Conor Oberst at the Fox Theater, by Jon Bauer
Conor Oberst (photo: Jon Bauer)

Also Titled: How To Be Sad in Public

I have seen Conor Oberst live over 15 times in the last seven years, but the last time I saw him at the Fox was in 2011 with Bright Eyes. Within time, I have gone from a fangirl waiting outside for hours to someone that gets there 30 minutes before door. I hug the friends I’ve met since the first time I saw Oberst at Hardly Strictly in 2010. Somehow their infatuation with him hasn’t shimmered down. I join them by the front of the stage, until I disappear to the bathroom.

When you’re anxious or sad, it is best to escape to the bathroom and not stand by the front of the stage. You will be trapped by other fans at the front of the stage, surrounded by people who don’t really like being asked to move. Or maybe they wouldn’t mind, but to be truly sad in public, you must believe that they will mind and hate you if you try to escape the front. And especially if you try to come back; oh God, you’re going to bump into so many people, and spill so many drinks then get the stare of disappointment. Ooh, not tonight. Oh no. You’re going to stay at the back of the pit, by the stairs, you’re going to plan your escape. That’s the first step. Second step is to get the cheapest overpriced beer.

That is what I did. I sat on the floor by the trash cans and admired the Fox Theater, because everytime I’ve been there I was a different kind of sad. A distracted sad. This sad was more of a conscious one, I knew I was sad and was OK with it. I got to take my time and stare into the eyes of the Fox, and of the very creepy but comforting statue with glowing red eyes.

Another tip to being sad in public is sitting on the floor during the first act, especially because there’s still not enough people to make it impossible to watch. I had seen opener Phoebe Bridgers before, and that time I wasn’t too sold on her music, but on Friday the 12th of May, I was. Maybe it was the fact that she was helping the floor seem a lot more comforting, maybe it was the way her voice filled up a room. May have also been when she did a cover of the Bright Eyes song “Bad Blood.”

As people start to crowd the floor, the best way to be sad in public is by keeping by that trash can by the stairs. Even when you run into friends whom you haven’t seen in a long bit. You smile, you hug, but as soon as Julien Baker comes on stage, the sad will just come back. Welcome that sad, let Julien Baker cradle your sad, and give your sad a partner in crime. The crime being crying in public. (Though I would argue that it is not a crime to cry in public; let yourself break down in public, it’s good for you. But to keep with the theme, let’s call it a crime.)

So after successfully crying in public and being in awe of Baker’s angelic voice came the man who has given men the opportunity to use the pick-up line, “Oh, I see you like Bright Eyes, that means we’ve cried to same songs.” Oh yes, we probably have. A good tip to being sad in public is to not deny the songs you have cried to in the past.

This tour was in celebration of Oberst’s newest album Salutations, but this didn’t mean that he only sang songs from that album. Though that album may be my favorite of his in a while. Oberst and, his touring band and friends, the Felice Brothers performed songs from every project Conor Oberst has ever touched (except Desaparecidos). From Bright Eyes to Monsters of Folk, they took each song they performed and gave it new life. A tip to being sad in public is accepting when music offers you new life. I accepted it. I sang along, I returned to the little 15-year-old girl who cried to sleep to these songs, then to the 18-year-old me that took the songs that made me cry and made them give me purpose.

A tip to being sad in public is stepping away from those who are taking up too much space with their frantic dance moves, but at the same time being a little jealous that they have the energy to dance so freely. Let the folks around you bring out the predetermined encore, because you already know that the Bay Area isn’t going to let Conor Oberst leave without an encore. A tip to being sad in public is screaming along as they perform the final song, “Train Under Water.” The same song that helped me get obsessed with watching Conor Oberst live, the first time I saw him live. I sang so loudly, I almost forgot I had to pee. A tip to being sad in public is holding your pee until the end of the show because the venue got too packed to leave to pee without anxiety.

A final tip to being sad in public: Go outside after the show, either smoke a cigarette or stand by your friends who are smoking cigarettes, talk about your Bright Eyes tattoos, talk about your love for Conor Oberst, and sing along one final time before you go to a friend playing “A Perfect Sonnet” on their phone.