June 1st, 2019 was definitely the best Saturday evening of my life.
That was the night I saw Imogen Heap in concert. It was the first time she had toured in almost nine years and the first time I had seen her live.
I have ten years of memories with her and her music. She used to do regular vlogs and through those I learnt about her how far she will go to find the right sound, her commitment to her community, how she is a kind, gracious person who was always learning more, pushing her boundaries, standing up for what she believed in and growing all the time. I found my favourite instrument through her vBlog #24. My favourite live performance of all time is her rendition of Blanket with Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scotts. Hide and Seek has been my favourite song of all time for years and years - in fact, me and my mom would listen to Speak for Yourself together when we went to the same college and she loved Hide and Seek SO MUCH. Our music tastes so rarely line up.
More than anything, it was Immi's pursuit of creativity that compelled me to look to her as my creative role-model for the past decade.
To be able to finally see her perform live was a dream come true. I have the deluxe box set from her album Sparks which included a soundcheck ticket. I redeemed it: I sent the email to her team claiming my spot and I told them that I was going to bring some jewelry for her. She and her music have done so much for me, I just wanted to give her something back. Team Heap told me that depending on how soundcheck went, I might not be able to give them to her personally, but they would pass them along. So, I made my three bestsellers - Nabi, Ayesha and Sullivan and a bespoke pair of dangly cubes (which will be named after her and on the website in a few weeks) and put them all in a nice little living hinge laser cut box.
The soundcheck itself was surreal but uneventful. They seemed to be having some technical difficulties, so it took a while to actually start up and Imogen and the crew got through four songs in the hour we were there. Regardless, I got goosebumps. She was incredible. And so close and so real - it's always surreal to see the people you've only seem through a screen in real life.
We didn’t get a chance to talk to her after the soundcheck, but I handed the box of jewelry to Sarah - the member of Team Heap I had been talking to via email. Sarah said that she’d give Imogen the earrings later. Cool, she probably won’t see them before the show. That’s perfectly fine with me.
There were a few hours between soundcheck and the concert- perfect for food + rest. The concert itself started 30 minutes late due to the giant queue outside. The lights finally dimmed, everyone cheered and Imogen, in all her glory, strode onto the stage. I was 13 rows back, but I squinted at her ears. I didn’t see anything in her left ear, but in her right ear there looked like there was something spindly and all the blood drained out of me. I didn’t want to be wrong so I kept staring and couldn’t process anything she was saying. At all. Eventually, the earring caught the light and I saw a square.
Imogen Heap was wearing my earrings on stage.
At this point she was talking about how the song she was about to do was the first Frou Frou song in 17 years. Everyone cheered and I started hyperventilating and laughing in disbelief - which turned into sobbing in disbelief. I sobbed my way through the entire first song (it's a beautiful song and I haven't stopped listening to it since). I have no shame. I gained my composure after that, but I was floating on a cloud the entire rest of the show.
She truly is magical live. There's nothing I can say which would do justice to the experience. Please, if you ever have the chance, see her live.
The song before intermission was one she had done with Guy Sigsworth called Shurayo and it’s so beautiful it hurts.
During intermission, by a weird circumstance, I ended up being five feet away from Imogen. I had been on a mission to fill my water bottle and there she was, standing in the doorway with her back to me. I went around to the other side to see if I could say something to her - but I was so starstruck (and she looked like she was trying to get in her zone) that I couldn’t say anything. But from that up close, I saw that she had the Nabi stud in one ear and the Ayesha stud in the other.
I didn't start bawling again - but it was a close call. To see that my creative role-model values my work meant the world to me.
After the show there was a rumor in the soundcheck group whatsapp that she might come out and say 'hi' - so we all rallied together and after about 30-40 minutes, she came out. At this point, she was wearing both the Nabi earrings. She made a decision to change into them and I know it’s a small thing but it meant so much to me.
I thanked her for wearing the earrings and she told me how much she liked them. She went on to ask if it’s what I do full-time, I told her I just started so I currently do it part-time and I work part-time. Then she said she should’ve shouted me on stage (I was screaming internally and not sure how to respond), “we can shout you out on twitter, do you have one?” “No, I mostly use Instagram” “Instagram then, do we have yours?” “It’s on the business card that should be in the box” (Or some approximation thereof- my memories are already fuzzy). She told me the cubes were really 'lovely', but that she could only wear one during the show because the other interfered with her earpiece - so he wore the stud in the other one - but that she loved the dangly cubes as well. I told her they were a new design but I’m planning on naming them after her.
After that it was time for the group photo and as we were all assembling she mentioned how her fans are so talented (a gentleman named Gio had also done a painting for her). Instead of cheese, Sarah had us say ‘Austin’, so Imogen went “Austin! Technical difficulties! Cube earrings!” I am beaming in that photo.
After that, I got a hug and thanked her again and headed out. Looking back, I’m sure I hogged a lot of time she already didn’t have - but I’m so grateful she (and the other fans) were so gracious and kind.
That was Saturday (6/1/19). On Monday, Imogen saw my post about the experience on the Ladysmiths of ATX instagram community and commented: “I do really like them! Xx been wearing the cube ones all through the days since :) x thank you” (She also followed the LadysmithsofATX page, which was super cool.)
On Tuesday, she posted an instagram picture of her wearing them.
On Wednesday she posted an instagram video in which she's still wearing them.
I’m humbled and awed. I knew giving her my earrings meant that she would own them - but I never imagined I’d see her wear them. My heart is so so full and I don't think anything can top this.
If you had told little 18 year old Hamaila that one day Imogen Heap would be wearing my earrings I would’ve told you you’re crazy because I’m going to become a pharmacist.
Life is wild y’all.
Cover photo by Jim Chapin for Front Row Center. All the other photos are by Sarah of Team Heap.
Enjoyed the post friend! So sweet. Can’t imagine the emotions of meeting a personal hero like this!