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One: What it’s like to be in the pit on music’s biggest night, The 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards @ Staples Center, 1/26/14

UntitledI’ve said “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity” to myself an uncountable number of times in my life over the past decade; as the quote in that movie goes, I’ve done twice the things I’ve said I did. But it was still hard to wrap my head around the fact that this would be my 5th year to attend GRAMMY week; and it has gotten no less exciting every time. It’s crazy to think that 5 years ago someone at The Recording Academy (hi Megan!) read something that I wrote and brought me into all of this, and for some reason they keep asking me back! I always trip out on the seemingly little things that happen that sprout this type of auxiliary trail in my life that have lead to big things…

IMG_6948After the Producers & Engineers Wing event, GRAMMY Connect, and our annual Community Blogger lunch atop the Hilton Checkers…the weekend kicked things into high gear. From watching NIN and QOTSA with Lindsay Buckingham and Dave Grohl rehearse as well as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and Blake Shelton, to standing a mere feet away from one of my all time favorite actors, Tom Hanks, and finally understanding the awesomeness of Lady Gaga at the MusiCares Person of the Year Gala…Friday was a long, crazy day.

Saturday was the surreal experience of attending the Special Merit Awards, who, this year, honored the likes of Kraftwerk, Kris Kristofferson, and The Beatles. I had to rub my eyes to believe that I was actually seeing so many legends in this one photo!

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And then it was suddenly Sunday, and I was getting my hair pulled and tugged and my makeup done next to a guy who was saying things like, “I was with Kanye when he got his first GRAMMY.” And there I was in a uber headed downtown running into Nokia Theater and sitting in a row with Billy Crystal (who left after he didn’t win). I watched three hours of Cyndi Lauper struggling to read her lines, barely making it through the Rock awards (always last) in the Pre-Telecast, one eye always wandering around, searching for the Golden God and Zoso. But after their win and the quick “The Podium Accepts”, I knew they were not gonna make that wish of mine come true. Then I was running across LA Live in my Valentino booties towards Staples, and began peeling back the layers of credentials to get me to the center of it all: the GRAMMY pit.

When, in late 2008, my boyfriend at the time, a Silicone Valley software engineer, told me I should start posting tweets from shows, I thought he was crazy. Fast forward six years, and somehow I have become faux famous for posting somewhat shitty photos of live shows all year ’round. I mean, I even paid a ridiculous amount of money for internet access to be able to Instagram an extreme metal concert cruise from the ocean. But somehow I end up in these places that a lot of people wanna be, and even if it’s blurry or poorly composed, there is something about capturing a moment and sharing my excitement about it in real time.

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I was standing in the right hole of the stage with about 25 pretty young thangs thinking about my inaugural time doing this, the previous year. However, I was facing the audience, and I spotted Ozzy, Geezer, and Iommi. And then James, Lars, and Robert. And I remembered that everyone kept saying, “This is YOUR year!” because after four years of politely (and occasionally genuinely) enjoying acts that weren’t “mine”, this year some of my favorite bands would be a part of the big show. I never would have expected this to happen; this is the week of the year where I am reminded that I don’t listen to any mainstream music, that my whole mantra of having ‘one foot in the mainstream and one in the underground’ might not even be true. It was somewhat comforting to look out and see these faces amongst the Beyonces and the Swifts and the Punks.

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And then the lights went down and the producer counts down and suddenly we’re live. And I look over, and there is Beyonce nearly nekkid on a chair in front of me. Beyonce and I were once just two girls from Houston…I purposefully don’t ask for a rundown of the show because I wanna be surprised. I want my reactions to be as genuine as yours. I have to remind myself that I’m here to share the experience with you, so I raise my phone and capture some of the first images to hit the ‘net. And then comes Jay-Z, and one of the biggest couples in music are gliding past my shoulder. Beyonce’s doing her thang with Jay-Z at her back, and he looks down on us and smiles and winks. And that was the first 5 minutes of the GRAMMYs for me.

I can’t really hear the presenters from where I’m standing but I can see the backs of them really well. When Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won Best New Artist, I could barely hear them say “we made this album without a record label”…which was probably the loudest statement of the night.

While Lorde was performing on the center stage, I watched the crowd’s reactions, as the stars were closer to me than she was. Taylor Swift was voraciously singing every word. But the best thing I caught was Ozzy staring off in the distance…and then eventually putting his fingers in his ears! HA!

When Daft Punk won for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and I captured the robots coming up on stage and was retweeted by @theGRAMMYs, my phone had a total meltdown as I got followed by about a 1000 new people. I went into panic mode for a couple minutes until it turned back on again.

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After Katy Perry’s crystal ball and burning witch performance, I got in trouble by the cameramen for raising my phone in the air in front of the camera, and luckily I was saved by someone who knew I was supposed to be there before I was kicked out. I don’t know what it was about me that week, but I got accosted by security or people in charge (wrongfully) at least 10 times throughout all of the events I went to that week!

It was cool to watch Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear come on stage to accept their award for Best Rock Song. It took only 2 hours to make that song! Beatlvana…

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Speaking of that, I was standing right behind Ozzy, Geezer, and Iommi when Ozzy flubbed his lines and they started cracking up about introducing Ringo Starr. What a trip that was, to watch such an evil band laughing hysterically in front of me! I was literally surrounded by Black Sabbath and a Beatle.

And then there was Pretty Woman Julia Roberts introducing Paul McCartney w/ Ringo Starr, the first time they had played together in…a long time. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the stage to see a lot of it, but I thought the accompanying video playing behind them of all of these stars like Johnny Depp and Kate Moss and Meryl Streep dancing to the song was interesting.

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I watched Jeremy Renner go a bit off the teleprompter while introducing one of my favorite segments of the night, Willie and Kris. Of all the times I’d seen Willie play across my life- more than any other artist- this was the closest I had ever been to him. Since my mom died, every time I’ve seen him means automatic crying, so I was worried that this was going to ruin my makeup, but for some reason I held it together, even when he looked down and we sang a few words of The Highwaymen together. The night before, when Kristofferson received his Special Merit Award, he barely gave a speech because he claimed that from all of his head trauma he can only remember his wife, his songs, and his kids…and as he began to sing his verse, he did stray a bit from the song, with a concerned Willie looking over…but that made the moment more special to me because it was real. Getting old is hell. And then came Merle, who I had just seen the month before. Mama always wanted me to grow up to be a cowgirl…but instead somehow I found myself here.

Unfortunately the Daft Punk/Pharrell/Stevie Wonder/Nile Rodgers performance was on the other side of the stage from me and I could barely see it at all! But that was about to be made up for several times over…

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I’ve never had that life-flashing-before-my-eyes thing happen during any of my near-death experiences, only in the extreme highs of my life…and as I watched Metallica walk onto the stage during the Lou Reed tribute, I remembered listening to “One” laying down next to my speaker as a kid to a few years ago at the band’s inaugural Orion Fest where it felt like I was standing in a field that was being bombed. I felt the fire as the bombastic piano of Lang Lang filled the room. And as those first notes started, I got chills! I nearly forgot where I was, as the song swelled and I raised my fist to sing along “hold my breath as I wish for death” as I always have and always will. It was surreal, to see a band without all of my usual friends around me…should I tone it down? I mean, Paul McCartney is right there in front of me…and then that part comes in: DARKNESS IMPRISONING ME ALL THAT I SEE…and, forget about it…there I was, headbanging in an updo and a cocktail dress, with wide-eyed kids around me. It was awesome.

I had watched Steven Tyler sing that a cappella part in rehearsals with a stand in Smokey Robinson. I never thought I’d say “oh, there’s Daft Punk again” in my life, as they silently climbed on stage yet again.

During a commercial break, a guy in some seats off to the side stood up and yelled, “Hey Ringo!!! OVER HERE!” and flailed his arms…and sure enough, Ringo heard and stopped up and waved his trademark peace sign at him, and the crowd cheered.

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And then I somehow ended up attending 33 weddings while at the GRAMMYs, as Macklemore performed “Same Love” while lots of different types of couples were married in the aisles of Staples. And then, suddenly, there was Madonna standing a mere few feet in front of me, singing “Open Your Heart” with a cane, just like Prince had the year before. Holy shit! That’s Madonna!

Much has been said in the metal community about the omission of GRAMMY-winning Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman from the ‘In Memoriam’ section of the show, and yes, that was unfortunate. I couldn’t see any of this at the time…I was being yelled at to move to the perimeter of the tiny pit while a bunch of equipment with NIN stickers on it were being thrown in there…special lights.

Sometimes my story just writes itself.

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I am most well-known for my Nine Inch Nails fandom, and when I found out they would be playing the closing set at the GRAMMYs, I thought someone was playing an elaborate joke on me. So as I settled into the front of the pit for the most unique NIN show I would probably ever experience, I had a little smile on my face thinking about the strange path that I’ve taken to get here.

And apparently I was the only one who got to see it.

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I could NEVER have imagined that I’d get to see NIN with Dave Grohl on drums, Lindsay Buckingham on guitar, and Josh Homme on guitar. It was much smoother than when I saw the run-throughs during rehearsals, where Buckingham kept complaining about not being able to hear and Grohl yelled something like, “get the man a chai latte!”. I was singing and bouncing around to “Copy of A” into “My God is the Sun”, completely forgetting where I was, especially since some of the trademark lights and production pieces on the stage made me feel like I was at home at a NIN show. And right when I was really getting into it, it was over. And the kids in the pit were proclaiming how much they liked “my” bands when they were yelling for Taylor Swift earlier, and that made me happy. But then my phone lit up with That Tweet from Trent Reznor and I knew something had gone wrong…

Apparently it was like a real life What Up with That?

Anyway…I’m sorry that some people didn’t get to witness this cool collaboration…but you can take my word for it that it was awesome. Just awesome!

And just like that, another GRAMMY year in the can. Will there be a year 6 for me? We’ll see…!

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You can see the entire liveblog I was contributing to here.

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1 Comment

  1. jay

    01.31.2014

    Reply

    good stuff jamie! love your perspective!

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