It was a hell of a trip — the kind that involves roadside assistance from a tire shop in a town you’ve never heard of.
But while we were in the City of Austin, nothing went wrong.
In fact, everything went right, starting with the free parking right by the venue.
I had been psyched about seeing Kate Nash perform since I heard about the show, but I had been psyched about the IDEA of seeing Kate Nash perform since 2008, so I was packed with nervous energy.
We grabbed some food from a food truck (It was Austin, after all) and then went into the Mohawk to watch the opening act and check out the scene.
It’s worth noting that Kate Nash and I had exchanged tweets in the weeks leading up to this concert. It’s a bit difficult for even me to take that sentence seriously, since just a few years ago I thought Twitter was utterly ridiculous, but suspend that cynicism for a moment and fanboy with me.
An icon of mine — who I have celebrated for years; whose music has led me to laugh, cry and (once) to write extensively long prose on Andy Griffith — was actively responding to me in 140 characters or less.
Were they short responses? Yes. Did she diplomatically shelve my insistence that we should be in love? Yes. But they were responses from my favorite artist, so goddammit, that counts for something.
After the first interaction, she began following me and outside of that being the greatest thing ever, it also gave me an “in,” as Melissa pointed out.
And so as I walked around the Mohawk while the opening acts performed, I held in my hands the power to direct message my favorite artist while she and I were in the same city.
It became a question of content. What would I use my one, personal message to Kate on?
It would have to be concise, yet clear. I would have to differentiate myself from thousands of others she followed and deliver that single private tweet that would serve to convince her to come out and get drinks with Melissa and I after the show. (I would convince her to love me over cocktails, I assumed, and then just finish out her American tour with her before riding off to our castle in the UK. All people in the UK live in castles right?)
I had plenty of time, to think, however, as the timing of the DM would be best after the show. For now, it was time to find a way to get as close to the stage as possible.
While buying my tour poster and tour T-shirt at the merchandise table, I noticed the crowd was thinner stage right. We stowed our purchases (the clerk said it would be our little secret) and loaded up on beer.
Both of us double-fisting, we approached the rear of the crowd from in front of the merchandise table and from there Melissa used her lower center of gravity and pure energy to manipulate us to the front, straight ahead of a 10-foot tall speaker.
Melissa is a veteran concertgoer and her “push to the front” skills were phenomenal, although it left me sticking out among a sea of shorter fans.
A digital SLR-carrying man about my age and height was to my right, but his presence drew the attention of some of the women my partner-in-crime had just led us in front of.
“You’re not going to be standing there the whole show, are you?” One of them asked the tall man. “Because we can’t see.”
The photographer turned to her and said he would only be there for the first three songs.
“It’s rough being tall at these things, huh?” I said after the woman and her friends lost interest in height-shaming the photographer.
It was errant chatter. He was a freelancer from San Antonio who shoots a lot of shows throughout the area, he explained. It seemed Kate Nash, whose team hired him, was hardly the highest-profile show he had shot during his career.
I resisted the subtle urge to tell him I was in journalism, but didn’t want to talk shop. This night was about Kate Nash and despite the fact that I had a pen and a notepad on me, I was not on the clock.
He rattled off some band names that I’m sure would have interested a lot of those around me, but I wasn’t about to get caught up in talking about other musical acts. This night was about Kate.
Then I heard it. He said her name. He’s talking about Kate Nash again.
“She crowd surfs during the last song,” he said.
Finally, something I could use!
I lost him in the crowd. (Or maybe I just turned away and stopped talking to him because he was no longer useful to me?)
The lights went down and the show began with no one on the stage.
Screens showed Kate Nash in a music video set to Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” and the door backstage leading outside opened to allow the band in. I stared out into the cool Austin night hoping to catch Kate as she walked in. As a result, I think I was the first person in the audience to see her as she walked through the doorway with her pigtails that could only be described as awesome.
No eye contact. No love at first sight. But it’s OK. There’s still plenty of time and don’t forget your tweet power.
The concert was amazing. She went ahead and played my favorite song off her new album first, then proceeded to play all of my favorites off of all of her albums.
During one song, Kate stepped out into the crowd.
This wasn’t surfing. This was a powerstroll through a crowd of fans.
I pulled out my phone to get some shots, but the next thing I knew, I had lost Melissa.
As the next song began, I realized that even though I was among strangers (the two closest to me were clearly there only because they had been dragged) I had no issue with remaining where I was.
I could see fine and Kate was playing all of my favorite songs. What more could I want?
As the song faded, Kate took her spot at center stage again, but her eyes were fixed on something being held up from the front row.
It was a cell phone. Kate leaned down close enough to read it and then stood back up and said “Hi Ty Johnson.”
She retreated from the front of the stage, adding “Apparently I just made someone’s life.”
Then, from the crowd, I somehow caught Melissa’s face as she pulled her cell phone down and gave me a glance that said “Did you hear that?”
My face had glazed over, as evidenced by Melissa’s later confession that she thought I hadn’t heard my name being spoken by the sweetest voice to ever record music.
I had heard it. The thought of it all caused my knees to buckle for a moment.
The non-fan to my right turned to me with a concerned look on his face. “Are you OK?” he asked.
“I’m Ty Johnson,” I said.
Clearly he had not heard or understood what had just happened on stage because he gave me a mildly disgusted look and said “It’s good to meet you,” before turning his head toward the stage again.
I had scarcely been able to tweet about what had happened before I noticed a girl down front staring at me and screaming.
She said my friend wanted me to come up there and did so in such a way that instantly led the crowd to part.
I lunged forward and made my way to Melissa’s spot, which could best be described as under Kate Nash’s nose.
For a moment, I was again self-conscious about my height and concerned about those behind me whose view my gigantic head was obstructing.
But then it occurred to me: I had spent the last 26 years, one month and five days growing this big and had always apologized for it. Tonight was my day to enjoy my unobstructed view.
And enjoy it I did. Thanks to the photog’s tip, I knew to expect Kate and the band to head out into the crowd toward the end of the show and was right there when it was time to pass Kate’s left calf back into the crowd.
The show was amazing. There aren’t a lot of words for how amazing she was. It was amazing.
But when the show ended, after her encore, Melissa again proved her concert-going prowess by asking one of the men on stage for a guitar pick she and I had been eyeing.
When he passed it to her, she immediately turned to her left and pressed the pick in my hand.
The move was reminiscent of how a dad would behave after catching a home run ball while sitting beside his son.
It was at that moment that I realized Melissa, born three days before me in 1987, was the Colombian older sister I never knew I needed.
With the show over, now was the time to unleash my Twitter power.
We exited the venue with me holding my phone, writing and rewriting the direct message that would convince Kate to spurn any concerns about internet anonymity and just meet us somewhere for drinks.
Just before we entered the crosswalk to head to the car for a merchandise drop-off, my older sister gazed down the side of the building and flippantly said “There she is.”
And there she was, fraternizing with a small group of fans on the sidewalk.
We waiting in a short line, planning our camera duties.
Melissa stepped forward first, as we had planned. Somehow planning the order that we would approach her seemed important in the moments leading up to our meeting.
I think Melissa was still in journalism mode as she extended a hand, but she quickly put it away as Kate spread her arms.
“Oh my god, I get a hug?!” Melissa shouted, touching off a giggling frenzy that would reduce my recollection of the next four minutes of my life into a haze.
After snapping photos of Melissa and Kate together, I shook hands with Kate and explained (in the coolest way possible at the moment) how she and I had been tweeting back and forth.
I also took credit for the hashtag I created for her: #nashtag
“Oh you’re the one that came up with that?”
And then someone said “Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.”
And it was me.
I panicked when I realized that I had gone into folksy journalist mode. Was this how I gushed? By quoting Anchorman?
But Kate, who was signing my tour poster, shot back immediately.
“Next you should have said ‘I want to be on you,'” she said.
Kate Nash quoted Anchorman to me.
For those of you who don’t see the awesomeness of this moment, imagine the intersection of your two favorite things: sex with a pizza, a solid chocolate Ryan Gosling, a football made of cannabis.
This was that moment for me.
I dropped my T-shit on the ground, but luckily folksy journalist Ty Johnson was there to speak for the party foul.
“I swear that never happens,” I said.
“Here, let me sign that, too” she said.
I couldn’t even be mad that her signature would mean a zero-percent chance of me ever wearing it and instead mentally prepared to go get it framed at a crafts store.
As she pressed her cheek to my beard with her arm around me, I felt the moment fading.
We pulled away and I must have said something about wanting to make sure she didn’t forget me because she then said “Oh I’ll never forget about you.”
She delivered it in such a matter-of-fact way, as if forgetting me would be as silly as forgetting her own telephone number.
Once those words echoed in my ears for what seemed like hours but must have been a fraction of a second, Melissa and I together turned to her seeking to make last-minute plans with her. I even admitted I was hoping to DM her to see if she would hang out with us.
She nodded and smiled, even repeating the name of the bar we were heading to (“Is that where everyone is heading?,” she said in the most perfect and silvery voice. “The Midnight Cowboy?”) and told me to DM her.
I wish I could tell you that I DMed Kate Nash and that before the night was over, I bought her a prohibition-style cocktail from that underground bar (I’m thinking a Manhattan) and we exchanged information to ensure that neither of us would forget each other.
But the night came to an end, instead, as most due in Austin: With Austin’s finest lining up on horses to clear 6th Street while we began a search for another food truck.
And so the most perfect weekend ever came to an end without Kate responding to my DM to go get drinks.
But I’m convinced she was just leaving room for improvement for next time.
BONUS: Kate Nash has a Christmas album out. Check it out! It’s awesome.