If my mom wasn’t my mom, I’d be convinced she spent her childhood as a character from an iconic, subtly bizarre kid’s book—like Meg from A Wrinkle in Time, though instead of zipping through space via tesseract, my mother was inventing complicated melodrama about the personal lives of the trees that lined her block.
Growing up, I heard about her various idiosyncrasies—she didn’t dare look out the window at night because what would she do if she saw an alien—woven into a more subtle, serious storyline of an intensely talented musician who briefly played flute at Juilliard before majoring in music at Barnard. While she isn’t a professional musician today (she’s a psychotherapist, obviously), her rigorous music education has been channeled into what is my current favorite quirk of hers: she’s an absolute freak for EDM.
Her interest in genre began, upsettingly, with Mike Posner, but not really Mike Posner, so hold on a second.
“I’m embarrassed to say this,” she told me on Friday when I pressured her into an interview. “I was listening to pop radio and that Mike Posner song was on, ‘I Took a Pill in Ibiza,’ and I started to think, who did that incredibly clever arranging? There’s just something about that that really works. And Joanna, I’m always a hitmaker. I could have another career as the person who calls what songs are gonna be hits. And so when that song came on, I started to think there’s something about the way they go, ‘HEY!’ I’m serious, and I thought this is big.”
Thanks to Posner, she was introduced to Norwegian producing duo (now trio) SeeB, whom she might love more than me, her daughter.
“I started Googling it and I went deep into the web to find out about these then-unknown Norwegian mixers and producers, right? And that song put them on the map, and made Mike Posner, who, as we know, has done nothing else big, a star... I was following them on Insta when they had 200-some followers. I was right in there heart-ing all their stuff.”
From her discovery and light love affair with SeeB, she began watching “music festivals on YouTube.” Though, of the culture, she said, “I will admit there’s something a little bit off-putting about the people in heart glasses and everyone’s like loving each other.”
When I learned (because she told me) that SeeB would be opening for Kygo on his “Kids in Love” tour, I bought tickets for us and my sister, on May 11 at the Barclays Center. But SeeB ended up not following the tour to the US, which meant that the three of us were left with tickets to see Kygo play an arena on Mother’s Day weekend.
As my mother, my sister, and I waited in a winding line to make it into the Barclays Center on Friday around 8:30 p.m., the scene was, if anything, expected. Juulers were juuling, men with strong chins were sexually harassing women in neoprene, my mother was thinking about how easy it’d be to shoot the place up.
“Isn’t it crazy that someone could just...” she trailed off seeing the horror in her adult daughters’ eyes. “Nevermind.”
“I may not dance,” she deftly changed the subject, “But I may pump a fist here and there.”
After a number of deft maneuvers around blackout groups of college students, the three of us found our seats. On the way, I had managed to buy a $20 tequila-soda, which was kind of a mistake, but a fun one. Again, though, I had forgotten I was at Kygo with my mother, who even when she is about to rage, still contains unshakeable motherly traits. “I don’t want you to develop a drinking problem,” she spit out as compulsively as someone who’s been saying the same thing repeatedly for ten years.
“Oh my god!” I countered, also compulsively. “This is the first drink I’ve had this week!”
“Drinking once a week isn’t a problem,” she said.
“This is going in the article!” said I.
Then, we had this exchange:
Mother: Wait, is this where the teams play?
Sister: Yes, the Nets.
Mother: Wait, the New York Nets?
Me: No, the Brooklyn Nets.
Mother: The Nets or the Knicks?
Sister: The Nets.
Mother: Wait... what?
Kygo came on shortly after that impressive exchange, taking his place at a booth with a keyboard and drum pads on top of pulsing, illuminated cube. My mother, who had said she’d only pump a fist, danced; My sister and I hopped around wildly too, the three of us indistinguishable from the probably 15,000 high idiots who had all paid around $100 to see a truly beautiful 26-year-old plunk out hooks and press play on an iPad. “I’m in my cardio zone,” my mom said to me during “Remind Me to Forget.” She was wearing her FitBit.
Kygo, real name Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll, is one of those young electronic prodigies, great at making hits behind the scenes, but who necessarily doesn’t have much to offer to a complete arena. He relied largely on projected videos on the cube and the screen behind him, pyrotechnics deployed at opportune beat drops, and a selection of guest vocalists who each performed a song or two, including Justin Jesso, Parson James, the extremely peppy Bonnie McKee, and JHart, who, in a white pleather crop jacket earned an assessment of, “That’s a weird costume,” from my mom.
About halfway through the show, when he had played half of his biggest hits and had settled into his less popular trance and trop house stuff (“This is trop house,” my mom told me), Kygo descended from his rave cube to a white grand piano downstage, where he was eventually joined by a string quartet.
“He’s like, ‘Guys, look, I’m a musician,’” I commented to my mom and sister like a real brat.
“He is a musician,” my mother reminded me, though ten minutes later she shouted, “DITCH THE STRINGS,” her patience and classical background seemingly worn.
We got out of the downtempo stuff, and built slowly back up to more of the hits: “It Ain’t Me,” “Stranger Things,” his remix of “Starboy,” which, according to my mom, he does in an “abstinent” way. He played “Kids in Love,” the new album’s titular track, which has a cinematic piano swell that made me feel like us three ladies could lift off and fly around the arena where the New York Nets also play. We made our way from our fat burn zone to cardio zone and back again, pumping our little fists in LED bracelets given to the audience that pulsated in a coordinated light show with the beat. I drank some of my tequila. So did she. My sister announced she was “a raver now.”
On six block walk back to my apartment, the three of us agreed on a few things: we were a good concert-going team, Kygo looks like boy Alicia Vikander, and that much of the projections might have been more effective if we had been tripping. My mom’s review: “It was repetitive. The music was not profound. That said, I had a blast.”
The next day, the three of us went to the Spongebob SquarePants musical, which was also good, but in a very different way.