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Viva La Vida!

Yesterday, I went with The Guy I Am Currently Dating to see the sold-out Coldplay show at Philips Arena here in Atlanta. Even though yesterday wasn’t the best day in the world, and I wasn’t feeling all that positively about the present and future state of our relationship (nor was I feeling positively towards the idea of relationships in general), I wasn’t about to let emotional chaos ruin my trip out to see my favourite band. Nor was I going to let the fact that it was in the 100′s again yesterday, and I am a sick person who should avoid heat and crowds who wanted to go to a place that held a never-ending sea of people in a venue that could have used double the air conditioning keep me from using the tickets I purchased in December.

For those who don’t know me, or my situation, it’s important to mention that I developed an illness last year that turned out to be a vestibular disorder. Not all vestibular disorders are the same, but many people who suffer from them have similar challenges. Bright lights, loud noises, generalized anxiety, and panic attacks in crowds or wide open spaces (agoraphobia) are all common issues. Almost all people suffer from intense vertigo, dizziness, or lightheadedness. My situation is exacerbated by the fact that my illness developed as the result of a mild heatstroke and severe sunburn. As a result, my body no longer regulates its temperature well. I have to be very, very careful about environments that are too hot or too cold. The past week of 100+ temperatures have been really hard on me, physically and emotionally. It certainly wasn’t the best week to brave a concert at one of the most wide open, crowded places I could think of. However, nobody knows that in December, when they’re buying concert tickets. In fact, last December, I wasn’t even sure I’d be alive in July for the concert. It was like an incentive: “If I spend $200 on concert tickets to see my favourite band, I have to be around, and be well enough to go.” I figured that if I did die, someone I knew in Atlanta would go for me. :)

I have steadily improved in certain ways over the past year, and though I can’t yet go in Wal-Mart or Target without falling apart, I’ve been able to attend parties, social events, and even loud concerts with flashing lights, in smaller venues. I’ve been able to get on a bus and travel, and though I didn’t make it to New York yet, I realised I could make it halfway without too much of an issue. I really, really thought I could handle Coldplay. I was wrong.

I have seen Coldplay in concert 5 times before—this is my 6th concert, if you can count it as actually being at the concert. Although one of my favourites, they are typically a mellow, low-key show, one reason I thought I might be able to handle it. So, I was a bit confused when I got to the door, and they handed out wristbands with a little box attached, like one of the security tags they put on merchandise at the mall so you don’t steal anything. In addition, everything was in green and pink “flower power” motif, and the opening act was Robyn, who I found to be a very odd opening act for Coldplay. Robyn had a few hit songs in the 80′s, none big enough to really be remembered, and somehow launched a comeback in 2010 or 2011. She is a dance artist who sounds like a less talented version of Cyndi Lauper, but the disco, flower-power thing seemed to fit her perfectly.

We arrived a little late, and by the time we parked, got through the line, found one another, got beverages and French Fries, put in earplugs, and were ready to find our seats, Robyn was already in full effect. I was shocked when I got through the curtain to our section and was overwhelmed by strobe lights and neon screens and lights everywhere. The Guy I Am Currently Dating tried to get us to our seats, but it took an awfully long time, and I had to run back up and out of the room to safety. I can’t be around bright lights or moving lights, and the combination of the two is intense. Even before I got ill, I was advised to avoid strobe lights, because epilepsy runs in my family.

When we got out of the auditorium, The Guy I Am Currently Dating told me that *he* was experiencing vertigo trying to navigate to our seats. Since I think someone should pay *me* to see a Robyn concert, we decided to stake out a corner of the hallway that was largely ignored and sweat it out until Coldplay took the stage.

When they finally did, we made it to our seats, and I was very overwhelmed and more than a little dizzy because of the wide open space and the seemingly endless sea of people. However, thanks to adding a vodka cranberry to the extra quarter of Valium I’d taken to try to handle the event, I felt like I’d be able to cope. It was the worst possible environment for me, but I was going to cope, and enjoy seeing the band, and everything was going to be fine.

Then, I realised what the wristbands were for.

When Coldplay took the stage, a mixture of loud noise, strobe lights, lasers, and spinning lights accompanied them. Then, all at once, 50,000 people had wristbands that started flashing in time with the music. There was literally nowhere to hide, and it was like being swallowed up by a giant blinking Christmas tree. Even with my eyes closed, I could see the blinking and the spinning, and it very much resembled the ENG they performed on me to diagnose my inner ear disorder.

I thought it would be a gimmick that they did for one song, so I stuck it out. Plus, I felt too dizzy to make it up the stairs and towards the exit. Unfortunately, they kept going on with it, so that there was a sea of endless, blinking, multi-coloured lights at all times.

I’m not sure how I got out of there. It’s like adrenaline carried me, because I don’t really remember leaving my seat and making it to the top of the stairs, where I could hear the band but not see as much. However, by that time, the damage had been done.

If you’ve ever been on a rollercoaster, you know what I’m talking about. Your legs are like jelly, your head spins, and you need to find the nearest trashcan and hold on to it for dear life in case your stomach is as wobbly as the rest of you. That is what happens to my brain when overstimulated by light, noise, and air pressure. Clearly, there was no way I could watch the Coldplay concert. It was hard enough to stand.

So, we sat in the hallway of Philips Arena, garnering disapproving glances from the occasional person who stared at us, wordlessly saying “You’re not supposed to be sitting on the floor. It’s against the rules.” (It probably was.) But, if we couldn’t see Coldplay, we’d at least listen to them, even if it was way too damn hot in that building.

Honestly, I have to say, I felt a little betrayed by Coldplay. My favourite band hurt me in the most dramatic way possible, and without warning. (There are plenty of people with epilepsy and other neurological disorders that can’t tolerate those types of lighting effects. Any Broadway show will come with a warning about special effects before you buy your tickets. It’s just plain irresponsible that concerts do not. They did have a sign saying “Theatrical haze will be used during the show”, yet no mention of strobe/laser/blinky lights.) When I pointed this out to someone working at Philips Arena, they mentioned it was up to the artist to post warnings about that, not the venue.

So, I do have to blame Coldplay for the horrible experience I had last night. Had I known, I could have given my tickets (which were not bad seats at all) to someone who might have enjoyed the show. I sent a text to a friend of mine (who doesn’t always appreciate my texts, and may or may not have responded with eye rolling) that said “Coldplay is letting me know they’re just not that into me. After 12 years, that’s pretty harsh.”

Really, it is. On top of it, I don’t know if I consider them my favourite band anymore. I love their first few albums, but the last two have left me with maybe 5 songs I like between them. The Guy I Am Currently Dating commented on the weird mix of people who were in attendance, and it’s true. The average Coldplay fan is my age, someone who appreciated them in the early 2000′s when they were awesome, and is likely to be between 25 and 40 years old. Then, of course, there were a ton of trendy-looking white high school kids who think Robyn is cool, and many kids about 7 or 8, obviously dragged by their parents to listen to music old people like.

I don’t know if I relate to or appreciate the “new” sound Coldplay has been marketing to try to stay hip and current. For a band that started as an “alternative” sound, and then managed to cross over, they’re just trying a little too hard…and I’m not the only one who thinks that, because they haven’t exactly been topping the charts with their efforts since 2006, save for “Viva La Vida” and “Paradise”.

What I do know is that it’s going to be another year before I make it to Philips Arena. I obviously am not nearly well enough for that nonsense, especially in July.

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