For many fans the only thing better than following a band is meeting them. That’s fair enough but it needn’t always be the goal.
I used to think it was really important as a fan to meet The Black Keys. And it was until I met them. It was a very brief meeting after hanging around outside a venue long after a show had finished. Dan and Pat were as friendly and down to earth as those who had met them had reported. The ‘experience’, a fumbled conversation, was even better than I had expected.
Now I don’t think it as important to try and meet the band at any opportunity. It’s now the idea of the band and all they represent that is seemingly more important. Arguably, it always was and I just didn’t realise it.
Ever since I met the band I’ve also thought about what I’d say or do if I met Dan or Pat again. I really don’t want to stumble over words and grin happily and little more again. In the unlikely event I’d meet them again, I’d thought about it a lot prior to travelling to New York where I was to see the The Black Keys’ three concerts.
I had struck a bit of a conumdrum because since meeting The Black Keys the experience had also clarified a number of thoughts:
- A fan by definition can only ever exist as an observer of the subject – from a distance as an outsider
- A band owes a fan nothing more than the same respect as the fan pays it
- This is an outsider fan site interested in an outsider band
- Healthily, I know I can’t be Dan or Pat’s friend
These points are just the deal you make and need to accept as a fan.
It was therefore a confronting experience when I baulked at an opportunity to meet Dan and Pat in New York. Some spontaneous kindness allowed me to be backstage after a show. I was right there, they were right there, in the same room. I couldn’t explain it at the time, or really justify not introducing myself.
You know what the sun’s all about when you fly too close.
I think it boils down to facing the greatest fear of any fan, and more so if you are silly enough to start a fan site: what if the band doesn’t like you or your site? I imagine there can be nothing more lonely than liking a band or having a fan site about a band that doesn’t like you.
But as I walked away from the venue all this was a great realisation. It was liberating and peaceful. Not meeting Dan and Pat when I could have was a release from being too attached to the idea of wanting the band to appreciate your appreciation.
If anyone can understand this emotion of being a fan it’s probably Dan Auerbach.
On the plane home from New York I was thinking about when a teenage Dan and his Dad, Chuck, drove 16 hours to see Junior Kimbrough play live. Dan, of course, was and is a massive fan of Kimbrough’s music. Junior was too ill and not playing when they arrived at the small town show though the rest of his family band was. As Chuck tells the story, Dan was even asked to play with the band, but he declined.Chuck Auerbach talks about the trip to see Junior Kimbrough
I’m wondering if the experience for Dan, then and ongoing, was more powerful because he didn’t meet Junior? It would have been amazing to have met him, but it was probably as influential that he didn’t. As a fan, Dan had to internalise the experience and reflect upon what Junior really meant to him. Similarly, to use Chuck’s sentiment, faced with an opportunity I was never going to admit this site was good enough for the band to find it worthy – or not.
Then on the plane home from New York something else happened. I had a dream about The Black Keys.
The dream went like this:
I’m at this country outback gathering, looking post-apocalyptic, like a Mad Max film set. Dan Auerbach is playing guitar with a local house band. He plays for like 6 hours – 12am to 6am. It’s non-stop, just in the groove. I have the feeling I’m not meant to be at the show, just happen to be randomly out there.
When Dan finally leaves the stage, not really stage more the middle of a field, he’s looking really drained, sweaty and very pale. Dan wanders up to the bar and is waiting there to be served.
I walk over and say “Hey Dan, great show.” He turns, looks me straight in the eye and says, “Hey Brucini?”
“Yes?” I say, surprised. “Cool” says Dan. “You coming to all the shows?” I turn a bit sheepish and say I just happened to be at this one.
I then say to Dan, “You are looking very pale, dehydrated. I’ve got some electrolyte drink supplements for water if you want them.”
Dan looks at me, scans the scene and politely says “Do you think they’ll mind?” I reply, I’m thinking huh? it’s only a common drink supplement, “Mate, you can do anything you want out here.”
This dream got me thinking.
Maybe I actually did want to meet Dan and Pat much more than I would care to admit? Probably. One thing is for sure, unexpectedly meeting Dan in a field at 6am and offering a re-hydrating drink supplement would have been and would be a much easier way to meet. Maybe if I had a donut handy for Patrick too I’d be sorted.
I now look forward again to any future opportunity.