Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crazy Stories from Manic Street Preachers in Seattle

Yes, that's me and Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers.
Now, I can cross off seeing the Manic Street Preachers from my bucket list, as well as meeting them. I was ready to fly to the UK to see them – and I’m not the only one. I met one fellow Portlander (I recognized him by the Lucky Lab T-shirt) who told me he flew to London to see them last year. Met another lass from Eugene who was seriously considering it as well. She was even thinking about following them down to San Francisco this week.

Several others I heard were heading to Vancouver, B.C. the next day to see them there. I discovered I was among quite a few Portlanders.

The crazy stories began even before the show. While scarfing down some grub just outside the venue, where the Manics two tour buses were parked, two people said something to me like they briefly thought I was with whatever band was playing (they didn’t all know). One couple asked me about the Manics’ music after I explained I was just a fan. The other was Brit gent who thought I might be with the tour itself. He looked at me funny at first, like I might be someone important.

He talked about growing up with them – obviously another maniacal fan. When he found out they weren’t sold out, he went to try and get a ticket. He walked off a little bummed out, saying he couldn’t afford it.

Now I’d piled an unusually large amount of cash into my pocket beforehand, thinking there were going to be copious amounts of stuff to buy at the t-shirt counter. The image of the sullen Brit nagged me, and I recalled my own heartbreak in ’99 when they came to Seattle and I couldn’t see them ‘cause I was broke as hell.

He was quite a ways away, but on impulse, I jumped up and yelled “Hey British guy….”, which was really kind’a rude, but it was a desperate moment.

I handed him a twenty – the cost of the show – and told him to go see them. For some reason I was seriously compelled to make sure some random stranger got to see them. It was partially because of my own story from ’99, and ‘cause I know no other Manics fans in Portland. He immediately said, “Are you for real?”

I said: “Hey, I’m from Portland. That’s how we roll.” I can’t believe that stupid phrase came outta my mouth. I hate “how we roll.” I sounded like an idiot.

He kept trying to give me bits of beer, or buy me a drink, but since I had a cold I couldn’t accept. That might’ve annoyed him. But we chatted quite a bit on and off, and he was pretty cool.

That whole thing about giving being a great feeling is no small saying. I felt pretty good about it.

Ironically, as we stood outside between bands, some guy was trying to give away an extra ticket. He seemed truly blown away by the coincidence.

Earlier, I’d begun chatting with two guys inside the neighboring restaurant who were part of the Manics tour. I kind’a got dippy and frothy when I told them how I’d driven 200 miles to see the band, and talked about being an obsessed fan. The guys kind’a looked at me like I was goofy.

A bit later, while I was still eating outside, one of them came wandering by with another guy, and I said “two people now thought I was with the band.” He kind’a ignored me, but the other guy with him looked at me in this rather pointed way, and after a few seconds I realized it was James Dean Bradfield, lead singer of the Manics!

They were just rounding a corner by this point, and impulsively I blurted out, “Oh my god, James….you rule….you’re one of my gods!” Yup. I, a 47-year-old man, turned into Beavis or Butthead.

But he was exceptionally gracious, turned around, smiled and said thanks.

I got up and staggered around briefly, in a daze and mumbling “I just met Bradfield.” I probably looked like a crackhead schizophrenic.

During the show, I made the acquaintance of a lovely named Alexandria, who was dancing wildly and knew all the lyrics (as I did). I was impressed. I assumed she was a local, and thought it interesting her frayed bellbottoms and crazy dancing style was that of a Seattlelite. It more like someone from, well, Eugene.

And interestingly enough it turns out she WAS from Eugene. Wow. She was more hardcore than I was.

After the show, I get a tiny moment with Nicky Wire, bassist. He’s out greeting folks, mostly hot girls, but I muzzle my way at the very end and bug him for a quick photo. He might’ve been just slightly annoyed by this one last guy bugging him. It seemed a bit so. But he seemed to warm up and be pleasantly surprised when I told him I’d drive 200 miles to see them. He told me “thank you” and shook my hand. I quickly thanked him again, and he appeared to just a bit puzzled when looking at me. Maybe he expected me to take longer and was surprised how fast I was dealing with him – because it took just a few seconds - or maybe he thought my hair made me look like Richey (their sadly deceased lyricist/guitarist). Or who knows what?

Anyway, I got to meet Nicky too.
A few minutes later, I was dinging around a bar across the street, talking with two others who'd been at the show. A group of folks left, leaving us the last three in the bar. The guy told me one of the people in that group was from Pearl Jam, the other from another band (Stone Roses, or Stone Ponies....i didn't quite hear).
Interesting night of rock stars.

Later, at a bar nearby, I ran into a Welsh guy living in Calgary, Canada. We talked at length about all sorts of odds and ends of the Manics. It was fascinating. We also delved deep into Trailer Park Boys, Black Adder, Ricky Gervais and tons of other stuff. I don’t often get to have conversations like these.

I also discovered being a Manics fan almost makes us a different species than other humans: we look at things differently. Being a Manics fan isn’t just about loving their music and following them around like Dead Head or something. No, it’s about knowing the music, the lyrics, what they mean, being able to discuss details about all that – but most of all knowing the band’s history and the ability to talk about their art in that context. I’m not talking about lame, dullard talk like “aren’t they cool…” or “did you see what so-and-so did on that solo?,” like fans of Dave Matthews, Phish or other devotees who, in the end, aren’t all articulate. It’s not even like King Crimson fans (of which I am one), who can endlessly rattle on about their infinitely puzzling techniques. Being a Manics fan requires a certain literary bent, and a means to grasp the cerebral side of what they do along with the emotional side.

It’s also about a certain, well, maniacal passion for the band.

1 comment:

Angi said...

I will listen so that I can make a literary/coherent comment. :)

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