“[I’m frequently asked], ‘why do you write about what you write about?’ Well, because I grew up the way that I did.”– Jordan Benjamin (grandson).
If you live near New York and follow internationally-acclaimed alt rock artist grandson, then you probably heard about the I Love You, I’m Trying listening event in Central Park that occurred earlier today; maybe you saw the ILYIT signs while out on a walk around the park…
You might’ve even gotten coordinates sent to your phone, which, if plugged into your GPS app of choice, would’ve sent you to a random field in the middle of The Ramble, a woodsy part of the park with trees so tall you might even be able to forget that you’re in New York City for a while.
(Or, if you’re lucky like me, your GPS might have sent you to two separate locked gates, before you found a proper means of getting to that part of the park…)
If you’re curious about how this NY-based listening event went down, or if you want to know a little bit more about grandson’s upcoming album before it drops next week, read on.
And, as you read, check out grandson’s latest single, “Something to Hide”, on Spotify:
Welcome to the nature-filled ‘Camp ILYIT‘:
As I wandered around Central Park in New York in search of The Ramble, I made a joke to myself about how this ILYIT listening event was feeling more like grandson sending us on a scavenger hunt than anything. Then, came the text with the coordinates and a reminder to bring headphones–yup, definitely a scavenger hunt.
I got to The City much earlier than necessary–and it was a good thing, too; that “two locked gates” remark was not a joke. Once I finally made it to the right side of the park, things went much more smoothly, directions-wise. After a short walk down a winding path, my phone alerted me that this open meadow in the woods I found myself in was the correct spot… even though there was no one else here, and no indication that there was going to be some music event going on soon.
After watching a few others approach with their phones, suspiciously eyeing their screens and then searching the area around them for a clue… I knew I was in the right place. It couldn’t be a coincidence.
Soon after, representatives from Warner arrived with picnic blankets and began setting up signs that simply had “ILYIT” and a QR code on them…
And that’s when we all really knew we were in the right place, but most of us still weren’t entirely sure what we were getting into.
As it turns out– we were getting into a combination of events.
The listening event was planned to be run completely off-the-cuff.
All that they had in mind was “grandson, listening party, in nature, in New York”–the rest would be figured out day-of, including the set-list.
There would be a recorded portion–in which attendees would sync up to a YouTube livestream in order to preview songs from I Love You, I’m Trying–and a live portion, in which grandson would play some songs acoustically, right here in the park.
In between the two musical events would be a group Q&A session with grandson, and after the event officially wrapped, grandson decided he would hang back to introduce himself to the fans that showed up, and do individual, informal little meet-and-greet type conversations with everyone, too.
“Jordan just got a little lost… in the park.”
Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who had trouble navigating Central Park.
The event started on a slight delay.
Fans continued to trickle in; Warner representatives handed out party favors (in the form of temporary tattoos). Everyone hypothesized what was going on.
Eventually, grandson appeared around the bend, acoustic guitar in hand. He approached the group with such casual energy, as if he was simply meeting up with a group of friends for a little jam session in the park–rather than approaching a group of 30-odd fans whose applause was growing louder with each step that brought him closer.
grandson, almost sheepish, thanked the crowd for coming, and offered us a choice–we could either hear the full album straight through, or we could hear what he considered his favorite few tracks at the moment, so that we would still have some surprises waiting for us when the full album comes on May 5th.
We opted for the latter.
The YouTube live portion of the listening party encompassed four tracks:
- I Love You, I’m Trying
- When The Bomb Goes
- Half Of My Heart
Between each track, grandson took a moment to explain what inspired each one–and why he chose that particular song to share with us today.
The new album, he told us, is the most personal work he’s done so far. It’s something he’s made “for us”–meaning, for grandson and the fans that have stuck with him through the years. He wants “to give back” to his community, and share more of himself with that community.
With the more personal topics comes a more personal sound; this album is also oriented towards more of a full, live band set-up than ever before as well. This comes in light of the departure of Ramon and David, two of his usual tour mates, who are instead focusing on their new artist project as of late.
Without giving too much away…
Topics addressed in the new material ranged from the stresses of tour and the impacts it has on grandson and his relationships; what it’s like being a touring artist and also being in a long-distance relationship; the cyclic, mal-adaptive ways in which he’s dealt with that stress…and how he wakes up the next morning back where he started; the special, tender nature of artist-fan relationships, especially between artists and those early, day-one fans.
Between the songs already released on streaming services, and the ones previewed in New York City, it’s abundantly clear that I Love You, I’m Trying is much more than grandson’s sophomore album. It’s, in part, an autobiography; it’s almost like pages torn from Jordan’s journal, as opposed to Death of an Optimist, which could be more-so considered to be written ‘by grandson’, about ’grandson’. grandson’s growth as a songwriter between his “Best Friends” days–or even his “Blood / Water” days–and now couldn’t be more obvious as well.
By the end of the YouTube live portion of the event, several members of the crowd were brought to tears (“Heather” is a real tear-jerker; grandson even provided a trigger warning before pressing play) and the Q&A session provided some much-needed tension relief.
The acoustic session turned into a bit of a sing-along in the park–and it was genuinely incredible to hear the raw power that grandson possesses; his voice filled the open space… if it’s even possible to fill an open space.
I almost forgot to sing along–I was so thoroughly captivated.
Beggars can’t be choosers…
Unfortunately, not all was perfect, despite this whole scenario feeling like a daydream.
By choosing to do this event via YouTube Live, Warner was relying on every fan having reliable cell reception…which is not something I would ever suggest doing, even in a metropolitan area like NYC. For every second that a device went offline, it created a delay equal to the same amount of dead air for that listener.
Personally, I wasn’t even able to listen to half of “Heather” before I had to take one earbud out to hear the discussion afterwards…with the song still finishing in my other ear.
Even grandson’s stream was not in sync with that of the majority’s
Having portable Internet hotspots available for fans to connect to likely would’ve remedied this problem. Honestly, it was embarrassing to have been on Warner’s media team’s cameras, having to nod my head along to a beat I couldn’t hear, basing my actions on the body language of those around me (it took a good 25 seconds or more to even get the livestream to start on my device).
I applaud Warner for having consent forms ready for attendees to sign (or decline) for use of their image in any of the post-listening party content created from the footage they recorded at the event.
I’ve been at events where post-event documentaries/wrap videos/etc. were part of the event staff’s plan from the start, and have never once been offered a consent form. I hope this becomes a norm at live music events. My trust in Warner–and my comfort levels with regards to attending future pop-up events coordinated by Warner–absolutely skyrocketed.
Getting attendees’ consent for use of their image was easily integrated as well–verbal consent was asked for at the start of the event, and a representative had fans sign the physical forms as they waited for their meet and greet opportunity. I imagine something like this could easily become part of the check-in process at events where these sort of post-event videos are planned.
ILYIT: grandson is back in New York this summer
All in all, this NYC listening event solidified my years-long love of grandson and all that he does and stands for. I didn’t know that it was possible to further solidify my admiration for him, but here we are, one massive essay later…
Hearing the way he spoke of this new body of work, and seeing the way he made time for each and every person who showed up for him today–and truly made a point to connect with them– it was a beautiful thing indeed.
Of course, this event got me even more excited for his upcoming album, I Love You, I’m Trying, as well.
I believe that this LP will be a gorgeous collection of some of grandson’s best work yet.
I’m even more excited to see him live as part of the ILYIT tour; if these songs popped off as much as they did acoustically, I can only imagine how great they will sound on stage, exactly as grandson envisioned them, full band behind him.
The last thing that I’ll share from this event is… this event proved to me that grandson will never be a superstar.
At least, he will never be a superstar in the traditional sense that we’re all familiar with.
He will never be this huge, untouchable, mythical being…
Regardless of his level of fame or stardom, grandson will always be, on some level, your old pal Jordan, who you met after some grandson show you went to, at whatever venue, in whatever place. Chances are, he’ll remember you just as you remember him, too.
It’s a beautiful and extremely rare thing to be so genuine in this industry, but Jordan Benjamin is that, and more.