As playwright William Congreve once wrote in his 1697 tragedy The Mourning Bride, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Certainly, Congreve didn’t have longtime fans curbed from seeing their favorite artists by astronomical stadium ticket prices in mind when he penned those damning lines. Nevertheless, consider me a woman scorned as fuck as I watch Noah Kahan’s Stick Season, $200-a-ticket, tour frolic around the country without me—all because a stupid social media app has skyrocketed my beloved Kahan from his $20 shows into the echelons of pop stardom so quickly that I, a longtime fan, have been priced out.
You might be asking, who even is Noah Kahan? I’d rather you not, given that you could be the next new “fan” to steal a concert ticket from my still-warm hands once this FOMO literally kills me. But I’ll give you the rundown: Noah Kahan is a gruff, long-haired New England cutie who also happens to be a folk-pop singer. He’s been putting out music since 2017, all of which I’ve listened to religiously over the years. His latest album, Stick Season, which came out last week, is no different: I play it incessantly on loop day in and day out, and apparently…other people do, too, now.
While I’m not one to gatekeep fame from artists who truly deserve it, allow me to paint you a picture of a night not so long ago: It was Sunday, October 16th, 2021, when my boyfriend and I took a simple 10-minute evening stroll into downtown Madison, Wisconsin, to see Mr. Kahan. His attire? A humble plain white tee under an open denim button down. Our fee? A deeply reasonable 22 United States dollars. Our venue? The Majestic Theatre, which, while famed, is still considered mid-sized with a capacity of a snug 600.
It was a blissful, red-hazed night surrounded by dudes in flannels holding Solo cups full of cheap beer. Just as expected, I cried like a bitch baby to both “Mess” and “Carlo’s Song,” awash with homesickness and grief over a lost friend. Not as expected, Noah brought his little brother (who is apparently a Madisonian) up to the stage for a duet. It was intimate and sweet and just what I expected for a Noah Kahan headliner concert—minimal fanfare, all introspective hometown lore. Loving a talented but little-known artist can feel like being in on one of the world’s best-kept secrets, and looking back on things now, I should’ve cherished it while I could. I didn’t realize what I had!!
Ultimately, TikTok would ruin the secret of Noah Kahan, like it’s ruined so many things. Last spring, ahead of this tour, a clip of the album’s titular song “Stick Season” went viral on the app, with dozens of fans singing their own covers, many to which Noah himself replied. How sincere! So down to earth! So endearingly not a diva! His boy next door, journaling, and therapy-going appeal is strong, and not even the girls of TikTok could resist. Almost overnight, Noah Kahan was in and tearfully lusting after his indie musician sex appeal in the comfort of a small weeknight concert was out.
Unfortunately, watching the now completely sold-out tour unfold on social media, with Kahan playing some of the biggest shows of his life multiple nights in a row, has brought out the worst in me. My nights are spent (metaphorically) pounding my fists against the floor and (literally) yelling, “Who even are they!!!” at pictures of Kahan swarmed by adoring fans who can actually afford his now-$200+ tickets, as if I’d just discovered a picture of a recent ex with his suspected new love. Perhaps my parasocial attachment to Kahan has reached a breaking point, and I might just have to block him on social media, as I would an ex, lest I perish from this all-consuming obsession.
While his ticket prices have caved into the generic and impersonal glamor of fame—sliding him into a #6 spot in Apple’s Top 10 Albums last week and #10 in Billboard’s Top Rock Albums this week—his songwriting certainly hasn’t. What makes Kahan’s music so alluring is how earnest and grounded in place it continues to be—even as he shoots straight into the limelight—always circling the same obsessions of lost love and ever-shifting senses of self. You’d need only listen to one of his fiddle-filled songs to know that his hometown in Vermont is both a balm and a thorn to him, a place that both fosters his growth and occasionally makes him feel stuck.
Kahan might be the only person who could sing, “I’m just the same as I was,” into the blinding lights of a stadium and really mean it. I won’t ever know for sure if he’s doing that, though, because I can’t afford the fucking tickets anymore.