It’s mind blowing, I know, but even famous people are human.
This weekend has been full of nostalgic rock music, a festival, and a whole lot of fun.
I had the pleasure of indulging in a Rock Festival (Rockfest)that hosted a few “legendary” 80’s bands, as I hung with a bunch of fellow women. It was fun reliving moments of the 80’s through the voices of the anthems of our teenage years. It was magnificent, as the rockers got up on the outdoor stage, belting out their hits from both past and present .
I am not sure how many of you know some of our iconic 80’s bands in Canada, but for us, the likes of Honeymoon Suite and Glass Tiger are the epitome of the days of big hair and shoulder pads. However, they still ROCK! They are into their mid to late 50' s and still sing like the good old days. They are still handsome as hell, but in a mature, distinguished way.
Comparatively speaking, I would liken both of these legendary groups to Bruce Springsteen for the US, back in his Glory Days (see what I did there?) or Duran Duran back when they were Hungry Like the Wolf.
In Canada, these bands weren’t just a group of sexy guys singing melodic tunes about love, and swooning women to their knees. They are two bands who have earned love, admiration and a following of dedicated fans.
Fast forward to this weekend, in the city of Edmonton, Alberta. A huge, two day event was held-hosted by a few of the local radio stations. The purpose was to raise money and awareness for future musicians and celebrate Canada’s influence in the music industry . They showcased local bands, local teens and children who are working on becoming rock stars, and a line up of our country’s talent. The weather was great and the music was unbelievable.
My girlfriend and her sister have a tribe of fellow groupies that follow the two bands around Canada. They nickname themselves “Cougars”, because they pride themselves on following their “Tigers” from province to province, as a group. They also call themselves Suitehearts, as they do the same for Honeymoon Suite. If I am being honest, I have never been able to understand why anyone would attend rock concerts for the same bands, well over 100 times each.
I simply don’t get it.
They hear the same songs, the same sets and in some cases, the same banter, every time the bands grace the stage. They take pride in the collective knowledge and trivia of the two bands and share their knowledge with each other and with the bands when they have a chance to speak with the rockers.
No matter what province, or city the two bands are in, the members have become accustomed to a flock of 5 or 6 women taking over the front row of their stage. The ladies flash signs, have mascots and stalk their tour buses at every opportunity. Over the weekend they all shared with me that they always find out what hotels the band, or bands are staying at, and they book rooms there, in hopes of catching a glimpse of them or having drinks after their shows. To me, it’s almost beyond a healthy obsession, but who am I to judge?
Last night was an eye opener for me and this morning, even more so. We had all gone to the pub in the hotel, and my fellow lady friends were giddy with excitement, hoping that they would see “their boys” having drinks or dinner. When we walked in, all of the tables, that were occupied, were filled with guitar players, drummers, back up singers and the lead of Glass Tiger- Mr. Alan Frew. He had taken a small table with his back up songstress and was sipping a glass of dark beer. She was enjoying, what looked like, blueberry tea. My first thought was good for them. They can relax and celebrate their awesome performance of the day.
I ordered a beer and dinner and sat among the groupies.
Over the next hour, they were whispering, sharing trivia and looking around, giggling like 15 year old kids! They whispered the names of every band member in the place, and laughed hysterically at private jokes from all of their previous encounters with the band members. Typically, they only get to see one or the other of “their bands”, so they were on an overload of hormones having BOTH Glass Tiger and Honeymoon Suite in the same city and same hotel.
After I had finished my beer and was getting slightly annoyed by their tittering and carrying on, I decided to fill them in on my perspective.
“You do know that they are all human right?” I stated matter-of-factly. “I mean, they eat, they drink, they fart, and they even poop!”
You could hear the pin, (that I popped their unrealistic hopes and dreams balloon with) drop. They went dead silent and I had 5 pairs of eyes glaring at me as I quietly took a bite of my dinner. One of them muttered, “You don’t even KNOW them!”
I took a few moments to consider the quick, spiteful response for a few moments, and opted not to voice how I felt. Rather, I decided to watch the shit show of the ongoing emotional roller coaster that filled the rest of the evening.
There were 5 of them, plus myself, seated at a table where we could “almost” listen to the band’s conversation. One of my friends was straining her ears, trying to eavesdrop while the others fixed their lipstick repeatedly and try to meet the gazes of the men, as they walked around the pub. Alan Frew and his lady friend rose to leave the pub, probably exhausted from their crazy week of travelling around and rehearsing. As they left, they neglected to say goodnight to the “Cougars”, and the result, was a table of crestfallen groupies, angry at the universe. It was really sad, on many levels, to observe. Shortly after the disappointing shun of Mr. Frew, they all decided to go to bed. Nothing else would make them happy ever again, it seemed. They also complained that the front man of Honeymoon Suite, Johnny Dee, never came to the pub. Their expectations of the evening seemed thwarted and they sullenly went off to their room to sleep off the excitement of the day.
I had a quick, verbal exchange with Alan Frew on his way to his hotel room, totally by accident. I casually said goodnight to he and his girl partner, and told him how heartfelt I found one of his tribute songs to The Tragically Hip. An exhausted smile came across his face and he quietly said, “Thank you. Have a good sleep”.
The morning after was much more of the same. It was a race for the girls to get out the door to the restaurant, to see who, from the bands they could spy, before the groups hopped into their airport transfer vehicles. The girls strolled up and down halls, through the restaurant and pub, searching for “their boys”, so they could collectively hug them and say goodbye. I went to the restaurant and sipped coffee, feeling slightly embarrassed for their stalking creepiness.
As I sipped my morning blend, I couldn’t help but wonder what the band members think, of having fans like The “Cougar/ Suitehearts”. Are they flattered by them or slightly creeped out? On one hand, their dedication is what every public artist strives for. But, on the other hand, when are lines crossed? Their fan base IS where their income comes from, but at what point do their fans become simply too much? At what point do they determine that fans, such as this group, are just too much to deal with when they want to just have a quiet meal? At what point, do fans come across as being disrespectful to the musicians?
The lead singer from Honeymoon Suite (Johnny Dee) emerged from his room, and one of the girls saw him within seconds. Of course they started to buzz like a poked beehive, as he casually strolled into the lobby with his luggage. “Hi Johnny!” they all shouted in a squeaky quintet. He was in a pair of jeans and a casual shirt, with eyeglasses on, and partially combed hair. He still looked like the “sexy front man” that they all pine over, but to me, there was something else. At first, I couldn’t pinpoint what I saw in him exactly, but after I observed his interactions and limited engagement with his lady groupies, I understood.
He excused himself from their lingering stares and flirtations, and I noticed he walked into the lobby bathroom. His guitarist had joined the lady tribe in the lobby and their attentions immediately, and collectively, focused on him. They pounced on the guitarist like a pod of vampires going after a throbbing neck vein.
At one point, one of the vampires looked up from the neck of her bass playing victim, to ask emphatically, “Where did Johnny go?” I rolled my eyes in response and told her had gone to the washroom. She returned her attention back to suck the life out of her current victim. In my head, I felt bad for Johnny. How awful would it be, to be so surrounded all the time, that even a restroom visit is monitored! I am sure when he started out as a musician, it was fun-until it became an extension of his job. An extension that he isn’t being “paid” for, but is expected to do regardless. His loss of privacy is part of his every day life.
When Mr. Johnny Dee returned from the john, the vampires stopped feasting on the guitar player, and their 10 eyed gaze turned to him. I sat quietly and watched as he made attempted “polite” ways to escape the outbursts of giggles and pieces of trivia they awkwardly blurted out nervously. They paid homage to his presence in their space, by spouting out short comments and looking at each other in star struck madness. I could feel my cheeks flush, as I didn’t want to be a part of their blatant “fandom” and make him feel even more uncomfortable. Eventually he announced he was going outside to have a smoke, while he waited for his airport shuttle. I was noticing how he was fidgeting and pacing, wishing he was at his home, in his own peace and quiet.
Amid all of the noise, I cautiously asked him where he lived. He told me the name of his city, as he avoided eye contact, and made triangles with his fingers over and over again. As we spoke, we walked outside, away from the teenage 40 somethings. Calmly, I lit a cigarette, in an attempt to get away from the crazy fans, and he asked me about my tattoos. I had no intentions of disrupting his smoke break, and I needed my own space as well. He looked exhausted. He looked, done .
My girlfriend had followed me outside, making the excuse that she wanted to spend time with me-she really wanted her own time with him. I just wanted to be away from the giggling circle of pre-menopausal hormones. Johnny and I exchanged some small talk, and I asked him if he was going to get some time off soon. He seemed very stressed and anxious. His answer made my heart hurt for him. “I don’t know when I am off. My manager tells me what I do. I just listen and show up. I have studio time when I get home.” He sighed as he spoke. He had been on the road and on flights all summer, from the sound of it, without down time. There was no end in sight. I thought of my life and shuddered at the thought of not being allowed vacation time during the summer. He had also shared that his drive home after the plane landed, was his “peace” from the band and everything else. The thought of his precious time, alone in his car, made a small smile form on his lips as his eyes drifted elsewhere. All I could think, was how sad it was.
It hit me, during our light chat, that musicians are just like the rest of us.
THEY HAVE JOBS.
> Just like I have a full time office job, and write part time, he has the job of rehearsing, performing and traveling. It must be exhausting. But the thing about regular jobs, is that you don’t have to take it with you EVERYWHERE you go, including your hotel room or the pub you have dinner at.
> They have lives too. We all enjoy a quiet beer in a pub, or dinner with coworkers. Isn’t it annoying as hell, when people come along and disrupt those moments? How much would we enjoy it if people followed our EVERY move? I would lose my mind. If people were sitting in a group at a table whispering and giggling as they watch me shovel food into my mouth, I would want to slide under the table and wish the floor to open up and swallow me whole.
> They deserve breaks from co workers and fans. Just because they have “fame” doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve breaks from people. It would be the same as living with your co-workers and having acquaintances chasing you around while you get groceries, watch TV, get ice out of the hotel ice machine, or ride an elevator, but ALL THE FREAKING TIME. No wonder celebrities go bat shit crazy. It would be similar to being a server in a restaurant and having your entourage of customers following you around 24/7.
>They have feelings like you and me. Sometimes we just want to be left alone to figure our shit out. The same goes for musicians. They already know their own facts. There is no need to try to win them over with stats and trivia that you know about them. There is no need to stare at them to the point of discomfort. They understand that fans adore them, but they need space too. They have anxiety, stress and life stuff too.
> They aren’t perfect. As much as committed fans love to idolize these guys, they are human and are not perfect. They have their own invisible stories going on in their worlds that you know NOTHING about. Creating these idolized images of them is most likely overwhelming, to an exhausted musician, who has no control over his work schedule or life. The standard and expectations of the tribe of groupies, has to be completely depleting at times. If it isn’t, I would be shocked.
> These guys aren’t young rockers anymore. Just like you ladies get tired from a fun filled day of following them around and watching them perform, the musicians get tired of all the work they have done to complete their performances, public appearances and autograph signing, etc. You have spent your energy watching, while they have depleted their’s entertaining you. What would make you think that they would have energy to party after hours with you? They aren’t young men anymore, and have done much more than you through the day. Remember, they have been doing their jobs for over 3 decades, in front of millions of people in hundreds of places. Think of how exhausting that would be. Give them a break and let them rest, instead of lurking around and demanding more of their time.
> Some of them have families or commitments besides their jobs. Again, you may know that they HAVE a family, but you don’t know what happens in their lives behind the scenes. Let them focus on their worlds too, even if you feel like it is their DUTY to appease you with their good looks and conversation, for your own fulfillment.
>They go to the bathroom and sleep just like the rest of us. They pass gas, poop, pee, shower, eat, and everything else that you do. Allow them space and privacy for that. Like I said, they are human beings.
> They have managers to answer to, and commitments just like we do. They may seem like gods to you, but they have to stay accountable and responsible to their commitments and management team, just like we do. We can take a day off work without letting down hundreds of people. They don’t have that luxury.
It really was such a pleasure meeting a couple of my favorite Canadian musicians. I would go and see them again, but not as one of the Cougar members. If I went to see them again, I would watch the show, get carried away to a nostalgic happy place, as they soothingly sing their sweet melodies. But, then I would go home and hope that they could have some down time after providing us old followers with a few hours of quality art and entertainment. I would hope that they could go home, find their peace, prepare for their busy schedule, and have a good, private poop.
Everyone deserves the serenity of privacy and living, no matter what career path they have chosen.