Photographer Serena Yang and guest writer Edie Olender capture the midnight magic and youthful freedom of the Gladie, Sidney Gish, and Jeff Rosenstock concert in Ottawa.
Photo by Serena Yang

Wow. I am so glad I am here right now in my twenties, dancing until midnight, grabbing fast food with my friends afterwards, and doing it all over the next day. If I had to sum up the Sidney Gish and Jeff Rosenstock show in a sentence, I would say it was the epitome of the concept of misspent youth.

I arrived at the event with my hodgepodge group of friends, all of us in our early twenties, nearing graduation or having just recently graduated. We kept bumping into so many of our other friends at the show, all a disarray of artsy kids who don’t really know where they’re going. “How many more nights like this will there be,” I wondered. Gladie, Sidney Gish, and Jeff Rosenstock must have read my mind because they each translated my melancholic post-adolescent thoughts into captivating melodies and pensive lyrics.

Gladie, an indie rock band from Philadelphia, opened the show. I’m always so shocked when artists come out nonchalantly wearing jeans and just jumping around like it’s a band practice in your dad’s garage but delivering incredible energy and stage presence.

Sidney Gish came out next with only some loop pedals and her guitar. It was pretty incredible that her solo performance held such weight and captivated the audience. During her song, Sin Triangle, an indie-pop song with light melodic vocals, a mosh pit surprisingly opened-up in the middle of the floor. Coming out of it, a guy turned to me and said, “isn’t that crazy that we’re moshing to that Sydney Gish?” It was hard not to let the music move you.  

From a technical point of view, Gish delivered a very impressive performance, constructing the whole song herself through playing a snippet, looping it, playing a new rift or set of chords over it, and letting an old snippet fall out. Despite not having a band backing her, her performance left absolutely nothing lacking.

Gish is an equally talented lyricist. When she sang I eat salads now, it perfectly matched the young-adulthood disillusionment I was feeling. Not only is the song coincidently from the perspective of someone my age, but the lyrics exactly described the night “There’s no progress / Just good times / Bitch I’m wasted / Just kidding I’m high / We’re gonna go to a show / And then come home and then probably die.” Being twenty years old and stuck in the same perpetual loop of existence. I will never be this age again with only free time to fill and no real commitments.

Finally, the headliner, Jeff Rosenstock, swaggered out on stage in short navy-blue shorts and an orange cut-off shirt. “Barbecue dad drip,” whispered my friend beside me. Let me tell you, it was nothing like any barbecue my parents would throw. Right off the bat, Jeff started scream-singing into the microphone opening the first part of the show with his fast-paced pop-punk and ska-punk songs like HEADWILL U STILL U, and SkrAm! Despite the hard-hitting energy, Jeff paused between songs for a serious moment to address the importance of watching out for each other in the crowd to protect against the sexual assault, a conversation which was much appreciated as a female audience member in a sea of testosterone.

Rosenstock slowed down the next part of the show with his song “HEALMODE.” Swaying in my boyfriend’s arms and singing along with the crowd to the lyrics “perfect lazy days where all you need is me and all I need is you,” flashlights and lighters in the air, it was the first time in a long time where I didn’t feel alone in a crowded room. Jeff carried the wistful tones of youth in which you float between moments of emptiness, uncertainty, tiredness, ecstasy, and love, consequently bonding a room of strangers together in their shared experiences of growing pains. A lot of the kids in that audience are part of the COVID generation that didn’t get a prom. When Jeff asked tech engineers to illuminate the disco ball, all I could think was that this felt like the prom I had missed out on, but I was surrounded by my type of people, all feeling confused, lost, and hopeful at the same time.

I once asked my dad, “do you ever feel grown up,” and he told me he’s still figuring things out every day. I was reminded of this while looking up at Rosenstock, with his green nail polish and green tape holding his guitar strap attached. “This is after twenty years of conversation, and we’re still this good at it,” said the guitarist after meaninglessly bantering back and forth with Rosenstock about Canadian politeness, American guns, and the quality of the nail polish topcoat. They are still figuring things out too. Maybe the precariously taped guitar strap could have been a metaphor for how precariously we hold ourselves together.

Jeff closed the show with his song We Begged 2 Explode. Days later, as I am writing this article, the lyrics have still been playing nonstop in my brain: “This decade’s gonna be fucked / Friends will disappear after they fall in love / Fall in love and get married / Isn’t that shit like, crazy? / The workin’, havin’ babies and promotions? / The cheatin’, cryin’, leavin’, and divorcin’?” I am so scared to grow up. As the last chords were ringing out that night, all I could think was please let me stay here forever, in this limbo transitory state between childhood and adulthood. But if I must grow up, I can only pray that I am as cool as Jeff Rosenstock in my forties.

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Serena Yang is a concert, fashion, and event photographer from Ottawa.

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