Being a huge fan of live music, I have been to quite an array of concerts around London. It is SO exciting to see old and new talent in action. But I have encountered a new beast in the London jazz clubs and music venues that I don’t like at all: the stalker.
My naieve, bobbing up and down joy has a few times turned to distress as I’ve realised the extent of the hero worship I see around me. And it is really quite disturbing.
We went to a small, intimate jazz club in Chelsea last month, to see one of our favourite artists whose music we have loved for many years. He is a local hero, a fantastic musician and we had looked for opportunities for some time to see him perform live.
We read about a forthcoming gig, and applied to be eligible to buy tickets. I got an email a few days later, letting me know I’d been successful and could buy tickets. Being the over-exuberant, highly enthusiastic person that I am, my email reply was more than a little effusive. Something along the lines of YAY – YAY – YAY – YAY! Remember, I’m from abroad!
When we arrived at the venue, we gave our names to the attendant at the door, and as she led us to our seats, she said, “Ooh, front row seats tonight!” Our table was literally the closest you could get to the artist without actually sitting in his shirt pocket. So close we could look up his nose. Not that we did. Or wanted to.
My husband attributed our seat allocation directly to my enthusiasm.
Two women came to sit at the table next to ours. Equally close, but without the nostril opportunity. They couldn’t breathe. One of them had to hold on to her chair to stop herself falling over; she then managed to get herself into her seat, fanning herself with the menu to stop herself hyperventilating. I am not exaggerating. I know that I am prone to, but my husband would tell the story the same way.
She tried to mouthe the words, “I.Can’t.Believe.He’s.Going.To.Be.Right.There.” but the sounds evaded her overwhelmed self. She pointed at the microphone stand. She put her hand to her mouth. She pointed at the microphone stand. She held her heart, she fanned herself further, and then she called the entire address book in her mobile phone to tell them where she was sat.
For a while I bounced along in innocent solidarity with their excitement. Hell, I hadn’t seen him before and look where we were sitting! When our neighbours had calmed down to a panic, I said, “This is so exciting, innit?” (Maybe I’m exaggerating the London-ness, but bear with me.) “Have you seen him before?”
“BEFORE? We only saw him last night in Essex,” said one of them, down her hyperventilating nose. This surprised me (the last night part, not the nose), so I said, “Wow, that’s amazing.”
They then went on to tell me they had met each other at one of his concerts, and that they had both been to 25 to 30 of his concerts around the country. They only ever go to his concerts, nothing else… and I thought WTF? (which means Why The Fanaticism?)
The claws came out when one of the waitrons put the artist’s water bottle AND glass on our table; and even more so when I ventured to speak to the artist at the beginning of his second set. I told you that I have this compulsion to say I’m a Saffa, well … he was thrilled to meet us and told us he loved SA, and shook our hands. The two neighbours leant over to our table, faces frillied with envy, and told us NEVER to wash our hands again … seriously.
I also discovered – at the half time break – that the majority of punters there that night were seasoned fans who followed this artist everywhere he went. On Facebook. On Twitter. On discussion boards. To concerts. Everywhere. They know where he lives. Where he went to school. Who his family members are. His every move. I was seriously disturbed.
After the show, his band hung around in the pub, had drinks and a bit of a natter. The headline act was instantly missing from the venue. I am not surprised, and quite glad – who knows what would have happened to him.
And that hasn’t been my only exposure to that level of fanaticism. We’ve been to a number of live concerts and have come to recognise the fine line over which fans step; it’s really not a pretty sight. Downright scary, that’s what it is.
I don’t want to lose my innocent joy and excitement at seeing wonderful musical talent – old and new – while we’re here in London. And I don’t think I will. Calling myself a huge fan of anyone? I don’t think so. It’s not at all what I mean.