Hello again, dearest readers! It’s been a pretty spectacular couple of weeks in music, and for the Gypsies personally. Surprise announcement of a ‘secret’ album recording, and a hush-hush signing with Eleven Seven Records from our favorite Canadians Art of Dying*, along with album releases from Otherwise, New Medicine , and Charm City Devils** have had smiles glued to our faces for days. The music from these brilliant minds is what brought us all together in the first place, after all, and we eagerly devour any new tunes that come our way.
A new Art of Dying album, you say? Shut up and take our money!
We’ve known some of the bands that we see frequently at shows for many years, and have built friendships with several of them. There’s nothing to me like fighting for a front-row spot, so I can sing and scream lyrics that mean so much to me with the people who penned the words and wrote the riffs. That’s the best part of the whole Road Trip Gypsy experience for me, to show an appreciation to an artist for a piece of art that has affected my life. More often than not, it doesn’t go unnoticed. The Gypsies have been lucky enough to form lasting bonds with some really great people, and through them, with other friends around the world.
I say friends, because to us, there’s a huge difference between being a friend and being a fan. The Gypsies have discussed and dissected this idea for numerous hours on road trips, and to us, it comes down to a simple matter of respect. The members of the bands that we love to sing along with, who can bring us to tears with one line of lyrics and send chills down our spines with one pure note, are people like us. The fact that they can make 20,000 of us feel like we are the only ones in the room, all at the same time, is a special gift. They are the empathetic ones, the seers of pain and joy in the souls of people, they put words to our feelings and music to our thoughts. And because they choose to stand in front of us all and proclaim this in 3/4′ time with a bass line and backing vocals, there are those people who feel that this openness gives them the right to every other part of the artist’s life as well. How many times have we heard or read, “Well, if they didn’t want to be in the public eye, they shouldn’t have gone into music/acting/etc.” Far too often, in my opinion. An artist can no more choose not to see what they see than you or I can choose not to breathe.
I have noticed this phenomenon particularly in the case of musicians. Allow me to set the scene. You attend a concert, festival, small showcase, any event. The band or artist gets on stage and gives a performance that connects with the audience. Eye contact. Talking to the crowd. The audience sings. Lots of energy and emotion. The band/artist gives all they have, emotionally and physically, for every minute of time they have been allotted. Afterward, they stand at a merchandise table for hours and autograph things and people, pose for photos, give hugs and handshakes, and hear the same questions and comments over and over and over again. And these gifted, giving souls will make each person they meet feel like there is a special bond that only the two of them share. You leave happy, excited, and energized…the artist leaves exhausted and drained, hopefully feeling that they’ve done what they were put on this planet to do. You go home… the artist goes on to the next venue to do it all over again.
This is where the fan and the friend differentiate. Both feel the connection with the artist. Both revel in the experience that was shared. Both enthusiastically support the band or artist on social media, posting and sharing photos and updates, and by purchasing the artist’s music. The friend generally stops there. There is a level of respect accorded to the artist as an individual, with an understanding of their need for personal time, privacy, and space to create. The friend eagerly awaits the next song release or tour announcement, but does not focus their entire existence around the waiting period. The friend does not post negative commentary about how long it has been since the artist has “done anything”, and does not dig through the artist’s personal life for “clues” about what might be going on. The friend does not share personal information about the artist, the artist’s family, or the artist’s personal life away from performing unless the artist shared the information first in the same type of setting. These are actions of a fan.
Fans obsess to varying levels. Fans may know names of the artist’s parents, cousins, children, siblings, and elementary school teachers. Fans know the artist’s hometown, if, when, and why they moved, and their current location. Fans know the artist’s other interests outside of performing. Fans jealously defend, often angrily, their opinion of everything the artist has ever done since their first performance at the age of 6 in a hometown talent show. Most concerning, fans invade the artist’s personal life. They follow the artist’s entire family on every social media platform. They know who the artist is dating or marrying. They know when children are born. They know when a relative passes away. They make ‘tribute art’ to random people associated with the artist, hoping to get the artist’s attention. And, they eagerly spread personal information before the artist acknowledges it publicly. In our society of constant social media interaction, fans are a parasite in the system. Fans spread stories and rumors, often claiming ‘good intentions’ or ‘just wishing the best for them’, without pausing to think about the results of these actions. Some things should remain personal, and private, but not in the mind of a fan. They have a desperate desire to know everything.
We all are fans, at some stage. If you love music, there has been an artist over whom you have obsessed, purchasing everything they’ve ever produced or been associated with, poring over photos of them online, eagerly awaiting any tidbit of information about them and passing it on. (If you haven’t, let me introduce you to a few amazing people…) What matters is that our appreciation for the artist as a person grows as our appreciation for their work matures. For some, this happens quickly, while others wallow in the obsession. We become a friend of the artist or band. We understand that they have complicated lives, just like we do, and that things change all the time. We appreciate how much work they put into navigating the tangle of a music industry that we are currently faced with, and how they keep fighting to make their own brand of art. When we see them at concerts or festivals, we are screaming lyrics and shedding tears while they’re performing, and patiently waiting to say hi as they greet hundreds of people after the show. We don’t demand their undivided attention because we know they are pulled in a hundred directions at an event. We say hi, have a hug or fist bump, and tell them how fantastic the show was. Then, it’s “Catch you next time!” and we make way for others.
Fans come and go. Friends are for life. And, as the Otherwise gents like to say, it’s a Life By Music.
*Art of Dying Sign with Eleven Seven Records http://elevensevenmusic.com/art-of-dying-signs-with-eleven-seven-music/
**New Album from Otherwise “Peace At All Costs” http://weareotherwise.com/site/
**New Album from Charm City Devils “Battles” http://www.charmcitydevils.com/
**New Album from New Medicine “Breaking The Model” http://www.newmedicinerock.com/