Photo of Harry Styles in Seattle by Cassie Wilson
‘Catch Up With Cassie’ is now officially a segment/column/anything you want to label it, and I’m especially excited for this one because I get to talk about my musical roots. On Saturday, July 7, I got to see Harry Styles live.
Harry announced this North American tour over a year ago, and for most of the people in attendance, they’ve waited that long for their tour date to arrive. Me? I waited two days. Let me explain… Naturally—as someone who goes to a lot of smaller concerts, attends college full time, and is disabled—I’m broke, so I really never thought I’d be able to go to this tour. A few months ago, my best friend, Codie, told me that if I could find us a ride to Seattle (we’re from the Portland area), and he had money before the show happened, then he’d buy our tickets as an early birthday present for me. Somehow, everything worked in our favor and two nights before the show he secured our tickets, and less than 48 hours later we were on the road.
To grasp the full context of this experience, it’s important to know my musical history. One Direction was the first artist I discovered on my own and got really into. I first listened to them in 2012 at age 13, and saw them live in Seattle in 2013 on my 15th birthday. My life revolved around them in the form of fan accounts (which are apparently called ‘stan’ accounts now…how do you do, fellow kids?). Like hundreds of other people, five years ago I sat outside the arena gates hoping to meet them while simultaneously meeting Internet friends for the first time. I was truly bursting with excitement, anxiousness, and energy. One Direction is basically the reason I am where I’m at in life.
In the short time leading up to seeing Harry, I realized that I’d be seeing him almost exactly five years after seeing One Direction play the same venue, in a room full of people who I may have once known. This time, I was calm.
On the day of the show, my mom (bless her for driving) and I picked Codie up after he got off work, and drove straight through to Seattle… although we almost bypassed it because Seattle highways are weird (even the GPS thought so), and I got us lost twice before we were finally freed from the car. We got food, and got inside the venue with just under an hour until show time. We sat and looked around at the sections our friends were sitting in, and I waved at a longtime Twitter mutual a few sections over. It still didn’t feel real to be there.
It wasn’t long before Kacey Musgraves took the stage. If you don’t normally listen to country because you don’t relate to tractors, pickup trucks, and patriotism, then Kacey Musgraves is the country artist for you. She sings about topics familiar to most genres, but controversial in country, and she does so unapologetically. During her set, she looked out across the room and acknowledged that all types of humans are welcomed in this space, and added that all types of humans are welcome in country music too. There were pride flags in just about every section of the venue. At one point she had everyone yell “Yeehaw” which felt almost ironic in this setting. If you haven’t listened to her new album, Golden Hour, stop missing out. What better time to listen to country than the middle of summer? Lucky for us, she played almost every song from the record. It was nice to get a lengthy set from an opener on an arena tour.
Then it was time. As songs familiar to most in the arena played over the speakers, people sang their hearts out and got as hyped as if Harry was already on stage. In one section, someone even stood up to face the people behind them, acting as a hype-person of sorts. Me, on the other hand? I was just confused about why I was so calm.
I feel like something that doesn’t get talked about much in fandom culture is the feeling that if you don’t know everything—all the inside jokes and important dates, every word to every song, where your favorite artist is at any given time—then it can be pretty easy to feel like an outsider no matter how much you love an artist’s music. In 2013, I was definitely always in the know with One Direction, and naturally, a lot of people are still in the know with Harry, but that’s not the case for me. Now I’m the casual fan with a history.
The screen that hid the stage from everyone during the transition between sets had an animation of Harry’s hands trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube that acted as a countdown. Our anticipation was building, but largely because we were very concerned that they were going to leave the Rubik’s Cube unsolved when he came on stage. It would’ve been so unsatisfying, but thankfully when the lights went down, the cube became solved, and the arena shook with everyone’s screams.
I really hoped that the weird disconnected nostalgia I was feeling would pass the second he came on stage, but I spent the first half of his set reflecting and processing what One Direction and Harry Styles’ roles are in my life now, and it’s definitely what I needed to do. That being said I still enjoyed every second of it. It just took me a bit to recognize that it’s completely normal to not react the same way I did five years ago. This was 19 year old me seeing Harry Styles, not 15 year old me. Hearing “Two Ghosts” live in that moment of realization couldn’t have felt more fitting.
Then Harry came to the B stage, and let me tell you…everything changed. I finally was able to let loose. I accepted the present for what it is, and realized that I have every reason to be proud of where I’m at even if it means that I’m just a casual Harry Styles fan. It doesn’t lessen the weight of my memories.
I took out my earplugs during “Sweet Creature,” the first song on the B stage (the closest he would be to us during the show), and I sang my heart out with the choir of thousands of other people. Parts of my life may have changed, but not the part of me that loves singing along to one of my favorite artists in a room full of people also doing just that. Everything finally became fully real. I was seeing Harry Styles, in the year 2018, with one of my best friends. The grin on my face stayed there the rest of the night.
After playing One Direction’s “If I Could Fly,” Harry headed back to the main stage and played his second new song of the night. It ROCKED. I was practically singing along by the end of it. Though, if this were 2013 I would’ve known the words to even the unreleased songs, but now I was just happy to get to experience new material for the first time in front of me instead of through low quality YouTube videos.
At this point in the show, he started just casually talking to people who were up front, responding to some of their signs they brought, and joking around. Though he was far away, he made the show feel so much more intimate, even for those who aren’t in the know. The room felt smaller, and it reminded me that even arena shows can feel tight-knit if the right person is on stage. Harry introduced everyone to his touring band. He thanked them, the crew, and everyone in the room so genuinely that it felt individual.
Transitioning into the next song, Harry said, ‘This one’s an old one, but I’d like to believe it’s a good one. Sing along if you know it…’
“What Makes You Beautiful” has never been my favorite One Direction song, but holy shit. I lost it when Harry played it. I was yelling the words so loudly that my stomach hurt because I wasn’t breathing enough, but I didn’t care. I was finger pointing to every word as if it were a pop-punk anthem instead of a massive pop song. I was glowing, in every sense of the word.
He joked about how he and the band would be going away for the staged encore before he closed the main portion of his set with “Sign of the Times.” It was the first single from his self-titled debut that made it clear that Harry Styles was nowhere near done making music that would capture the hearts of even those who “hated” One Direction.
I knew he still had three more songs, but I couldn’t help but feel ‘happy and sad at the same time.’ (A Kacey Musgraves lyric, get on board y’all). I didn’t want the night to end.
The encore was honestly a blur for me. He ended the night with a bang in the form of “Kiwi.” I couldn’t have been happier to have just seen Harry Styles play his debut album in full, as well as two new songs, three One Direction songs, and two covers. (Although, I was surprised to learn that his cover of “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” by Ariana Grande was actually an original rendition because he wrote the song and let her have it).
By the end of the show, our friend Annie had joined us, and we headed to the car for the three hour drive home. The first half hour of the ride, though, was really just me endlessly laughing for no reason to the point of tears. I guess that’s what happens when the happiness overwhelms you all at once.
Seeing Harry Styles live allowed me to connect my past to my present, and to be able to revisit old memories without so much longing for what used to be. I sang along to every word that I didn’t think I still remembered from Up All Night and Take Me Home on our drive back to Oregon.
In one way or another, One Direction has been with me throughout my teenage years which are coming to an end in a few short weeks. I discovered them at 13, saw them live at 15, (felt ashamed to like pop from 16-17), and saw Harry Styles live at 19.
In many ways, liking a boyband was the most normal thing to happen to me in my teenage years. I look forward to continuing to yell along to One Direction songs in my twenties, and I hope I’ll take every chance I get to see Harry Styles live. When I do, I can’t wait to enjoy every second of it as my present self.