At 12:34 a.m. on Monday, I took a cab from Brooklyn to a venue called Webster Hall on 11th Street in Manhattan. I was hoping to see a spontaneous 2 a.m. Kanye West show, announced on social media by a member of his crew, Virgil Abloh, after 'Ye's Governors Ball headlining set was canceled due to weather.
That was pretty much the night. I did not see Kanye perform The Life of Pablo. No one did, even though thousands tried.
It was worth a shot, though. Whole-album concerts are my holiest grails, and TLOP rules, and my FOMO was never deeper than when Yeezy did all of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at a secret show in NYC in 2010, and I missed those 808s & Heartbreak concerts last year. For some reason, two hours' advance notice on this situation just seemed like a decent jump.
From the moment I arrived to find a barricaded block and a roundabout stampede to the end of the line—when it still was a line, not just a stoop-to-stoop glob of humanity—there were so many times I should have given up. But because I'm lucky enough to have this job, and because my editor (who was cool with this silly quest!) got me on a guest list (there was actually a guest list!), I stayed.
These are the 19 points when I should've known better.
1. When I saw an open U.S. Post Office loading bay jam-packed with kids. (Which happened within three minutes of getting out of the cab, but it was pretty obvious, to the tiny remaining rational part of my mind, that a concert was not going to happen with something like that also happening half a block away.)
2. When Kanye tweeted that a show without any readily available ticket info was sold out. (Still not sure if there ever were tickets of any kind.)
3. When a phalanx of NYPD cops steamrolled a path and piled into Webster Hall.
4. When one of the cops grabbed a guy by the throat in front of the venue for not getting out of his way expediently enough when we were all in a pressure cooker wall-to-wall crowd. (A few hours later, news outlets estimated that the mob was 4,000 strong.)
5. When, after nearly two hours, nobody had led a chant of the made-for-waiting a cappella track "I Love Kanye." (Maybe "I hate the new Kanye / The bad mood Kanye/ The always rude Kanye / Spaz in the news Kanye" would've hit too close to home.)
7. When I realized this was Kanye's logical follow-up to that "BILL COSBY INNOCENT!!!!!!!!!!" tweet: ill-advised, very likely on a whim, immune to consequences, bound to make headlines anywhere and everywhere.
8. When I recalled the time Kanye kept Bonnaroo waiting through the night for his performance...which was pre-planned and set within the normal parameters of live music.
9. When I thought that Travis Scott tweeting things like "we pulling up make room" and "we not giving up" pointed toward actual progress.
10. When I saw this:
11. When Virgil Abloh tweeted/'grammed that the show was canceled.
12. Back when I was still at home, saying what a hard album The Life of Pablo would be to perform live.
13. When I saw my 100th piece of Pablo merch in the crowd, because how am I going to be more dedicated than a kid in a $100 longsleeve shirt?
14. When a huge faction started abruptly running down Fourth Ave at full speed, destination unknown, motivation unclear.
15. When I ran down Fourth Ave next to Desiigner a few minutes later and he was making his machine gun "Panda" noises. You gotta known when the night's peaked.
16. When I got in my second cab of the night, following Desiigner's manager's tip to go to SOB's, a 350ish-capacity venue that had volunteered on Twitter to absorb a show meant to be held in a 1,500-capacity venue. By the time I got there, Desiigner and 2 Chainz had already hit the stage. Not sure about Pusha T, who was also there.
17. When security started saying it was $60 cash to get into SOB's.
18. When Travis Scott left the SOB's stage and everyone went with him.
19. When going to sleep started to seem more exciting than anything else that could happen.
Once Kim Snapchatted that she and the Mr. had given up and gone to bed, I got in my third cab and followed suit.
Next, check out Fuse's archival interview with Kanye: