I went out both Saturday and Sunday nights this past weekend, despite my
a) feeling like crap
b) being super snowed under with work
c) feeling generally antisocial and curmudgeonly when it comes to other people or late nights
d) being cheap and yet still pretty broke (as usual)
e) having to work early Monday morning

The occasion was that a band that I’m really into was in town playing both nights.

Like I’ve said before, music means a lot to me. Listening to it I mean. (I almost linked to the web site for this band I was in starting in 1996 and then I thought better of it – as in, felt vaguely ill at the thought of posting that link here on this blog – and that was the better of the bands I was in I think. I still really miss playing music and stuff. I occasionally futz with instruments and with Propellerheads Reason on my crappy old laptop that doesn’t have enough memory, but playing music alone isn’t really my thing. Someday I’ll rectify that. But I digress. Pretty often, apparently.)

The band that was in town was actually three bands. Four bands if you count the band they toured with. The main band is this punk band the Lawrence Arms, who I am in love with. I have a tattoo for them. Members of the band are in two other bands, a punk band called The Falcon and an acoustic-y band called Sundowner. They were all touring together with this band called American Steel who are also really excellent. (I saw American Steel with the Lawrence Arms at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago maybe 5 or 6 years ago and I remembered the tune of one of their songs ever since despite not having heard it again.)

Like I said, I love this band. And I love the other bands connected to them. I love them in such a way that I have no critical faculties toward them and have no interest in having them and have no real interest in discussion with others who do have such faculties, in much the way I intend to love (and spoil) my child(ren) some day. Part of this is biographical. As I’ve said, music means a lot to me, but as much as that’s the case it used to be even more important to me and was hugely influential in my growing up and turning out how I did. Particularly punk. I grew up in northern Illinois where these folk are from and where they played out. They’re right about my age. Two people from the Lawrence Arms played at the first punk rock show I went to when I was sixteen, in their other bands Slapstick and Tricky Dick. After Slapstick broke up, they were in a band called The Broadways who was also really important to me, after which the Lawrence Arms started. Read selectively, the songs sort of charted a path from being about crushes on girls to being about like, you know, The Man and all the crap he makes us have to deal with, to more articulate songs about homelessness and racism and sexism, to songs about being in your mid-20s and kind of depressed, to being in your late 20s and being glad not to be in your mid-20s and depressed anymore. At least that’s what I took from them, and at each step as each of those things was the center of my attention in my life these guys were writing and playing songs about it. It felt (feels) sort of like an ongoing realtime musical narration of my emotional state and preoccupations, and it’s been something really great for me to keep having access to.

This weekend in Minneapolis was the last weekend of their most recent tour. Angelica and I flew to Chicago to see the first night on the tour with my youngest brother. At that first show they played a song by the Broadways as a cover, and closed with a cover of a song I have on a Slapstick 7″. I thought for a moment I was going to pass out from shouting and jumping up and down (I’m getting old and I’m out of shape and all). I put that Broadways song on the first (and painstakingly crafted) mix tape I made for Angelica when we first got together, and I remember singing along to that Slapstick song with her on more than one occasion, it being a love song and all.

Being a big fan of a band is a weird kind of thing. As is abundantly clear, I’m heavily emotionally invested in this band. I have two other band related tattoos, but this is the band that I’m most into of those. It’s also a bit weird, the circumstances. See, one of the other two music tattoos I have are for a local band I used to be very good friends with in the late 1990s – they were better musicians, but they were my peers – and the other tattoo is for a band from California who I’ve seen play exactly once and don’t know at all personally; but this band, they’re not quite peers but they’re not just like some band whose music I like. Having been to so many shows by these people for so many years (13 years now), I know the members of the band so there’s this personal thing to it, but it’s not the same thing as a regular friendship. I don’t actually know the people in the band all that well other than through their music. I have this really intense personal response to the music, it’s been a big part of my life for so long and I love to see them play live and maybe we talk a little afterward before me and Angelica leave or maybe we get a few drinks first; that’s the relationship. What’s funny about it is that it’s hard to explain correctly. It’s an odd sort of relationship, fandom. It feels like knowing someone very much and it feels a bit like being known very much (as if band and fans were in each others’ heads, and in each others’ heads to the same degree); but that’s not really exactly it. Or rather it’s like a certain particular and hard to express type of knowing – one related to music as audience and performer; the terms I have for it are from other types of interaction and relationships which are more like … conversational.

Despite the music involving words and despite the conversations, the heart of the (or at least my) fandom relationship feels more like a combination of two general types of relationships based on two types of interaction (or what I imagine all of these to be anyway) – one is the more or less strictly one way and one-to-many relationship between a writer and visual artist and audiences – the interaction comes through objects which the audiences interact without the presence of the produces – and like forms of interaction which are not primarily conversational but bodily/somatic and which involve at least elements of collaboration – sort of like playing music with other people, obviously, and like what I imagine a long term dance partnership or sports teammates to be like, or like having sex with someone. Each of these things has or can have its own sort of feeling of knowledge of the other person, particularly when in the context of an ongoing relationship (or repetition of the activities) over time.