On a Monday in New York, I found myself standing in line to get into a Brooklyn record store. It’s not often that I head to Williamsburg in the middle of a weekday afternoon but, honestly, Harry Styles could’ve told me to report to a butcher shop in Connecticut and I would have obliged. Thankfully, that’s not where the One Direction alum decided to hold his album release party.
The iHeartRadio Album Release Party, I discovered earlier that morning via email, would be at Rough Trade, a Brooklyn shop that leans toward indie music and probably never envisioned it would ever play host to a Harry Styles concert. I arrived at 12:30 p.m. — exactly when we were told doors would open — only to find a queue shorter than the express line at Trader Joe’s. Apparently, the wait to see Harry Styles up close and personal would be a lot shorter than the wait to buy cheap yogurt.
After checking my bag — relinquishing all my worldly possessions, including my cell phone — I walked into a small room at the back of the store. There were probably 10 people in it when I got there. By the time it all started, there were about 60 of us, a mix of twentysomething Directioners, DJs, a few tweens, and a handful of industry people.
Harry Styles could've told me to report to a butcher shop in Connecticut and I would have obliged.
The energy in the room was palpable: For one, it was hard to believe the room was actually this small, and two, that the "Sign of the Times" singer was actually going to be singing, standing, and, y'know, breathing mere feet from us.
After a few minutes — IDK how long exactly, time and space don't exist when you’re waiting for Harry Styles — someone who was not Harry stepped onto the stage. We were introduced to Maxwell, a Z100 host who would be, well, hosting the gig.
Then, Harry and his band filed onstage. There was no teaser video, no countdown, just a few band members and then Harry, in the flesh and ruffled pants. I know they were pants because later someone complimented his socks and he immediately responded, "These old things? They're pants." Those old things were Gucci, obviously.
In addition to sock compliments, he fielded a number of questions from us and was in turn designated the king of just about everything by vocal attendees in the crowd — astrology, music, and Brooklyn, to name a few.
Though the room was smaller than Radio City Music Hall (one of the venues he's playing on his upcoming tour), it gave fans a preview of the intimate kind of set they can expect on future stops — Harry could definitely hear everything. If you were lucky, you would even get a response. To get that type of attention at MetLife Stadium, a typical venue during his mega-successful boy-band era, you'd have had to throw a shoe at him.
After acknowledging he couldn't condone all the school skipping that had taken place for him, Harry picked up a guitar — something I'm still not fully used to, TBH — looked out over the room and said, "Welcome to my first solo show. This is weird," before appropriately launching into "Ever Since New York."
Immediately, everyone began singing along to the song, which he debuted three weeks ago on Saturday Night Live. It's a song that only exists on the internet in its live, Studio 8H form, but when he lifted the mic to the crowd, no one missed a beat, chanting its chorus like it was an old standby.
Then he did something no one was expecting — he attempted to fly.
Next, he asked us to be nice, because he was going to play "Carolina," a song he hadn’t performed live for anyone at that point. Unlike the first song, no one knew the lyrics (yet!), so we all just stood in relative silence, nodding along. Our response must've been nice enough, though, because he played it for a much larger, global crowd on the Today show the next morning.
After "Carolina," Maxwell came back out. The two chatted about Harry’s upcoming film, Dunkirk; writing the album; taking time off; and more. At this point, someone tried to squeeze in front of me, an impossible task for several reasons. I became incredibly distracted.
I definitely regained my focus, however, when he introduced "Two Ghosts," the only song on the album, Harry told us, that he didn’t write last year in Jamaica. This one was written about three years ago and, again, hadn't been performed for anyone yet. He grabbed his guitar, and while he was adjusting the mic, knocked all of the remaining picks off the stand — which made me laugh, like, way harder than it should've. For the first time, I was glad I had come alone, so no one had to see me like this.
Harry then paused to acknowledge the youngest attendee, who was turning 8. He brought the birthday girl onto the stage, led us in “Happy Birthday” — not the Stevie Wonder version, as had been requested by an audience member — and then escorted her back to her mother. It was very sweet, and I wish I had lied and said it was my 8th birthday.
He closed the show with "Sign of the Times," which just seems to improve with age. And then, perhaps inspired by his just-released video for the song, he did something no one was expecting — he attempted to fly. Into the crowd.
The intimacy we had cultivated over an hour emboldened him to stage dive. He had never done it, he said, and had always wanted to. After working up the courage, he leapt into the, um, apparently very weak arms of his adoring fans.
He was on the ground faster than you can say, I don't know, "Gucci loafer," one of which fell off in the process. Suddenly, the people who hadn’t been knocked over were rushing over to circle, stare, and touch.
A full minute later, he returned to the stage, shirt untucked, shoe partially on, and proceeded to apologize to everyone for doing it. He apologized to us, to his team, to anyone who would listen, really.
Then, after a minute or two of unnecessary sorries, it was all over. We were expected to collect our bags and go back to our normal lives, as if Harry Styles, king of apologies, hadn't just trusted us with his precious bones. He'll probably never dive off a stage again, and honestly, the rest of us will probably never recover, either.
You can hear how it all went down for yourself on Friday at 7 p.m. local time, when iHeartRadio's CHR stations (and Hot AC stations in local markets that do not have a CHR station) will broadcast the show.