You guys know me well enough by now to know I adore my musicians. For some kids it’s athletes. For some it’s actors. For some it’s superheroes. But I have idealized (and idolized, in the poetic sense of the word) musicians all my life. Part of it is the personality or image that person projects. Combine that with the power of poetry to connect with our experience and the beauty of the music itself, and finding the right music could mean forging a lifelong partnership.
A connection with an artist can be strong indeed. I have spent an untold amount of money over the years building up my collection, in an effort to find more lyrical treasures. And another small fortune has gone to concert tickets. Going to shows is a last ditch effort of the fan to make the connection real. There are few feelings like the opening chords of a concert. The adrenaline is palpable. Tens of thousands of shrieks of elation fill the room with euphoric, chaotic noise. Everyone wanting desperately to be seen, to be heard; to experience their hero on a real, human level.
I have been fortunate enough over the years to come face to face with several of my “favorites”: Mr. Dennen, Mr. Lee, and Mr. Folds, to name some of the highlights. And I treasure those opportunities to thank a few of the people whose thoughts and experiences have given me food for thought; whose struggles have given me inspiration.
But in spite of these mountaintop experiences, I can’t help but feel a sense of sadness. Long past the days where John, Paul, George, and Ringo are opening their own fan letters, I am part of a new generation of fans. We may be able to read about their breakfast cereal choices on Twitter, or their tour schedules on Facebook and MySpace, but the vast expanses of cyberspace only expand the chasms between fan and hero. The back row is the new front row.
I always hold out hope that I will meet my favorite artists, and that we will have some profound Best Friendship start out of a single meeting (or a More Than Friendship, depending on who you’re talking about). But with the demise of the fan letter and the rising price of concert tickets, I have begun to notice that I temper my silly, childlike idealism with a cynical sense of acceptance.
It is ironic how accessible artists make their hearts and their experience in their work, while it is nearly impossible for their fans, whose support is indispensable, to look into their eyes and smile. Of course, I understand that to attend to every fan is impractical (and impossible in most cases), but it seems unfair for fans to have to resign themselves to anonymity.
So, if your letters, Tweets, wall posts, and emails go unread, what’s the point of sending them? If you are sitting in the nosebleed section screaming yourself hoarse for the 6th time, knowing you won’t be seen, why not be quiet?
Because music brings joy. And if you identify with someone’s music, whether they know you exist or not, that person brings you the same happiness. And because it’s fun to jump up and down and scream like a little girl sometimes. You know it is.
It may not sound like it, but I’m still hopeful. Because I have met a few, I still believe there are artists who appreciate, understand, and connect with the human component of their success. And I believe that life has adventurous, romantic, impossible moments that take us by surprise.
If you’re in the industry, hold your artists accountable. And give them the chance to be a person, a friend, and a crush- not just an icon. If you’re an artist, don’t forget a regular diet of humble pie. And for the rest, just yell as loud as you can. I hear you loud and clear.