Morrissey and I go way back. My introduction to the man who would become my musical patron saint took place when I was 12 years old and alone in a basement in the wee hours of the night, which I think is a pretty fitting way to hear The Smiths for the first time. I was listening to a kind of proto-Pandora Internet radio station that I had programmed to play songs similar to those of The Cure, so, naturally, “Half a Person” was bound to come up at some point. When it did, I was immediately spellbound. I grabbed an eyeliner pencil that was sitting on my desk and scrawled a huge kohl heart on my bedroom wall with the band’s name inside of it before the first chorus had ended. I instinctively knew I had met my spiritual match in Morrissey, and now, nearly a decade later, that love is just as strong.
Throughout the past 10 years, whenever I’ve needed to hear it’s okay to feel different from the rest of the world, I’ve put on a Morrissey or Smiths album. The lyrics are defiant and fiercely independent in a way that transforms my feelings of alienation into ones of self-preservation and pride. Morrissey writes about being a bizarre person in a way that celebrates his otherness instead of feeling displaced by it, and which also never loses sight of the beauty that exists in both the world and himself. In “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side,” he seemed to sum up exactly what I’d been wondering for my whole life: “How can they see the love in our eyes and still they don’t believe us?” In that line and so many others, Morrissey has always reassured me that even if people don’t always get it, I’m not a space alien just because I’m sensitive. That self-acceptance is one of the most valuable gifts of my lifetime, and I’ll love him forever for giving it to me. I went to my seventh, eighth and ninth live Moz shows this week, and I’ll see him a tenth time before his current tour is over. I know it might sound extreme, but I’d go to every single date if I could.
Although I bought tickets months ago for this past weekend’s New York City shows at Terminal 5, I happened to catch Morrissey perform in Connecticut on October 6th by means of a happy coincidence. This is unusual for me because if I’m seeing Moz, I plan for it like a general plotting a military strike: I call out of work sick in order sit online and secure tickets as soon as humanly possible, queue up for hours on the days of the shows, and look up the layout of the venues beforehand in order to gun for the best front-row spots once I actually get inside. It’s maybe the most organized approach I take to anything in my life, but this was not the case for the Connecticut show at all. A guy that I’m sort of dating, Ben, and I happened to be in the state for an event at which he was the keynote speaker. As we arrived to the theatre where he was reading, I noticed a poster for an upcoming Morrissey show in the window, and then immediately noticed it was happening that night and that tickets were somehow still available. I started screaming in delight. Ben, instead of inching away slowly as he probably should have, bought us tickets on the spot. “You realize you’re basically opening for Morrissey now,” I told him.
There was an unexpected detour before we could go see my beloved Mozfather. Since meeting Ben, I’ve called him “Boy Genius,” Orson Welles’ famous nickname, because he does a mean impression of the director. It also works on the level that Ben is both young and totally fucking brilliant. I thought, “He should get a Boy Genius tattoo,” but then dismissed the idea. After Ben’s speech, I wrote “Boy Genius” in pen on his skin. He said, “If you dared me, I would get that tattoo done over for real right now.” So we stopped at a tattoo parlor and I felt the window of getting to the show on time close. What does it say about me that forcing someone to get a tattoo in my handwriting and missing part of a Morrissey show as a result is possibly the biggest sacrifice I’ve ever made in the name of romance?
We raced to the venue, limb in newly-inked limb, where Morrissey was already nearly through his set. Some Morrissey is better than no Morrissey, of course, so I decided to consider the show as a little surprise preview for the next three gigs I’d see on the tour. And what a preview it was! When I’m in the presence of my main man, I behave like one of those girls from old concert footage of Elvis performances. I become a whirlwind of tears and screams and ecstasy. Really cool way to behave in front of a new person I’m dating, right? I’m sure Ben thought it was totally hot when, after Morrissey left the stage before his encore, I began bargaining out loud like a child being dropped off for preschool for the first time and watching their parent from the window: “No! No! No! Come back. Oh my god. Please. Just come back.”
After impatiently waiting for another week to pass, the 12th finally rolled around, and I was absolutely ready for the show this time. I had instructed my friends to get tickets for the second Terminal 5 concert if they wanted to see Morrissey with me, because, as I explained to them, “I need to do the first one alone .” I know, I’m the worst, but when you’re as serious as I am about making sure you’re front-row center, there’s no room for stragglers who, like, want to abandon their spot in the crowd to get drinks. Amateurs. Also, I wanted to be able to be the teary, yelling freak that I am at Moz shows without having to feel self-conscious about it, especially after having Ben, someone in front of whom I try to play it relatively cool, see all my Morrissey-induced craziness go down in full effect the week before.
I lined up for the concert two hours before doors opened, which sounds intense but is really nothing when you consider the fact that people travel from other continents to sleep outside of Moz shows overnight in order to nab the first spot in line. I occupy a weird space in the Morrissey fan world: Although I’ve seen him waaaay more times than your average person who “loves the Smiths” (POSERS!), I’m nothing compared to people like Toni, a Norweigian guy I met who was on his 90th Moz live performance and intended to follow him for the rest of the tour, a fact which left me equally judgmental of his lifestyle and also completely jealous. People like Toni look at me as a dilettante, whereas the group of people that I see as dilettantes, those who might put on the Smiths every now and again and bob their heads along, look at me as an obsessive superfan. It’s a funny scale.
This show turned out to double as Amy Rose Sobfest 2012. Seriously, I started crying in line outside with hours to go before it even started, but what was I supposed to do? There were two tiny girls who must have been all of 15 nervously making out behind me in line and shyly calling one another beautiful in their Abercrombie sweatshirts, which reminded me of when I was 15, in shell-shocked teenage love, and waiting to see Morrissey for my own first time with my high school partner. After these adorable ladies unlocked the floodgates for me, I kept the tears flowing continuously for the rest of the evening. I’m a feelings bomb at Moz shows. I let go of absolutely everything I keep in my heart, letting it explode wetly out of me, down my cheeks and into my cleavage, mixed with dripping eyeliner, as I howl the lyrics that have defined my life since adolescence. It’s really attractive, needless to say.
The only time I stopped wailing at this show was during the absolute last song, when I had to get serious. The purpose of going so early to Morrissey performances is to take part in the grand tradition of stage invasion that’s specific to his concerts. During the encore at each date, the people in the immediate front of the audience try their damndest to fight off scores of bodyguards that are in place between the crowd and the band for this exact reason, scramble onstage, and hug Moz, and you better believe I take this mission very seriously. As Morrissey began “Still Ill,” which he closed with on each of the nights that I saw him, I literally climbed the dude next to me. He launched me onto the stage like a cheerleader performing a complicated routine, at which point I hit the edge of it head-on with my stomach as my skirt rode up and revealed my entire butt to all of Terminal 5. I’d like to pause at this point to both apologize and say “you’re welcome” to the hundreds of people present at that show, since I effectively mooned the whole room. The bodyguards rushed over to remove me (and my highly visible ass), but luckily Morrissey made it to me first, grabbing both my hands and gazing into my eyes with his legendarily insane blue ones as he crooned the chorus to me and me alone. Honestly? I can’t express the unearthly joy I felt at that moment. It was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I’m not embarrassed to tell you that I spent the subway ride home kissing the palms that Moz had held in his, grinning like a maniac as I did. This night also marked the only time that I’ve ever mooned a full room and been rewarded for it in such an otherworldly fashion instead of getting detention, which has historically been the more common response.
The next day was the last night of my Morrissey mini-tour until I see him again in December in Atlantic City for his last US date this year. I got in line around one o’clock in the afternoon to make sure I’d have a good enough view to sustain me until that show. After a few hours, my best friend Lilly joined me with some whiskey poured surreptitiously in coffee cups, a gallant move which made me glad I had abandoned my previous no-friends-allowed position. As we drank, we Sharpie’d enormous block-letter messages for Morrissey on our forearms in the hopes that he’d see them as we stretched for his hands, which he frequently holds out to fans in the front row as he performs. On me, Lilly wrote “KILROY,” a play on the matching t-shirts that read KILLJOY that Morrissey’s band wore for part of the tour, and on her, I wrote, “WHO IS WILDE?” This is a reference to the photo of Oscar Wilde with the caption WHO IS MORRISSEY? that is projected behind Moz as he sings and is also emblazoned on all his merch this year. Although we were proud of our Morrissey-centric witticisms, this time around, no one decided to make their temporary tattoos permanent prior to entering the venue.
Despite her utter adoration of his music, Lilly had never seen Morrissey live before Saturday night. We were both really excited about that fact, so I wanted to give her the full superfreak fan experience, hence the lining up early and markered arms. Luckily for me, instead of rolling her eyes and complaining about the five-hour-long wait and the difficulty of getting Sharpie off in the shower, she was totally into it, which is just one of the hundreds of reasons why she’s my best friend. You know someone truly loves you when they not only agree to take part in your deepest obsessions, but also have the best time in experiencing them with you. Seeing the total delight and awe on her face as Morrissey opened with “Shoplifters of the World” cinched this for me. In all truth, holding her hand so hard that I gave her bruises and giddily screaming lyrics at each other was just as important and resonant of a feeling as when I did the same thing with Moz himself the night before, and Lilly’s not even famous or anything. It was the perfect way to end my weeklong Morrissey stint.