As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on the first floor of Atocha Train Station, my train back home will depart in 38 minutes, and there are fans all around me: some wearing Louis and Harry merch, and others whose wrists are as full of bracelets as mine is.
Yesterday, 5th October 2023, was one of those days you never fully accept happened. Like winning the lottery or making your dream come true—although I suppose seeing Louis live for the first time ever is but a fair compromise between the two.
To honor the truth, it all actually started months ago, when some of my Twitter moots—those kinds of internet friends you tend to assume you will never meet—said to be going to the show as well, and suddenly, we had all kinds of plans about sharing accommodation and meeting up. Meeting up! To go to a show I had planned to attend on my own!
The Madrid FITF show, for me, was going to be a challenge of a sort. Two summers ago, the Away From Home Festival was coming to Málaga, two and a half hours away from my home city, and I decided not to go. Firstly because going to a concert all alone was something I didn’t think was enjoyable or even possible as a then freshman university student with no money of her own. And secondly, because I was too new of a fan, and I was terrified I was going to be mocked for not fully knowing the lyrics by heart—which, let me tell you, is absolutely bullshit, not even Louis himself knows word for word! Besides, I was yet to find out what an amazing fandom this was.
Being as it may, I promised myself, when the day came and I had to see the show on an Instagram live knowing how close I actually was, that I was not going to let the opportunity pass again, that doing things alone could be fun, and next time, I was seeing Louis no matter what. Hence, how I ended up buying a ticket for this show as soon as the sale began, during my Erasmus year, perfectly aware I had no one to go with, and it was on a Thursday, meaning I was missing three full days of university courses.
Obviously, my plans changed quite a bit since I first bought my ticket: I was no longer on my own. Now I was not only excited to see Louis, but also to meet two fellow No Stunt Larries from a certain group chat I had been talking with for a long time.
I had a very interesting conversation with my father around this time, where he asked me if I was not afraid to be sharing a room with someone I didn’t know, and I asked him back what he meant. “How do you know you can trust her?” He insisted, referring to @itsyoulou_28. “Of course I can trust her,” I replied, “she is a fan.” It took me a moment to pause and understand how stupid that argument was. And despite that, it didn’t feel any less true: Amy was not only a fan of Louis, but a Larrie, someone from my own community, so how on earth was I expected to assume she was anything else that what she said to be?
There it is: “community.” I love that word, because it is exactly what being a Larrie feels like, like you are part of a loving and accepting community. I met @shaylinson in person as soon as I arrived at Madrid: Amy had given her our keys, and she came to pass them along. I made her accompany me to the Airbnb of course, and once I left my suitcases inside, we went out, ready to visit Madrid.
Besides a few awkward moments at first (and the fact I was pretending to know where we were going when, really, I had visited Madrid maybe thrice before), Joana and I had plenty to talk about. We talked in English, in French, a bit in Spanish, and she tried to teach me Portuguese. We talked plenty, about One Direction, about Louis, about Harry and Larry, and about nothing of the sort. Joana is seven years my elder, and we had never met in person before, yet we hit it off from the word go.
I took her to Plaza del Sol, to the Royal Palace and Plaza Mayor, I explained, to the best of my abilities, everything about them I remembered from high school, and it was about 10 PM when we sat in a bar in Plaza Mayor which tourist-trapped us with a 5,5 € tinto de verano (no people, that’s not their usual price, that’s almost what what you’d pay for two of them anywhere else in the country).
We also ate a bocadillo de calamares which was dry and not the best one I’ve ever had by far, and we patiently waited for Amy and @bluelikelwt, who I did not know before, not even from stan Twitter. Suddenly, there we were, four No Stunts Larries from France, Germany, the Netherlands, and of course, Spain, sitting at the same table and talking about Louis this and Louis that…
“No,” I wrote in an Instagram story for my close friends that same night, “I don’t expect them to kidnap me any time soon.”
The morning of the show, I took an uber to the venue, where I met Joana (who, unlike Amy and Hes, wanted to get a number). We bought a cup of coffee and a croissant and joined the queue (people from the pit who wanted numbers weren’t supposed to get there until 9, but nobody listened because it was quite crowded when we arrived at 8.30 AM, thinking we were the clever ones).
I started chatting with a group of fans in Spanish, conversation of which poor Joana could understand only half. They were from Toledo, a city close to Madrid, and had taken a bus early in the morning. When I turned to my right, there was a huge advertisement for a certain brand with Kendall Jenner on it. I jumped, and Joana laughed at me. It was one of those jokes you wouldn’t understand if you weren’t familiarized with this community
They finally gave us our numbers by 11, Joana went to buy merch and I sat on the left side, where the sun couldn’t reach me. She came back, and offered me a snack. We blasted Louis’ music (we decided we had to rehearse Paradise since somehow nobody seems to know it), got Joana’s pride flags out and wrote a sign saying “The Gays Love You!!” which ended up never being used.
In the end, we went to have lunch and did not return to the queue until after 1 PM. We didn’t have to, but we had nothing better to do, and it was there where we reunited with Amy and Hes, who sat with us for a while. It was already well on my mind by then, I would panic about seeing Louis on stage at the most random times, but I did not fully believe it: I kind of expected the lady at the entrance to look at my ticket and go “nope, not you. Next!”
By 4 PM, us fans with numerated, gray bracelets had been put in our rightful places of the queue, and we made a circle to play Uno. It lasted less than a round since some fans in front of us panicked and got up for no reason whatsoever, making us get up too. The queue was tiring and not fun at all, like all queues, but it had its moments. The undeniable truth, however, is that, by the time they let us in well-passed 6 PM, we were knackered. Fans were sitting on the pit and getting pulled up by security, who said there was no sitting if you were in the pit. We begged for water shortly before The Academic‘s show, and, by the end of the concert, more than two or three fans in our area had passed out. It didn’t matter: it was obvious, for the conversations around me, that we were all the kind of people who always say “next time, I’m buying a seat!,” and never get around to doing it.
Here I am, sitting on the train while listening to Something Great by One Direction, almost home, and when I remember how close Louis was, I can’t say I regret it, not when this was our view without zoom:
WHAT THE FUCK, LOOK WHERE I AM pic.twitter.com/jeUZonFYkt— Andrea 🇵🇸 || SAW H & L IN MADRID (@InnerthoughtsHL) October 5, 2023
I attended Love On Tour last July, yet seeing an artist I love so much up close was an entirely new experience. I loved Harry’s show, but I was at the back of the pit, and I only saw him on the screens. For Louis, however, not even the phones and raised hands could cover him.
After The Academic, who enchanted most of the public, judging by the screams of the word “handsome” in Spanish, it was The Lathums’ turn. It occurred to me that the headliners had been ignored in most concerts I have ever been to, whereas in this one, we were giving our best energy, and it was truly beautiful to see.
Suddenly, there he was, The Greatest began, the crowd around me roared and I feared my ears were going to burst. It was like we were in a trance, enhanced by the sight of him. There must be a magic formula the both of them have been using, because, just like when I saw Harry, my feet stopped hurting as soon as Louis stepped on that stage.
It was during my favorite FITF song, Face The Music, when I realized Louis was not a hologram. You see, up until then, I fully expected him to start glitching or something, like the deceased band of ghosts in Julie and the Phantoms. He just looked so like a real person, meat and bones and all.
In my defense, I was not the only one to come to the realization that yes, Louis Tomlinson was real: shortly after, the fan by my side broke crying, and, when I asked them if they were okay, they replied “it’s been years.” Years, I understood, since they came to love Louis’ music first, and him as a person soon after. Years since most became fans, and maybe, it was only then that they were seeing him in the flesh, and listening to his songs live (by the way, he sings very, very good, he has the voice of an angel and did not miss a note!).
There was a moment at some point during the show where people all around me got to lift their signs. Louis replied “I like that!” to another fan very close to me, who had written they were meeting the stranger who saved them for the first time. Quite honestly, I don’t think I have ever been in a position to be saved, but I could undeniably relate to how much I owed the man in front of me. After all, it was him and Harry and the fandom they created together who helped me accept and love myself.
When it was time for Paradise, I felt like it was only Joana and I, and a few people by my left, singing. Louis pointed at the crowd to finish the sentence, and we sang our hearts out. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, for creating nights like this,” Louis said in his speech at some point. It stood out, because, unlike most of it, there was no swearing in between—I’m a big defender of coarse words so don’t take it as criticism. Regardless, I feel the people around me in the pit could relate to that comment as much as to his confession seconds before, when he revealed he was particularly tired that day.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, I thought back when the rainbow lights bathed us, for creating nights like this. The rumors are true: Louis displays proudly and loudly the blue and the green in All This Time, and has taken our rainbow projects from last year and incorporated them into the shows in She Is Beauty We Are World Class. We were all covered in rainbow, him included: after all, he is just like us.
It was a similar feeling from the one I’d got when, before, in High in California, some of us sang the lines containing “blue” and “green,” yes, but also “spent my whole life just thinking I had to change” particularly loud.
Copy of a Copy of a Copy is probably one of my favorite songs by Louis, and I yelled at every single word. In Walls, we got to sing “for every question why, you were my because,” and finally, it was Back To You‘s turn (or shall I say “to him”?).
I was shocked by how big the “him” on the screen was. You see, I have mentioned this phenomenon in No Stunts Magazine before, meaning, there is written proof I knew about it. I just did not expect it to be so big, so blatant, so prolonged (it stayed for most of the song). I looked around, fully expecting people to freak out, or, at least, to react in some way, and was disappointed to see they were not.
It is loud, very much so, and there were moments where his face showed on the screen alongside the “him” lyrics canvas, and we could see him sing “I love him, I hated it…,” like he mouthed every time he pointed the microphone at us, with the gigantic “him” behind.
You can also see Louis signing “him” on the “him” screen in @itsyoulou_28’s video:
In any case, in my usual habit of over analyzing, I’ve got to say, pragmatic reasons aside, it is very loud he says “him” without the microphone (meaning, in private), and “you” with the microphone (in public).
The show was over before we knew it. Am I jealous Barcelona got 7 and we didn’t? There is no point in denying it. But, overall, the feelings I brought with me home were those of warmth and belonging to something bigger than me—ha,ha, get it? Bigger Than Me—besides, of course, being on cloud nine after having seen Louis.
I was genuinely surprised by the subtle signs telling me just how many Larries there really are in the fandom. There was even this discussion in the queue where a fan showed up with some Larry sign and the girl in front of me grimaced and said “oh, honestly.” Am I a defender of bringing Larry signs to the shows? I’d say depending on the sign, definitely not if they are too direct, and could put them in a difficult situation, but at that moment, I just felt like I was witnessing a Twitter fight.
There are many other details I cherish, like the bracelets exchanged between fans, or when, at the beginning of the show, Louis did this usual gesture of his with his fingers and I couldn’t help but break yelling “the finger thing, he is doing the finger thing!” I had seen so many pictures of him on stage doing the exact same gesture it felt surreal to witness it myself, as silly as that may be. Above everything else, however, I will always remember the people I met: Joana, Amy and Hes, but also, everybody else I befriended on the queue, from the group from Toledo to this couple of guys Joana and I talked with.
Now, more than a week since the show, I’m back at my normal life, seeing Louis on Instagram lives when I have the time and wishing I could go to a show all over again. It seems like it is a never cycle, to constantly crave to just be there, no matter how many times before you have been.
It might have been my first time going to a show, but something is crystal clear in my mind: it certainly won’t be my last. With this in mind, I shall say goodbye with an “until we may meet again.”