To Write Love On Her Arms’ annual “evening of songs, conversation, and hope” is something I look forward to and am very proud to cover. Each year, I take away something different–and not just my new t-shirt purchase. Heavy & Light 2014 was no exception. With performances by Anis Mojgani, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Mary Lambert, Tristan Prettyman, and The Summer Set, along with some amazing speakers, this year’s event was just as spectacular as the last.
Whenever those words come on the screen, reminding everyone why they are there, and what the point of Heavy & Light is, something like pride swells up inside of me; even though I had no hand in putting the event together, and have no direct relation to To Write Love On Her Arms, when those words flash by, something grips me. That feeling stays with me for the rest of the night.
Starting off with Anis Mojgani, the spoken-word poet entranced the crowd, as usual, with his perfect timing and stunning words. I’m not dismissing the works of some of the greats, like Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost, because I cherish their words, but Anis may be one of the most spectacular poets of our time, and to see him speak these words is a wonder in itself.
Mary Lambert took the stage, and in all truth, charmed the crowd instantly. Well-known for her collaboration with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the “Same Love” singer stepped behind the keys and entranced everyone with her words and her music. She openly spoke of her own struggles with anxiety and depression, even filling up on stage a few times, leaving no eye in the crowd without a tear threatening to fall. She relayed a story from the awards show she’d performed at, even including a Harry Potter reference. It’s always wonderful to see an artist who’s so unafraid to be themselves, and reveal their humanity. Mary Lambert performed with soul and an undeniable fire, while speaking to the crowd as though she too was stood behind the barricades, waiting for what would happen next.
Following Jamie Tworkowski’s introduction, comedian Kevin Breel took the stage. Breel, at just 19 years old, gave a TED talk, breeching a subject most speakers would hesitate to even approach: “Confessions of a Depressed Comedian,” it became known as.
His words rang true with the audience; the feeling of depression creeping in when a person is deemed successful, and should be excited about an accomplishment. Each word seemed to nail the hammer on the head even further, and Kevin only framed this with ‘light,’ making jokes about promising to let someone “much more attractive and with a better voice” step on stage, introducing Tristan Prettyman.
Prettyman is like a musical version of Aubrey Plaza. There is something very real about her, and she jokes about the most normal things–feeling down because everyone on Facebook seems to have it all together, then stage-whispering about how she gets to tour and do what she loves. In her music, Prettyman keeps that same charming quality, unafraid to be vulnerable, or even silly.
The Summer Set provided a fun, upbeat set, making people sing at the top of their lungs, dancing as though they couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Brian Dales took an opportunity to speak about when he was feeling pretty down and out himself, leading to the band’s wonderful song, “Legendary.” Having seen them perform at Warped Tour, I knew that The Summer Set were brilliantly entertaining on stage, and over the years, that quality seems to have only doubled, if not tripled.
Once more, Anis graced the stage, and just before he left, he delivered one of the poems I could read in my sleep: “Shake The Dust.” For a moment, everyone was still. This poem has become tradition, one that people wait to hear. I notice a few people in the crowd miming the words, as though, they too, have read this to themselves in sleep.
When Jamie steps out again, it’s like the crowd is waking up from a trance. As one of To Write Love On Her Arms’s founders, Jamie seems to radiate pride, and always seems excited to see how many people have turned out, showing his appreciation for those that have traveled just to be there. When he introduces Jon Foreman, he offers the artist a thanks. Jon had recently had 30 stitches inside his mouth, and they had thought they might have to cancel. However, Jon had decided to push on.
A fan gave him a care package, and he quickly expressed his gratitude, dedicating a song to her.
Now, don’t get me wrong, seeing Jon Foreman perform is awe-inspiring in itself, but it was standing off to the side that it hit me. As he took to being completely unplugged, he led the crowd through the beginning of “Dare You To Move.” The unity in the room was almost too much to handle. In all honesty, I don’t think you’ve known what effects art can bring until you’ve seen a room of strangers grin at each other like old friends because of a song.
That’s what Heavy & Light is about; coming together and, just for a moment, realizing you’re not alone.
For photos from Heavy & Light, please go HERE.
Also, huge thanks to Mike of Decades In Spain! I lost one of my SD cards during the show, and he was kind enough to help me find it afterwards! Yes, yes, I know–“#PhotographerFail.”