This is the summer I lost my voice. In a six-week span, I saw Harry Styles perform six times in four different cities. My real-life friends are confused. I leave home for a week at a time, flying to some random city halfway across the country. What’s in Nashville? I return with another venue wristband stacked on my wrist, circles under my eyes, and legs stiff from dancing. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
If I take a step back, I know my obsession with Harry Styles is curious. It’s not that liking him makes me an outsider. Harry’s voice is the real deal — fans and veteran rock critics like Cameron Crowe and Rob Sheffield all vouch for his talent. Harry is politically active, he donates portions of his tour merch sales to local charities, and has charisma for days. The man is easy to like.
But the kind of fervor with which I love Harry Styles is more unusual, at least among my real-life peers. I’ve always liked One Direction, but I will admit that my passion for Harry Styles has ramped up a bit in the last couple of months. One ticket to the Nashville show multiplied into six, balcony seats were sold for the pit. I’m embarrassed to let my parents borrow my phone to take a photo of me in my graduation gown because the last eleven pictures in my camera roll are Harry memes.
There’s also the inescapable fact that this kind of fandom is often seen as a pathology. It’s hard to avoid applying this kind of logic to myself, especially when I have people telling me that it “makes sense” for me to “turn to Harry right now.” For the first time in my life, I’m not in school. Career-wise, I don’t have anything long-term lined up. I’ve got Love, Simon-levels of anxiety and angst, even though I should have figured all of this out by now. Whenever I try and analyze why I have this much affection for Harry, I always settle on the same thing: Something’s got to be wrong with me if I love something this much.
But what if I’m not wrong? In the temporary community of the pit, surrounded by my friends who are doctors and lawyers and journalists and mothers and healthy queer adults — and, yeah, high school students — all of us screaming along to Harry’s lyrics and sweating and pouring our hearts out to him, I’ve never felt more free. Toward the beginning of every show, Harry tells the crowd to “feel free to be whoever it is you want to be in this room tonight.” With the house lights off, it doesn’t matter what we look like or who we were before we got to the venue. Harry has the microphone, but we’re louder. Every time we open our mouths to scream, the ground quakes.
June 6, Toyota Center, Houston
My first Harry show comes together in typically chaotic fashion. The day before, my friend S posts that she’s giving away free tickets, after upgrading her own seats at the last minute. Houston is four hours away from where I live, but S’s tickets are a gift from an angel, and a boring Thursday is transformed into a mad rush to get everything together.
I’m going to the show with D and M, some of the only One Direction and Harry Styles fans I know in real life, though D would want me to tell you she’s more of a Niall girl. The four hours to Houston fly by as we speculate on which Houston clubs Harry would like the most and sing along to One Direction deep cuts.
I’d seen Harry once before, in Austin for a solo show in the very tiny, very oversold Moody Theater, and D and M had been to One Direction shows. But in Houston’s Toyota Center, Harry is absolutely on fire. The stage is a 360 setup, with people sitting in the raised seating behind the stage, and Harry utilizes every square inch of it. He runs to the back and waves, careens off to the far side, somehow not tripping over his corded mic or giant white flared pants. If you watch enough interviews, you’ll quickly realize how fidgety Harry is, always picking at the skin around his nails, rubbing his nose, swinging his feet. But onstage, his energy runs boundless.
I hadn’t realized it, but after a couple months of watching live streams of his performances at earlier tour dates, I kind of move my body the way Harry does, without even realizing it. I jab my fists in the air and yelp and shake my shoulders during “Only Angel” and bob up and down with the rhythm in “Carolina,” knees bending, keeping time with my imaginary guitar.