I watched Live at the Greek for the..... 20th or so time today, pulling together (more) notes for my retrospective. In my usual overanalyzing, I'm looking at bits that have been resurrected in later shows and tours, what got left behind, what worked, what was typical of a show of the mid/late 1970s and how things have changed. Wondering how many endangered polyesters died to make that blue leisure suit and whether adding the rhinestones was cruel and unusual. (There I said it! Someone had to!) Wondering why a man who is already 6 feet tall needs to wear shoes with heels. (Come on, that's funny! I had a really long day with TNLF and I'm really punchy so the inner smartass is asserting herself.)
And then it dawned on me - I am a very lucky lady to be able to focus my analysis on the music and performances without any bitter aftertaste associated with politics or bad encounters. No baggage at all.
Over the past few months so many fans in ManiLand have been disappointed, pissed off, or just mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. The Hilton cancelling a parade of shows was just the cherry on top of the sundae. The usual bitching and personality conflicts in whatever fan forum or community is usually enough to send anyone over the edge.
I wish all of you in that boat could see and feel how much I understand and how much my heart aches for you. I've been there. Oh, how I remember what that was like. You think you're in a safe place, you think you've made the transition from enjoying the fantasy to living with the reality, to whatever degree. Then all of a sudden you're sitting on a rocking horse drinking from the Firehose of Blunt Reality and all of your good feelings and memories blur into a fog.
Here's the reason: the whole thing is an illusion. Even the tangible bits that we fans have access to - fan clubs, memoribilia, photo ops, an invitation to dance, autographs - it's part of the carnival ride. You don't live on the ferris wheel in a real carnival but the fan experience seems more real than a ferris wheel. So you stay on and forget that the ride will eventually stop.
It's disorienting because you think you've been snookered. That your feelings were manipulated. Call me crazy but I don't think that's the case. For TPTB of any artist it never is personal. It's business. Business is not a four-letter word. You can buy into the product or service or not. You can complain about business practices, or take your business elsewhere.
It works when your head is in charge. If your head takes a break and you approach fandom only with your heart, it gets broken. Every time.
Now here's the other half of the dichotomy: the "show" is an illusion. But everything you brought to it is real. Your feelings and the emotions created by the experience are real, they're yours, and they can't be taken away. Whether it was the inconvenience of show changes and the like, or if someone decided to be an asshole to you in a bad moment it doesn't change how the music and past shows made you feel.
For me, recovering those feelings without the aftertaste took time. Some of the consequences, good and bad, were permanent. On the bad side, I don't spend much time on that artist anymore. On the good side, when the time was right I was able to "fall in love" with music and let it take me all kinds of new places again; and this time I had a better idea how to protect myself.
It seems that if you spend any serious amount of time and effort in a fan club or fan community, you're going to get burned. Just the nature of the beast. Enter at your own risk. A little caution (paranoia?) can prevent the worst of those injuries. That caution helps keep your head in charge of your heart, and your expectations managed. I chose to keep my name a secret. I've talked with folks at Stiletto and Starz.bz and none of them had any idea I was YBA. I've decided not to make any effort to meet Barry, ask for an autograph, etc. If the opportunity landed in my lap, I'd take it - I'm not stupid! But I learned long ago that the more effort you put into trying to meet someone, the greater the risk of disappointment. This way, there's no pressure on me or on Barry to be comfortable in an awkward or artificial situation.
Am I missing out on some incredible experiences? Probably. But what I keep is much more valuable - an untarnished love of the music that will last a lifetime. I love riding the ferris wheel but I never forget that the ride ends. That's OK. Just get back in line and take another ride.
To everyone out there who has gotten hurt in some way: I hope that time heals the wounds and in some time, and in some way, you rediscover the music that first swept you off your feet and you fall in love again.
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race