in this space in this city makes me see my life anew. We go to concerts to connect with the artist, to see her with our own eyes, to pay homage, to dance with our own belief and sing for our own salvation. We are not Maggie’s crowd, but her congregation.

The bandmembers emerge first, dutifully move toward their positions, heads down, instruments up. And then here is Maggie, in high-waisted white jeans, a silver silky blouse and the best silver glitter eyeshadow I have ever seen. She looks like a moon goddess, and I can’t stop smiling. As Maggie moves through the songs of her album, she throws her head back and laughs, spins like a ballerina and grooves across the stage, all fluid hips and long hair trailing behind her, trying to keep up. I cannot take my eyes off of her, and the grin on my face is that of a euphoric lunatic. Between songs, the girl next to me yells, “I love you, Maggie!,” and her boyfriend and I both send up supportive cheers.

Maggie kicks off one of my favorite songs from her album, and I sing along, praise be, thinking of the backstory behind the lyrics. The explosion of her success catapulted her around the world at breakneck speed, almost to the point of a breakdown, before she returned to herself. As Maggie hits the chorus of “Back in My Body,” I realize I’m out of mine, transcendent, grateful for this escape.

This is the whole point of a show. It can be a social event, of course, but at its best, music is an experience for the soul. It’s an opportunity to lean toward the light and feel seen in the dark.

Maggie ends the set with “Falling Water,” and everyone cheers and claps to make her come back for an encore. She does. Alone. Without her bandmates backing her up, Maggie returns to the stage, bathed in white light. The crowd keeps chanting her name, and it’s deafening in the best way, and this is when I start to cry. Because there’s Maggie, alone yet surrounded, vulnerable and indomitable, laughing so hard her dimples have turned to caverns. Maggie’s eyes are closed as she takes it in. There is so much love in here for a young woman who got swept up in something big and figured out how to navigate it in a way that works for her.

She sang a song then, somewhere between a campfire tune and a haunting lullaby. It was beyond this universe, recovered from a past life. I thought of filming it, this profound performance, but recording Maggie’s final gift would have been like taking out my phone during wedding vows; the experience felt just as sacred. I looked up at Maggie Rogers, wet pinpricks behind my eyes, and saw the strength in her song, and my own sovereignty in choosing to bear witness, alone. I was my own dear friend, and I deserved to see an inspiring performance, even if the ticket came at an inflated rate.

For the cost of the ticket, I could have taken a trip — and I did. Maggie’s willingness to be herself, alone, out there and up there, was why we were all here. It was worth it. I was worth it. And you, Denver, are, too. Get the ticket. Go to the show.
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Beck Dorey-Stein lives in Philadelphia and is the author of the New York Times bestseller From the Corner of the Oval. Photo by Lawrence Jackson.