Sunday, May 11, 2008

I'm With The Fan

One of the most mystifying elements of being involved with music, as a performer, a writer or, indeed, a listener is the concept of fandom.

Now, I admit freely that I have been a fan, with a fair degree of obsessive compulsion, of a great many things over the course of my 31 years. I'm a reader of album sleeves, a collector of rarities and the first one to point out factual flaws in any given piece of journalism. I am a geek of the highest order, out and proud.

Many people, fine, decent people, appear to be able to manage their enthusiasms without owning seventeen separate but barely distinguishable mixes of each song by their favourite artists and I envy them. I am not one of these people. The things I truly LOVE are so few and far between that I latch on to them like a nymphomaniacal limpet, usually for life.

In this modern age, however, this age of forums and Facebook, one is confronted by one's fellow fans much more frequently than may once have been the case. And, at times, it is deeply disturbing, like looking at yourself in what you pray is a particular distorted funhouse mirror.

"My God," you think to yourself, "Please tell me I'm not THAT crazy!"

(This happens in real life too, of course. I remember attending an Elvis Costello concert and hearing a woman shout out "Go, Declan!" during a guitar solo, which made me crawl under my seat in embarrassment.)

The flip side to the coin, however, is that, as a performer - particularly one who is still working his way up the rickety ladder of success - hardcore fans are an essential commodity, both to one's fragile ego and to one's career. And bless them, those we have, are wonderful. I dearly wish we had 100,000 more like them.

I've never been comfortable with the idea of groupies, though. Don't get me wrong, I like the attention. Let's be honest, I CRAVE the attention. I'm not a secure person, I admit it. I require tremendous amounts of validation. Sickening amounts, in fact. And I've always said that the difference between me and my stage persona is that for 45 minutes after each show, HE knows how to talk to girls.

But there is something - and perhaps this is just a sign of my rapid descent into geriatric senility - deeply off-putting about the fact that I clearly become 1000 times more attractive simply by setting foot on a stage. The same woman (or man. This is the 21st Century afte all) who drunkenly hangs around to speak to me, would be ignoring me like a potentially cancerous mole if I were simply stood next to her in the audience.

I know for a fact, and there's no self-pity in it, that were Buster Bloodvessel on the stage and I behind, say, the bar, I'd be the one going home alone.

I feel bad when I turn anyone down under those circumstances, because as much as I am aware that it's a false attraction, I've been rejected enough times to dislike returning the favour. (I don't even like suggesting that this has ever happened, it types as vanity.)

But I digress, because that's not strictly fandom. Fandom, at its best, is people who lack that restrictive embarrassment gene that prevents the rest of us from exhibiting our passions for all to see.

When you care passionately about something you've created, there is nothing more electric than when strangers share that passion. Yet, there does appear to be a chasm between those who consider themselves rational, cool-headed commentators on the one side, and the rabid supporters who would do anything to see their team get ahead on the other.

As a(quasi)grown-up man, there are times I'd like to pretend I'm one of the former, when I long above all else to be taken seriously and to be serious. As a fan myself, I pray for the day when I can count on an army of obsessives like me, googling us in the early hours and choreographing attempted conceptions to our music.

Naked photography can still be sent to the usual address.


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