Mandala’s 54th Annual Grammy Wrap-Up

The Grammys: drama, nerves, last-minute changes, wardrobe issues, vehicle troubles, and yet, when it came time for the show, everything worked out smoothly. Sounds like a typical award show, but actually that was a description of my life just one day before the big event.

Once I got through all of that, though, it was the most fantastic night and the best concert I have ever attended. I mean, just looking at the number of legends I saw in this one evening is a bit overwhelming to take in. It is hard to believe that it all actually happened.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I was rather stressed as I flew to L.A. with my husband because there were a few details that were still up in the air. There were some snafus that shook me a little but, in the end, I was able to get my hair done, and I was able to move our drop-off time up by an hour and a half. So, when it came time to head to the hotel lobby and get into our town car, I had no room for anything but excitement.

The drop-off process was very quick and smooth. Too quick in fact, as we were trying to settle up with the driver while the greeters opened the doors for us to get out.

It was really illuminating to see how the red carpet process works. Unlike the Oscars, where you see the birds-eye-view cameras and the crowds of fans lined up to cheer, the Grammy red carpet is an incredibly long tent tucked back behind the convention center. There was only about 50 feet of drop-off space before the entrance to the tent and the staff herded guests into it pretty quickly. I was shaky nervous trying to get a photo outside of the tent before I had to put my camera away.

Mandala on the red carpet

Upon arrival, just before entering the tent

I actually had a hard time trying to work the buttons on my phone. Another disadvantage of such a small area is that I didn’t really have time to check that my dress was in place before I found myself in front of cameras. Luckily, everything was in place!

I quickly learned that the “no camera” policy was more aimed at certain aspects of the event than the event as a whole. For example, if you were walking past all the interview booths, you could not take photos, but they had areas for photo ops that were strategically placed so that you would not be able to snap a pic of something you were not supposed to. One such photo area was the classic sponsor wall.

That is when I got these photos:

Mandala on the red carpet: Grammys 2012

Iconic Red Carpet Photographs

So… what does go on inside of that tent?!

Upon entering we were asked “Are there any nominees in your party?” Nominees were escorted to the right where all the networks and entertainment shows were set to do interviews. The first booth the musicians walk past is Entertainment Tonight and the second is E! After that, they sort of ran together for me and I do not recall who was where. I think there were maybe about a dozen interview areas. At the end of the line, there was a very small seated audience who clapped as the celebrities got their photos taken by the gaggle of photographers squeezed into a booth.

Behind-the-scenes photo via the official Grammy fb page

Though we were not allowed to linger, I did my best to walk slowly and take the whole thing in. I did see Bonnie McKee, Joy Williams, Sasha Gradiva wearing that bizarre robo-arm outfit, and the two darling little girls who had been on Ellen. I’ll admit, I am not as celebrity-savvy as I thought I was because I had to look up a couple of these people.

One of the coolest things that happened to me was that, as I walked past one of the TV booths, the video camera guy pointed to me and motioned with his hand for me to twirl. I looked over my shoulder and then looked at him, pointed at myself and mouthed “Me!?” He nodded, and so I did my best runway twirl. I walked behind one of the many support walls, freaked out a little, and giggled with the woman behind us who seemed just as excited about it as I was. When I reappeared from behind the short wall, he asked me to do it again! This was just before the photographers at the end of the line, so I tweeted it quickly before I might be asked to check my phone at security.

Then we went through the metal detectors and they didn’t take my phone. By the way, they check for tickets about every 50 feet it seems. There is no sneaking in or getting through to any area into which your ticket did not allow.

We were then shown into the convention center where the pre-telecast awards were already under way. The organizers were thoughtful to provide water and so we grabbed a couple of bottles, did a lap around the lobby and then headed into the awards.

Shortly after arriving, I saw Tony Bennett receive an award for the duet he did with Amy Winehouse. He accepted it along with Amy’s parents. It was really moving to hear Amy’s father speak about her and the foundation they have started in her name.

Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse's Parents

Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse’s Parents at the Pre-Telecast Awards

After 15 minutes or so we decided to find some seats. It was a giant convention center ballroom, so the seating was very casual, with folding chairs, wide aisles, and the ability to seat yourself at anytime in any seat that was available. We sat down close to the back along an aisle. Getting settled in, we saw Taylor Swift receive two awards for “Mean.” She was so cute. She talked about the satisfaction of the whole experience saying there’s nothing like someone being mean to you, writing a song about it, and then getting a Grammy for it. Satisfying and validating indeed, Miss Swift!

A few more awards were handed out, but some of the winners were not present because they were probably at rehearsal in the Staples Center.

Then an award in the rock category came up, and Foo Fighters were announced as the winners and, oh my goodness, they stood up RIGHT across the aisle from where were were sitting. We were right next to the Foo Fighters?!? SO cool! They made a similar speech to the one they gave later that night about being old school, recording in Dave Grohl’s garage and using all analog equipment. I love the part he added later in the televised awards about really needing to practice your craft and not relying on computers to fix or enhance a musician’s performance. He said that it must come from the heart, not the computer. Well said, Dave.

At the conclusion of the pre-televised awards ceremony, everyone exited the convention center, and headed toward the Staples Center. This put us right out onto Figueroa Ave at the big front entrance. It was a beautiful late afternoon and we slowly filed into the large venue. Upon arrival, we once again had to go through security, and once again, no one confiscated our phones. We were handed hefty programs and strange, colorful bracelets that said “COLDPLAY MYLO XYLOTO.” We hung around for a bit trying to waste some time before going to our seats, but my feet were starting to rebel from my footwear. I took one look at the escalator and realized that there was no way I could get on it. I envisioned some sort of escalator-style paper shredder incident and we quickly located an elevator. This is when we learned that our seats were apart from the general admission and required us to go through the VIP seat section. Did I mention we had to show our tickets about every five minutes? It was still happening. We should have looked for our seats sooner, because the food and beverage stand and the area as a whole was much less crowded on the VIP level. We located our seats at the top row of the mezzanine level, below the box seats, house right. The seats were fantastic and completely worth the extra money we spent on them.

As soon as my husband and I sat down, I saw that everyone around us had their phones out and some people even had cameras. What a relief! I was going to be able to document the evening after all. That is, until my phone’s camera started to freak out and my battery started getting hot to the touch. Thank goodness my husband has the same phone, so the video and pics are seamless with mine. At least I was able to squeeze out a few tweets when everyone else was NOT tweeting or texting and sucking up all the bandwidth.

Mandala in her seat at the Grammys

In my seat. Great view, wouldn’t you say?

The show was pretty much how you see it on TV. There were large screens above and to the sides of the stage, so when they went to commercials, we saw the “coming up” announcement that viewers saw. It was at this time that I saw the fastest set-up tear-down of sets that I have every seen in my life. Many of the sets were huge and complex, yet they were up and down in minutes. There are two points of interest that viewers might not know in regards to what goes on during the commercial breaks. The first is that the large screens show performance highlights from past Grammy Awards, and the other is that if you decide to get up to go to the bathroom, no matter where your seats are located, you are forced to wait until the next commercial break to be seated. I ended up watching Katy Perry’s glass-shattering performance while standing in the aisle.

The people on my twitter feed were sort of underwhelmed by Coldplay’s performance but, I must say, as an audience member it was absolutely magical. The bracelets all lit up differently and went of in different patterns. The lights were as neon as the artwork that towered over the band as they performed, and the whole space felt like a colorful constellation. I just kept saying “wow.”

One of my two Coldplay wristbands

After the show, those of us who purchased the “2012 Grammy Celebration” after-party tickets headed back over to the Convention Center. The path was mostly indoors or covered, and again, we experienced more metal detectors and ticket checks.

The after party was a bit of a let-down. It was a grand affair, don’t get me wrong, but I am not sure it was worth the cost of admission. Entertainment was provided by Kenny Loggins, OneRepublic (remember their song “Apologize”?) and DJ Michelle Pesce on the main stage. Arturo O’Farrill along with members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra entertained in the Jazz Lounge. The Jazz Lounge was swanky, but there was no available place to sit unless you had some sort of special pass. The main stage area was an ADHD sufferer’s dream. Everywhere you looked there was something going on. While the musicians performed on the main stage, there were also smaller stages scattered about the room.  Some stages held Vegas-style dancer girls, while others held shirtless men doing some sort of martial arts, or flipping around in the air on elastic bands. The food was fair but the dessert line was too long to tempt even me. And that is saying something.

The organizers provided other entertainment in the form of activities at various booths. We got to play pinball on machines that have not yet been released. One was a really fun Rolling Stones-themed machine with small band members positioned around the playfield. This was when I got my one celebrity sighting of the after party: Kathy and Richard Hilton, also know as Paris’s parents. Not exactly who I was hoping for at such a massive gathering of musicians I adore, but at least I can say I smiled and they smiled back. My husband and I got our photos taken at the “Rock Star Photo booth” where a video of a photographer walked you through your shoot and flashed photos of celebrity poses to mimic. Props and a hair fan were provided and we got an 8×10 printout of the photo collection. It was actually quite fun and we laughed our way through it.

There was also a long line for an area where you could get false eyelashes, but I was not sure what it was all about and not willing to wait in another long line after the photo booth. There was free champagne though, so that seemed to keep people happy.

We were ready to go just before midnight. It had been a very rewarding, but very long day. Overall it was a magical, inspiring evening full of legends and up-and-coming stars. It was a dream come true to be there in person and be a part of the glamor.

Want more coverage? I made a wrap-up video containing video footage plus photos not shown here. There is minimal overlap with the blog. Enjoy!

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School, Website, and oh yeah… THE GRAMMYS

I have been swamped lately. When I have not been writing out the Circle of Fifths or memorising ProTools shortcuts for school, my husband and I have been revamping my website. The new site is not live yet, but it is going to be very different and I am very excited about it.

Another event that has me nearly exploding with excitement: I will be attending the 54th Grammy Awards this Sunday.

I have mentioned it on all my other social media, but have neglected to post about it here. I will be sure to post a wrap-up upon my return. I may have a scoop about what happens during the commercial breaks, or perhaps an anecdote about running into someone I admire.

If you want live coverage from an insider’s perspective, follow me on twitter.