The Fans

Previous published December 8th, 2010.

Oh Jesus where are we on this journey; All adolescence out the window.
– Patti Smith*

Apparently, space is a precious commodity at a Todd show. Something to be fought for tooth and nail. I’m squeezing forward to get to where Pippi and her crew are standing, right down front. This is a mistake, I can tell as I snake through the crowd, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. I encounter stiff elbows and locked shoulders. Everyone weighted down to the tilted floor of the Gramercy Theater, like anchors. A group of women calls out “stand FIRM, ladies” as I pass, their arms akimbo. The most vocal of them continues to shout at the back of my head. “That’s right, keep moving. This is our space.” I turn around to apologize. “I’m just trying to get to my friends. They’re right over…” “Keep moving, we don’t want you here.” My fists clench against my chest. And here I thought we all had something in common.

(I related this story later on to a guy from our neighborhood in our local bar. “They were older than you?” “Yeah. I’d say they were in their fifties.” “So you got bullied by a bunch of moms?” I don’t think he spends all that much time on the internet.)

Later I read somewhere that some people had waited in line for four hours in frigid temperatures to claim a spot close to the stage and realized that I was the jerk in this situation. When it comes to Todd fans, to the lengths they’ll go to, I still have so very much to learn.

I finally make it to Pippi. “I made it,” I say. “But I think I made a few enemies.”

“It’s a bit early for enemies, Zan,” says Pippi, and welcomes me into the fold. And then it all unfolds: Black Maria, No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator, oh man he’s playing Bleeding. His fingers on fire. His voice melting over the crowd. At concerts there is this ebb and flow of connection: the artist moves towards the crowd, and the crowd moves closer to the artist. A call and response of attention and attraction.

Then there is this: Todd is doing runs, challenging his backing band to echo him. Their own little game of call and response, all of us involved in this elaborate triangular give and take of listening initiated by the man in the middle. He hits a particularly beautiful trail of notes, casts them up into the air, watches them hang there for a moment, and from the mouths at his feet you can hear breaths caught in throats. All around us: everyone pausing to recognize the beauty of that moment.

I can’t help it: I will gush. I will gush until there’s nothing left in my heart to gush about, until it all runs dry.

The fans stand in awe. “This is the best he’s sounded in years.”

“Did you hear that?” says Pippi, turning to me. “The best in years.”

“I heard that,” I say. I secretly decide it’s because I’m finally there.

Pippi reminds me of something he said the night before when she told him I’m a new fan, something that I’d forgotten in my delirium. “We must nurture her and help her grow,” he had said, throwing his arm over my shoulder. He bends the strings on the guitar there on that stage, leaning back on his heels, and my little sapling heart grows three sizes.

“It’s almost too much,” I say, hand to chest. I feel it pounding.

“Too much?” says a fan behind me. “No way: MORE!

We the insatiable.

*In what I can only describe as an homage to Patti Smith created by the circumstantial location of a BBQ joint I’d been wanting to try, I ended up walking from the Hotel Chelsea along 23rd street to the gig. This quote, from Patti’s review of A Wizard, A True Star, feels fitting.