Before that show, I had no idea why I enjoyed Tove Lo so much. On the surface, she looks just like another Ke$ha-inspired glitter party clone. But standing in the middle of Rickshaw Stop, somewhere between the whiskey, vaporizer smoke, and bendy straws, it hit me. Somewhere in that crowd, in all those eyes glittering in the lights coming from the stage, it all became so painfully obvious: we are all hurt. And that’s why we were there.
Amidst the clinking of glasses and beer cans, the two opener DJs, DJ Aaron Axelsen and Miles the DJ tried to stir up the crowd. To be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting the best out of them, as my only real experience with both of them is through their Live 105 radio sets. I figured they’d play some radio hits or something, but I guess I should’ve known not to assume anything from first sight.
They started to warm up the crowd with some incredible live mixes, skillfully weaving together some Flight Facilities, Disclosure, Metronomy, and a ton of other really great artists. Inexplicably, there was a couple swing dancing. I think another pair were tango dancing. Everyone else was just excitedly bobbing along. Fast Times at Ridgemont High played on the projector, interspersed with clips of 80s workout videos. After the surprise that was the opening set, I decided to stop thinking and just roll with it. Sure, man. I love that swimming pool scene, too.
Somehow, even after everyone was pretty much shoulder to shoulder, they piled more and more people into Rickshaw Stop. People were still bobbing along and dancing, and just as I was pretty sure I was going to have to find a way to escape being crowded, the lights dimmed and the band stepped onto the stage.
The opening notes for “Paradise” started playing as Tove Lo stepped out. Clad in nothing more than a tie dye t-shirt and white shorts, she immediately started owning the stage. She wasn’t even wearing any shoes. It didn’t matter. She started dancing back and forth, all over Rickshaw Stop’s tiny, intimate stage.
By the time she settled into “Habits (Stay High)” in the middle of the set, each person in the crowd was in the midst of baring their own pain. The song itself starts out strikingly reminiscent of Ke$ha’s party girl song, “Tik Tok.” Tove Lo starts singing about eating her dinner in a bathtub, going to sex clubs, and watching freaky people gettin’ it on. It’s a veritable Old Testament-style callout of her party girl credentials, until you get to the feels-ridden chorus.
“Spend my days locked in a haze
Trying to forget you babe
I fall back down
Gotta stay high all my life
To forget I’m missing you
It felt like getting stabbed. I had listened to her album plenty of times before, and I understood just how tender those songs were. But nothing prepared me for the moment that she started singing those lyrics right in front of me. The crowd began to sing along, and for a few moments, they dropped the beat, and I turned to look at the crowd, all looking up and into her microphone. Everybody’s eyes were closed, their mouths belting out in a kind of sympathetic yell, their own memories firing up and taking them back to the moment when they, too, were living these lyrics.
Her set ends just as quickly as it begins. Just like any notorious break-up, the world suddenly comes to an end. We knew what this was from the beginning; her album is only six tracks, twenty minutes long. Her set wasn’t much longer. She played through her whole album, Truth Serum, and then she was gone. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. We all had our time together, and that time came to an end in the bright light and smoky platform that was the stage. I wanted more, but I knew deep down that I wasn’t going to get it.
That’s the draw. That’s what this is all about. That’s why Tove Lo sticks with you, long after the last drop of liquor leaves your lips, while you’re walking home in the cold, dark night, with nothing and nobody left but you alone with your thoughts. It was never about the party, the drinking, the whiskey, or the beer.
It was about what you lie in bed with alone at night: the memories, good and bad. For a moment, we’re all Tove Lo, and we’re all hurting, reaching for something to help us forget, something to take the pain away and help us move on. And I guess that’s what love is: moving on.
And Tove Lo gets it.
Not On Drugs
Out Of Mind
Run On Love
Photos © 2014 Jessica Lachenal, unless otherwise noted.