WRVU gets exclusive opportunity to cover press for Lizzy McAlpine’s show at Basement East on September 26, 2022.

Photograph of Lizzy McAlpine, photo by Eva Cheraisi

Enraptured, engaged, enamored: three words that describe the reactions Lizzy McAlpine’s performance of five seconds flat elicited from her Nashville audience. Alongside the impassioned crowd, I witnessed emotions erupt from Lizzy’s fans in waves, as each of her evocative lyrics met the ears of her eager listeners.

With a unique view of the concert, a level above most of the crowd, I watched as fans belted Lizzy’s lyrics like they had written the songs themselves. This element is a staple of Lizzy’s second album; five seconds flat embodies the Philadelphian-born artist’s musical metamorphosis from a lighter folk feel to a darker alternative, even jazzy, melodic climax. Early in the concert, Lizzy acknowledged that this was her first time touring, and it came as a shock that the lyrics she had penned in her bedroom were resonating with her audience. However, finding a relatable moment within Lizzy’s lyrics seems to be a universal experience for her fans (as evidenced by the tears shed and lyrics yelled during the concert.) Heartbreak is the main theme of both of Lizzy’s albums, but five seconds flat features a shift to the bitter side of heartache, a component we got to see in the first song performed by the artist–“an ego thing.”

Anxious crowd awaiting Lizzy’s arrival, photo by Eva Cheraisi

Lizzy’s musical vibe is undoubtedly chill, so it was surprising to see her audience so eager for her entrance onto the stage. Upon her arrival, the audience erupted in explosive cheers. By this time, their vocal cords had already been warmed up, since every time a member of the crew walked onstage to adjust an element of Lizzy’s setup, they cheered. Anxious energy shifted into euphoria as Lizzy uttered “guns drawn, slow down,” the first lyrics in “an ego thing.” The song, which uses a gun metaphor to describe the raw emotions associated with a fundamental disagreement with an ex-lover, set the stage for the angry, heartbroken tone of the setlist.

Photograph of Kelly Roesnthal, Lizzy McAlpine’s guitarist, photo by Eva Cheraisi

Heartbreak lingered, oozing between the lines of each of Lizzy’s songs, but rather than following a uniform trajectory, Lizzy allowed us to see various aspects of the relatable emotion. In “all my ghosts,” we were compelled by the Slurpee-laden imagery of a fond memory of her lover, chanting along to the popular track. “firearm” ripped away the fond memories, injecting us directly into the raw, painstaking image of the first stage of mourning after a breakup. Fresh off lamenting Lizzy’s loss, we were transported back to the sentimental; in “ceilings” we recalled the moments of jubilant anxiety felt in those novel early relationship stages.

I had heard rumors of an unreleased song prior to the concert, but, in truth, none of us were prepared for “Emma,” a touching lyrical tribute to her sister. Prior to beginning the song, she asked the audience if they had any siblings, and even further, if that sibling was with them today. A surprising amount of cheers echoed for the latter. As “Emma” concluded, I noticed those who had yelled the loudest for Lizzy’s inquisitions were also the most teary-eyed. The small yet intimate venue for the concert seemed to enhance the effects of the song. Strangers held each other as the song concluded, chuckling at the presence of the tears staining their faces.

Lizzy’s guitarist had an influential stage presence as well, and in perhaps the most awe-striking moments of the concert, they performed a solo to accompany Lizzy’s “Angelina” that left us all slightly dazed.

Photograph of Lizzy McAlpine singing “ceilings”, photo by Eva Cheraisi

“erase me” was undoubtedly the most high-energy portion of the concert. Perhaps the progression from sentiment to anguish back to sentiment allowed for the climax of this concert to be so invigorating, or maybe the audience was craving an angry emotional release. Whatever the reason, “erase me” left no one in the audience on their feet. The most fervently yelled lyrics seemed to be “I’ve said too much, in and out of wanting us” and “I wonder who will erase me.” The combined power of these phrases allowed the audience to relate to Lizzy’s regret, and subsequently, ponder their own respite amidst the tear-jerking turmoil of love lost.

When our energy had hit its peak, Lizzy teased us all, running off the stage and claiming “erase me” would be her last song of the night. The crowd simply refused to accept this, chanting ardently for one more song. She ran back onstage, answering the calls of her devoted fans, and performed not one, but two more songs. The first of these closers was “Pancakes for Dinner,” a throwback from her first album, give me a minute. The energy shifted to match the indie-folk aura reminiscent of the album, and once again, the lyrics were bellowed, but this time, with a slower, intentional manner as the end of the concert loomed over our heads.

The last song, “orange show speedway,” was a culmination of each aspect of five seconds flat, – reminiscent, wistful, and slightly sorrowful. Most importantly, however, it left us with a somber semblance of hope. And as Lizzy exited stage-left, we clung to that.

(The answer to the titular question remains a mystery).