Being A Fan
He always came in the dark. Worn boots, skinny jeans, a plaid shirt, long hair, guitar case. He’d go upstairs and sit in my brother’s blue desk chair, tuning his guitar. Sometimes he brought a simple acoustic guitar. Sometimes he brought a more elegant burgundy electric guitar.
When he was there, I would sneak around, trying to find excuses to go into my brother’s room. It was the only time all week that I would practice my flute in my room, hoping that he would hear and be impressed.
It wasn’t a crush. It was just that I considered him to be famous. I saw that he was talented, and I appreciated that. I liked the way his voice sounded when he explained things to my brother. I liked watching someone that I considered famous sitting in my brother’s chair. I liked how he stooped over his guitar, watching his own fingers at work.
If I was home, I would have heard the shots. I would have heard the sirens. But from my grandparent’s house, we were too far away. It was any other night until it wasn’t. Until it became a night that defined my town.
Shortly before Valentine’s Day in my sleepy town, 10 gunshots went off, killing a couple who ran a jewelry store downtown. A drug habit motivated the senseless violence that claimed two lives.
They were his parents.
From that day in February on, he became a familiar myth to me. I could still picture him up in my brother’s room, his calm voice and fingers flying. But shortly after his parent’s death, he stopped coming to the house.
The year his parents were murdered was also the year that his band got their first record deal. He stopped teaching guitar lessons. He went on tour with his band.
In 2007 my friends and my dad went to see his band perform. I looked at him and remembered him sitting in my brother’s chair, strumming the same burgandy guitar.
It was the first time that I’d ever heard his music. And that night in a small theatre in Connecticut, I became a fan.
It was the kind of music that I liked; lyrically driven, soulful, deliberate.
After the show, my dad and I spoke with him. We bought the band’s first album. We went to a diner and ate crappy food in silence, thinking about the music.
I started listening to the album all the time.
The band’s second album came out in 2009. I was a junior in high school. The album came out towards the beginning of the school year, just as I was getting my license.
For weeks it was the only music in the world that existed to me, as it played on repeat in my car. I’d pick up in the middle of a song as I turned the car engine on in the morning, cursing the cold. It all blended together on the drives to school, to work, to Katie’s house, to the library.
More than anything else I listened to, it defined my time in high school. I can’t listen to it without thinking of driving around that year.
Their third album was much like their second in the way that it affected me. The lyrics were honest, the vocals were raw, and the guitar work was beautiful.
I had listened to one song from the album when it came out, during my freshman year of college. It was a love song, and I was seeing someone, and I listened to it until the romance grew stale.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I listened to the album as a whole, and I laughed at how stupid that was once I listened through.
In my dorm room, at all hours, it would play.
My junior year I had a new boyfriend, and a new love song on the album stuck out to me. When it was all over, I was bitter, but now when I hear that song I think of him and I remember the good times.
I didn’t particularly want to go through the hassle of getting tickets to the concert, but the hassle was handled for me by others. One day, there was just a free ticket waiting for me. I hadn’t seen the band perform in seven years, and it seemed silly to waste such an opportunity.
So I went to dinner with my parents and had free wine.
I went to a bar downtown with some coworkers and had free beer.
I arrived at the venue and ordered a few more drinks.
We stood at the side of the stage where he set up. The first song of the set was the first song of their third album, and when I heard it, it killed me.
I remembered him walking into my house in an oversized coat, shaking snow from his hair.
I remembered driving around town in my first car.
I remembered my freshman year boyfriend’s dorm room.
I remembered my first date with my boyfriend during my junior year.
I remembered all of the times in the past ten years when I have struggled to articulate my emotions, and found the answers in this band’s songs.
That opening song and many others that they played that night are songs that I have lived with for ten years. They’ve seen me through heartbreak and joy.
It’s not a band you’d know by name. You couldn’t sing along to any of their songs. But I can. I can sing along, and I can remember, and really, isn’t that what music is all about?