I often quipped that I was the saddest Morrissey fan in Los Angeles, and now I have Vice's Noisey music blog to back me up. But perhaps now, in the new year, it's more accurate to say that I was the saddest Morrissey fan.
Back when Noisey interviewed me in August at FYF Fest – which I attended alone and where Morrissey headlined Sunday night – I’d hit a new low in life. Writer Eve Barlow caught me at my most vulnerable, and I opened up about all my baggage: love in the time of heartbreak; issues at home and family problems; financial worries and unpaid credit card bills. The list goes on, with some (not all) problems still lingering.
But that was then and this is now. (You’d be surprised at the wonders four months of internal reflection, personal discovery and therapy can provide for the human heart, soul and mind.) After 12 months of sustained sadness and self-inflicted drama, I grew tired of this loser, defeated persona I had adopted in 2015 and committed myself to relinquishing the also-ran within.
My send-off: Morrissey on New Year’s Eve at the Galen Center at USC this past weekend, a perfect “good riddance” to the contrived life funk I thought I was living, and a big “fuck you” to 2015. On the final day of the year, I’d renounce my sad ways for a brighter, more positive outlook on life, with the help of one doleful singer.
But first, let’s backtrack.
My inner sad boy reached maximum capacity this past April, days before my 29th birthday, when I suffered my most violent and tumultuous breakup ever. (Long story short: I caught my then-girlfriend cheating on me, as I’d suspected for months.) For the first time in my life, this heartbreaker became the heartbroken.
From that day forward, and every day for the next eight months, I ran to Morrissey and his influential ’80s indie-rock quartet, The Smiths, for daily solace and support. I flung myself at his proverbial feet and bowed to the Pope of Mope, his lyrics, pining and moaning reflecting my internal turmoil. Alas, someone out there understood my everyday emotional struggle. It was Morrissey and me from there on, and like every other forlorn Moz fanatic in Los Angeles, no other New Year’s option would suffice.
While I attended the show alone – again – I, for once in a very long time, did not feel lonely. Just when I thought I’d spend the end of 2015 with my solitary self, I turned the corner of Jefferson and Figueroa to see a long, snaking line of fans bursting out the doors of the Galen Center. They looked like me. They dressed like me. Strangers complimented my custom-made Morrissey denim vest, hand-stitched by my mom, and slicked-back, ’50s-inspired pompadour. I was home, surrounded by a throng of like-minded weirdos and misfits.
The die-hard bond between Morrissey fans is often inexplicable, rarely understood by outsiders and always personal. There’s a forever-familial tie between devoted followers, an obvious presence filling the air this celebratory night. Randoms hugged and kissed and embraced the essence of the evening, wishing every passer-by a Happy New Year.
Spirits were indeed high and bright, despite the night’s early 10:30 p.m. end time, which surprised many attendees – most everyone assumed we’d at least get a midnight countdown set. Inside, the Galen Center proved the ideal size, big enough for a NYE gathering yet still maintaining an intimate vibe, one much more personal than the mammoth, festival-sized stage at FYF last summer.
Any Morrissey set is unpredictable and challenging at best. You’ll never get a straight “greatest hits” set and you’ll regularly hear deep cuts even the most dedicated fans won’t know by memory. Yet for his NYE set, Moz played it safe and catered to his dedicated audience with a handful of select classics spanning The Smiths era and his solo career.
Opening with “Suedehead,” his most famous song since splitting with The Smiths, and quickly moving into more easily recognizable songs like “How Soon Is Now,” “First of the Gang to Die,” and “This Charming Man” early in the night, you got the sense Morrissey was trying hard, too hard, to please the NYE crowd.
Expect every Morrissey show to deliver political undertones and social critiques. As one of the loudest detractors of his native English government and American politicians, it's part of his DNA.
On NYE, he recapped a year’s worth of gun violence and police brutality on U.S. soil and around the world with graphic footage of police beating civilians and protesters during “Ganglord,” as he sang, “Ganglord, the police are grinding me into the ground/The headless pack are back/Small boy jokes and loaded guns.”
He later ripped into “World Peace Is None of Your Business,” the title track off his latest album (“World peace is none of your business/Police will stun you with their stun guns/Or they'll disable you with Tasers/That's what government's for”) and a more solemn take on “I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” which felt like a figurative hug around the City of Light following November’s terrorist attacks. With the recent shooting in our neighboring San Bernardino last month, the songs felt current and all too real.
The political portion of the set came to a powerful climax with “Meat Is Murder,” from the 1985 Smiths album of the same name. Morrissey accompanied the song with vivid video footage of cruel animal slaughterhouses and inhumane agriculture practices that brought the audience to disgust and tears. As Morrissey, a stout animal rights activist, declared, “Climate change is entirely the fault of animal agriculture,” I could feel the night’s atmosphere shift into darker tones and the beef burrito in my stomach pointing the finger back at me.
Moody, mercurial mope that he is, Morrissey is quick to switch temperament on a whim. After bringing us to the lowest of lows, he lifted spirits with a shirtless rendition of “Let Me Kiss You” and “The Queen Is Dead” to close out the night.
On my walk home from the show, I realized I’d decreased my daily Smiths/Morrissey intake gradually as the year came to an end. I hadn’t grown bored with the music and I wasn’t any less of a fan. I just had nothing left to be down about. Morrissey was there along my entire metamorphosis from sad boy to functioning adult. He was there when I moved into my first solo apartment. He was there at the birth of my new baby nephew, Miles. He was there when I proclaimed my love to my current girlfriend at the lunch benches at FYF.
This New Year’s was more than a concert. It was goodbye to my sad-sack days and a fucking farewell to 2015. I don’t think I ever need to see Morrissey perform in my lifetime again, and I’m OK with that. Heaven knows I was miserable then, but that’s no longer the case.