Heavy Meddle: Meet-The-Band Etiquette Edition

Dear Steve,

I’m a hardcore-loyal and otherwise totally unremarkable fan and a veteran of many post-show meet-and-greets. Recently, I made a short, unmemorable remark and the singer I spoke to looked uncomfortable, almost threatened.

Do artists even care or hear who we are or what we say to them? Are there some unwrittens I've broken? Maybe this would be a good time to talk about meet-the-band etiquette.

Tubes Fan

Dear Tubes,

Wow. You just sucked me down a real Eighties rabbit hole. The Tubes! I spent a lot of stoned suburban evenings watching the video below and doing illicit things to my adolescent self. Good times.

But your question concerns fan protocol. I’ve written a good deal about this subject and done more than my fair share of drooling over rock stars, large and small. I’ve staked them out in bathroom stalls and RV trailers when necessary. In other words, I’ve dealt with certain fan/rock star boundary issues myself.

That being said, it’s absolutely impossible for me to assess why you got the sort of response you did from the anonymous rocker in question, because all I have to go on is that you made a “short unmemorable remark.” If the remark was something like, “I love your new album,” then I think your rocker was being kind of a tool. If your remark was something more like “I love your new album and I know where you live and I have a ring that makes me invisible so I can sneak into your house any time I want and we can be best friends forever…” well then, perhaps he was justifiable, even wise, in giving you the cold shoulder.

The thing you have to remember about the whole rock star/fan dynamic is that it’s incredibly one sided.

But the thing you have to remember about the whole rock star/fan dynamic is that it’s incredibly one sided. Us drooling fanatics have spent so many hours listening to our favorite bands and studying their lyrics and watching their videos and (if you’re creepy like me) imagining what it would be like to be best friends with them forever. And these bands have spent exactly zero seconds thinking about us.

It’s this inequality that makes the meet-and-greet such a fraught and fragile scene. No matter how cool Adam Ant tries to be, he’s got about five minutes (tops) to spend with you, and chances are he’d really rather be on the tour bus napping.

And the truth is, in the end, you’re not really in love with Adam Ant. You’re in love with the rock and roll persona that Adam Ant (and his team of publicists and bandmates and make-up people and feather specialists) carefully crafted to make you fall in love with him. That’s not the same as Adam Ant the human being. You have this deep, intense connection to his art, which is great. But that’s not the same as having a genuine relationship to him as a person.


Something else to consider, Tubes: when you meet a rock star, even at a sanctioned event, you have no idea what’s really going on in their lives. You may have caught this particular rock star in a moment of duress. Perhaps he just got a phone call telling him that his daughter is sick. Or that his latest single is tanking. Or that his coke dealer just died. Can you see how any or all of these factoids might color his interaction with you? Or maybe he’s just tired of the expectations heaped on him by well-meaning drooling fanatics like us. Who knows? The vexing thing about being a fan is that you’ll never know.

I’m not trying to suggest that rock stars have a right to treat all us “little people” like crap. Heck, without us they’re not even rock stars! They should express gratitude toward us, not disdain. Particularly to those fans who wait around hours just to see them for a few precious seconds. Yes. True. But part of being a fan resides in accepting this dysfunctional power dynamic. It’s kind of like having a bad boyfriend.

In the final analysis, all we should ask of our artists is their art.

You identify yourself as a veteran of “many post-show meet-and-greets” so you should know the drill at this point. Sometimes you make a connection. You get that jolt of electricity that comes from rubbing up against one of your heroes. And sometimes you wind up feeling blown off. That’s the price of doing business as a drooling fanatic.

In the final analysis, all we should ask of our artists is their art. It’s a natural human impulse to want more, and that impulse has been monetized up the wazoo thanks to folks in the business department, who organize post-show meet-and-greets and hawk merchandise and stoke the on-line rumor mill.

But the pure thing that lives between a musical artist and her fans is the music itself, and the way it allows us to reach the ecstatic, vulnerable parts of ourselves that are otherwise unreachable. I’ve been dismissed by dozens of rock stars in my sorry history as a fan, but I’ve never stopped being thankful to them for their songs.


Bang your heart,

Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

This program aired on October 21, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.


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