This is a first-ever Black Witch series that will continue throughout the duration of March. The normal Black Witch posts will resume in April. If there are any issues, please don’t hesitate to bring them to my attention.
I’ve had a lot of luck meeting various people in my life. The thing that attracts my attention the most is the fan.
Fame, I think, is a double-edged sword. There’s lots of people who would like to be famous (and for no particular reason at all) but not many who would truly want the famous life: Their lives (or lies about them) splayed all across America – or even the world – on the cover of countless gossip magazines, hounding websites dedicated to scrutinizing their every failure, flub or faux pas, all provided for the consumption of a necessary evil for fame or even decent success: the fan.
Whether they’re haters or lovers (mostly lovers), the fan has a voracious appetite. The fan that we all know and identify are the lovers. Fandom is adoration and idolization at its most immense form. Nothing is wrong with being a fan – I am of many things – but it’s how you go about it.
Meeting and getting to hang with promotion crew heads, security, set-up crews, bands, and moderators of official forums, I’ve gotten to see a very unique view of the music business and from different sides. The fans are what interests me most because you can determine a band or a performer’s virility, popularity, message (or lack thereof) and who they are. For example: AFI is going to attract a different fan than Slipknot and Linkin Park might get a fan that overlaps the two, depending how they were pitched to the fan. A rabid fan is a rabid fan though, they will do just about anything to meet their favorites (or favorite member, usually the vocalist for he is the most visual and incredibly audible front-man of the group). They’ll camp out, bear gifts, barter with the security or viciously argue with them, anything to be closer and closer to the one they adore.
Fans can be represented in a variety of ways. They can be like families, everyone bonding together over music, or like the usual fanbase, everyone talking and interacting on a message board or band chatroom. Being part of the P.O.D. Promotion crew since the early ’00s, part of the Linkin Park/Fort Minor fanbase including the Linkin Park Underground/Fort Minor Militia and side sites, I have definitely witnessed my fair share of the fan. There are different demonstrations of fandom, the “fanboy/girl”, “seasoned fan”, “seasonal fan”, “too cool fan”, and the “crazy fan” .
The fan I would most often encounter would be the fanboy/girl. They’re rather feverish in their undying support, treating their band as if they were God’s gift to music and vociferous to any whom disagrees. They’re young (or young at heart), perky and hyper. Their band can do no wrong, especially their favorite member. The band could wipe their derrière’s with the love of these fans and that fan would never mind it for a moment. They possibly would even respond, “[My favorite] spoke to me! He said…’Get lost.’ How amazing!” To this type of fan, just to meet their band or especially their favorite would make their day or even their life (in their eyes). These kids are really nice and don’t mean much harm but they can be obnoxious and troublesome.
When I was friends with the Fort Minor and Linkin Park message board and chatroom moderators, they would tell me stories of how difficult it is to herd fanboys and fangirls because they want that one special moment with their most adored so terribly. They would be rude to the mods, ask or say what was considered inappropriate such as questions about the band member’s personal life, sexual life, children, so on and so forth. The mods tried very hard to keep every discussion with the band purely about the music. Though I did not – and still do not – agree with having such heavy-handed moderation such as screening comments or questions for the band to read during what are supposed to be live chats, I do admit, fanboys and girls can get pretty crazy. There were countless times some fans would say that they would kill themselves if the band member wouldn’t come back or if they wouldn’t tour to their country. (As a sidenote, bands find the constantly repeated question “When are you coming to my country?” very annoying. It isn’t up to them) I thought the issuw would only reside in Linkin Park fans but it is rather everywhere, it just shows more prominently in younger fans.
I remember being at a P.O.D. chat a couple years ago. It was a video/text chat so the band would stream live and the fans could chat alongside the stream. A “moderator,” my friend and longtime supporter of the band Moni, would read the screen and pick out the best comments and questions. I have been a big fan of P.O.D. (A “Warrior” as we’re called) since 2002 and part of the P.O.D. Promotion Crew since 2004/2003 – I’ve attended concerts, spent valuable downtime with the band and made very good friends that are much like extended family to me. Being part of the chat gave me time reconnect with those friends and with the band. Indeed, it was fun but what bothered me was how some of the fans, especially the newer – not necessarily younger -ones, were fussy that they couldn’t talk with the lead vocalist, Sonny Sandoval. The other band members were there but not Sonny. Moni tried to quell the upset fans by saying that they’re getting an amazing opportunity to chat with P.O.D. but I remember one remarking, “Not Sonny. I want Sonny.” I personally was very disparaged by that because they were willing to be haughty and picky. It wasn’t Sonny’s day to chat, the person should have waited but they must have thought that Sonny would possibly make a surprise appearance or something and were disappointed.
Usually fanboys and girls don’t mean much harm but when they do, it can prove the stereotype that they’re shortsighted and narrow-minded. Overseas fans have told me that they would give anything to simply live in the same nation, continent or even hemisphere as their beloved band. Fans all around have claimed that they have fallen into a great depression that only a meet from their band can remove them from. The fanboy/girl is quite unusual in nature but very common and whether anyone likes it or not, they’re apart of the backbone fan base, next to the seasoned fan. They’re useful as free press because they’ll do just about anything for their band, just dangle a chance of spending any time with the band in the form of concert tickets or a meet & greet in front of them. Once snagged, they’ll tell anyone whatever the band is doing: friends, family, anyone who does and doesn’t want to hear. They’re the newbs of promotion crews and just about every diehard/seasoned fan started out as one.
Being a fanboy or girl can go in any direction, either positive or negative. It depends on the person and how prone they are to idolization as well as their own personality. When I hang about on band chatrooms or even twitter, I find a plethora of people. I know that people can hide their true identity online but as they say: “character glows in the dark.”
Aside from fanboys and girls comes the “too cool fan”. They pretend to display maturity by acting emotionally aloof, as if they don’t truly care for what the band is doing. The mots de jour is “Meh, whatever.” However, if a band member has even graced the chatrooms, message boards or even sauntered past them casually in a concert behind the gate barricade, the “too cool fan” shows their inner fanboy/girl: they breathe laboriously, they panic from surprise and they’re gleeful. In translation, they were me when I met Saul Williams.
Short story: I saw Saul Williams in concert last year (which actually introduced me to AfroPunk, who I write for). I was very cool, calm and collected during the concert, even when it turned out I was standing next to his mother. I wasn’t acting crazy though I was up front row only inches away from the poet, just not my personality. But when it came time to meeting him, I was rather dumbfounded. It was his poem “Om Nia ‘Merican” that revolutionized my own poetry back when I was a teen. It changed how I perceived lyricism and spoken word. Also, it’s was an awesome poem read back when I was stuck in 9th grade summer school (for failing English. Yes, the irony for this columnist).
Saul Williams is an amazing poet and very riveting at that so meeting the person who basically turned my poetic world on its ear, even convincing me to do spoken word myself, would make me a bit, erm, stupid. I’ve met many important people to the point I’m nearly unfazed but when it’s someone I look up to, my vocabulary and linguistics skills go out the window completely. I can speak four to five languages but put me next to my own favorites or a legendary African-American and I can barely speak a fair sentence of simple English. I become completely awestruck and talk like I have a stroke. I become very shy and nervous, in short.
At the end of the show, Saul Williams was crowded by other admirers who were getting autographs and chatting with him as I was dwelling in my own little world. While I was inching up to talk to him like a kid ready to hand their letter over to Santa, I was thinking of what to say. I always make flubs around influential Blacks, I thought panicked. I never can talk right. I was just stupid when I met Dexter King, stared blankly at Cornel West and I don’t even remember what I said to Amiri Baraka. I gotta say something, uh, nifty – but not too long! I ramble! I don’t wanna ramble to Saul Williams, he won’t like me after that. Who likes a rambler? – I’m rambling, stop it! Okay! Don’t ramble! Try to keep a cleeeeeeear head when talking to him. He’s a person, just like everyone else. Just a person, like me – no not like me, he’s totally awesome and I’m a nobody. He’s like, important and totally influenced my poetry and – I’m about to talk to him! Don’t say anything stupid!
I think all I uttered was a hello and a “I enjoy your work. I really like ‘Om Nia Merican’. It really has influenced my own poetry,” as he signed the back of my divination book. I would have said more but I feared of running out of luck and saying something incredibly stupid so I scattered away. If I went any faster, I worry Saul Williams would have thought I nicked his wallet.
Even acting as a “too cool fan”, they’re still a big fan nonetheless. The aloofness is merely a façade to reduce the chance of acting or saying something stupid. I really do like Saul Williams and he’s really a big deal to my poetry (Omigosh! I was gleeful when he was on Janelle Monae’s album The ArchAndroid for “Dance or Die”! Squee! [/fangirl]) but usually I don’t act like I lost my mind when discussing him or his work. That wouldn’t look too well and even rather childish, a look I would like to avoid. That’s what the “too cool fan” shoots for mainly, to avoid looking like the fanboy or girl that they actually are.
The “seasoned fan” is a fan that has grown out of their fanboy/girl stage but is still a fan. They’re what the fanboy/girl becomes after some years of following the music, meeting the band a couple times, possibly worked with the band in promotion or other ascensions. The seasoned fan love the band dearly but they’re not going to act incredibly psycho should any of the members step into the room. Unlike the “Too cool” fan, the seasoned fan really is mature. They’ve been there and done that, got the fidget out of their system.
There’s the “seasoned fan” who’s supported the band for a very long time but there’s also the “seasonal fan,” they’re not really much of a fan as they are a supporter. Very “out of sight, out of mind” for them and they’re only raving fans when the band has hopped out of the woodwork again with a new album for them to purchase or download blindly. Usually the band in question is very popular and this fan likes pretending that they’re the biggest fan but can’t even remember how many people are in the band. They wouldn’t be so bad as the fanboy/girl if they didn’t pretend they haven’t really been following up and act like the active supporter that they’re not. Their love fades quicker than a picture sitting in the sun, they’re off to love the next biggest band.
As fans are definitely a blessing for it’s always wonderful to have supporters, the fan that any act watches out for and basically sets the tone of the security or overall privacy of the band is the “crazy fan.” Obsessive and mental to a fine point. They’re head over heels in love with the band and will stop at nothing to show it, even to the point of endangering their beloved members. The music industry is no stranger to this fan and neither is history. Everyday there’s countless stories of the one that flew pretty far over the cuckoo’s nest. John Lennon and Jodie Foster for example, their fans were nuts. Even today the fans of Twilight and Justin Beiber have fairly psycho fans. These fans act out of what they think is love but looks easily like delusion and inner disturbance to everyone else. They’re the fanboy/girl gone mad, basically.
The creation of this extreme fan is understandable however. They want to meet their favorite performers, to chat with them, to spend time with them, to pretty much forge a friendship with them or even date them because this fan loves them so much and relates to them so thus it would be such a fine pairing. However, threatening to commit suicide because they won’t come to their country, won’t acknowledge their question in a chat or on Twitter or even threatening to cause harm to their families or themselves is not acceptable. As far as love goes, that’s not love at all, that’s being completely deranged and controlling. It’s creepy in the dating world and it’s creepy in the music world. No act ever wants to meet a fan that wants to rip out their hair or their clothes or even harm them because they simply can’t control themselves.
A good example of a crazy fan: I remember chatting with my friends who were mods on P.O.D. sites and always would the subject of this one special fan Miss Bity. MB was a nice girl who had a burning passion for the band. I never saw her as a problem but I’m not the one checking message board posts. Apparently MI had posted a couple of times some dreams she had of P.O.D.. As a dream interpreter, I thought they were simple teen fan dreams but at length of what I was told, I discovered that many of the dreams were very sexually explicit. That can’t be good. She became under watch, especially if the band went to her country because they were worried of what she would do. I’ve even met fans on the Linkin Park boards that have worried me plenty of their emotional stability because if their favorite member didn’t arrive, off went their temper.
Fans big and small, they’re the legs and spine of any act’s success. If no one cared about the musicians, they would never get off the ground. Fans are also part of the fame which can appear intoxicating at first. All these strangers love you regardless of who you are, everyone knows your name, you’re a somebody.
I’m a big fan myself of many people as you could see. People who could make me stutter and freeze or become all giddy and stupid. Nothing is wrong with being a fan but I call it a necessary evil because not everyone who is famous would like to be idolized like mortal gods. That and if these people weren’t famous, they were just normal people like you and me, would you still treat them the same? If Lady Gaga was just the weird dressed girl in your neighborhood instead of the big popstar that she is, would you feel the same way you do now? If Janelle Monae was just the random girl rocking in your college dorm room talking about androids and futuristic pasts, would you still like her or tip back slowly? What about Beyonce simply being your next door neighbor, Lupe Fiasco just another Black kid in a comic book shop perusing the manga section? Probably not the same. Fame is an amazing thing of illusions and magic and being a fan can be such a wonderful experience but no matter what, it’s still an image that we’re most likely liking. The image, whether fresh and clean or down and dirty, has to be an amiable enough image at best to garner and keep fans (or at least keep dredging in new ones to manage turnover – insert teen sensations here). Even if there’s no big budget PR team that a major company could provide, still a band has to sell themselves as a sound that you can stand behind. There’s a difference between a fan and a friend.
Fandom and the fan it is. So, what fan are you?
Speaking of fandom and fans, if you’re a fan of Lupe Fiasco, please do partake in the current Lasers giveaway by looking here or simply emailing me with the subject line “Travelin’ Light: Lasers Giveaway” with your email and name.
Next week will be a column written by my radio host friend Lindsey W.! She has a lot of experience in regard to the music scene and fans, I am very excited to hear her take on this subject! Also, as this is my very first series for the column, that means there’s gonna be glitches. If anything seems off or you have a suggestion, you know how to reach me (hint, look on the “contact me” page).