The first thing that stands out to me whenever I go to a concert is how the artist carries out their performance. Vocals, choreography, lighting, interactivity, stage presence – the list goes on and on. But scent? That was one sensory detail I never thought I would be missing out on until I attended Melanie Martinez’s last show of her tour’s American-leg, before she became ill with laryngitis and canceled the last seven U.S. dates.
Martinez posted an Instagram story Nov. 10, a few hours before her House of Blues show in Anaheim, California, was scheduled to begin. She apologetically informed her fans of her sudden upper respiratory symptoms.
“I’m sending all of my love to everyone who was planning on coming tonight,” the 24-year-old wrote in her Instagram story. “I want to be there so badly but I have to put my health first.”
Following the post, a slew of upset reactions was seen addressing the news – but the majority wished her well in her journey to recovery.
I certainly feel a bit remorse for those who weren’t able to witness her performance. Her last show, her Los Angeles appearance, was unlike any concert I’ve seen before – and I say that in the most humble, genuine way possible. True passion and power exuded from her 5-foot-2-inch frame as she sang, danced and carried out her “K-12” album tracks. The venue’s speakers’ amplitude, vibration and bass racked through my own frame as I stood in a mass of cramped bodies at the Hollywood Palladium.
Due to the number of phones thrown up to film the events occurring onstage, essentially blocking my view for a good portion of the concert, I was standing on the tips of my toes throughout the whole night. Reaching my neck out to catch a glimpse of the theatrical elements taking place, I quickly realized that this wasn’t just a concert – this was a hard-hitting, fully-fledged performance.
Dozens of stage props made it to the scene, including the “Show & Tell” puppeteering stage that Martinez strapped herself to, the gurney her dancers suspended her on in “Nurse’s Office” and the god-knows-how-tall, cake-decorated scaffolding Martinez wore as a skirt in “Strawberry Shortcake” – and that’s just to name a few.
It all reflected the feature-film Martinez released in select theaters across the U.S. and on YouTube, which has amassed over 32 million views since its initial Sept. 5 release date. The “K-12” film, named after her album, visualizes a story that encapsulates an artistically exaggerated perspective on education systems and the harsh realities they impose upon adolescents. Scenes from the movie were played in the background for some of her songs, while others simply featured moving graphics from the settings seen in the film.
Visuals are one thing. But the strawberry and orange scents shot out from hazer-like machines cascaded into the crowd and helped complete songs like “Orange Juice.” However, none of the effects made as much of an impact on me as the actual message relayed on a projected video, which presented a narrator who detailed seven main lessons to take away from the concert.
The lessons were split among set changes and wardrobe swaps in between songs and each provided the perfect introduction to the accompanying track that would follow. Takeaways would range from acting and dressing how you feel in creating your most authentic self to “protecting your energy” in removing toxic relationships and “appreciating your vessel” in addressing unrealistic beauty standards.
Chants of Martinez’s name permeated the large room for an encore, which was met with thundering applause and cheer as the haunting melodies from her first album, “Cry Baby,” rose in volume. Once the encore had concluded, though, I left the show with a mixed set of emotions. One of longing for another concert to meet such a level of performance and the other of feeling like a 30-pound cinder block of self-imposed anxiety had lifted off my chest – an achievement no therapist I’ve been to has conducted as eloquently and expressively as Martinez herself.
I only have one regret.
Slated to be by the barrier for her Anaheim show – to take press photos of her performance up close and personal – I didn’t arrive early enough to the Los Angeles venue to have a good spot and really feel the energy radiate offstage. Had I known Martinez would fall ill, I would’ve made sure to show up once the sun had just begun to peek out – a 12-hour feat of sitting outside I would gladly wait if given another opportunity to see the concert just that much closer.