Sometimes I commit to something without thinking. I don’t do this presumptuously, and neither is it an act of carelessness. I do it because if I stop to linger and examine every what-if or possible outcome, I would never follow through. The walls in my own brain are my worst enemy, and not thinking is the backdoor I run for. Otherwise I would never leave the house.
So when a friend and fellow blogger found out I had said yes to driving 130 miles to see her new favorite band, she requested a favor. And without thinking, I said okay.
The day before the show, a cardboard box showed up on my doorstep.
Inside were two packages, one for me and one for her band – Dreamers.
I opened the envelope attached to the box with my name on it.
Dear Colleen, thank you for delivering my Dreamers package. Bigger thanks for taking the chance and going on a road trip to go sees them. I hope you have a wonderful time. I know it’s not Airborne, but it can still be magic to be part of something exciting. I think you’ll see that charm in the Arkells, but I also hope you’ll be brave and chat up Dreamers. They are darlings and have a great way of appreciating you be there. And that’s what I wanted you to feel . . . the special buzzy way that they are glad YOU are there. Because they are. Have a great time. Here’s a little something for your boys or for your road trip. Give Nelson & Nick big love from me. 🙂 Have fun! ❤ Susan
Susan and I have never actually met. Strangely, however, she sensed my apprehension over text. The Internet is funny that way.
Beneath my box was theirs, accompanied with its own message, and it sat on my dining room table for 24 hours.
Over the course of those 24 hours, I would sometimes glance at the box while making dinner or just passing through the kitchen. And there it sat. Quiet. Undisturbed.
Sort of like a bomb.
But exerting a pressure on me that grew more intense by the hour. It was tangible evidence of a commitment I made. That I was largely starting to regret, mostly out of fear.
I began making mental excuses of why I couldn’t go to the show, none of which held up. It was like walking backwards through my backdoor, running into every what-if and possible outcome. What if we get into an accident on the way there? It’s supposed to rain. What if I die? Who is going to take care of my kid? What if something happens I hadn’t even thought of?
But it was too late. The box was sitting on my dining room table. Then it was in my car. Then we were on our way to the show.
Meanwhile, I was running away from my fears. Having been afraid of being afraid, I numbed myself into a state of disconnection, to the point I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t care where we went for dinner and I didn’t care if we were late. I didn’t care if we just dropped the cookies next to their tour bus and went home. I didn’t care if we made it to the show at all.
I apologized to my Concert Buddy who had invited me to the show in the first place after Susan’s promotional band posts on Facebook. Though I never promise to be the life of any party, I’m always afraid of being a drag and bringing others down because I’m followed by a very dark cloud.
Over pizza at a restaurant a few miles away from the venue, she confessed she hadn’t even bought her ticket yet. Normally this would send my detail-oriented, schedule-y brain into panic mode, especially when she tried to buy her ticket online and found out she couldn’t, probably because it was after the 7:00 doors open time. But I was already numb and would not have blinked an eye if we turned around and went home. Truthfully, I would have been relieved.
“You probably can just buy it at the box office,” I reassured her (and myself). “It’s not sold out. Is it?”
“Maybe you’ll have to tweet the band and see if they can get me in,” she said with a smile.
“It’ll be fine,” I said, wondering if I should give Susan a play-by-play of our experience. I decided against. One anxious person was enough. Two anxious people, even though one was a thousand-plus miles away, was too much for me to bear.
Outside the venue, I waited while she uneventfully bought her ticket at the box office. Then I realized we were really doing this, and I was going to have to make sure this box of cookies I was carrying found its way to the recipient.
I had never brought a present for a band before, and I wasn’t exactly sure how one does it. I never even knew it was possible until semi recently. Because in my fangirl mind, I’m just a fan and a nobody, and why would any band accept any gifts from me?
But of course, they are just people. And their people are people, and there has to be a way. I guess? Maybe?
Concert Buddy walked in the single door of the venue, The Basement – literally the basement beneath a bar – and handed her ticket to the girl at the door.
I walked in behind her, pretending to ooze confidence.
“What is thaaaaaat?” the girl asked suspiciously, pointing to my box. There was a hint of fear in her eyes. And I wondered if there was some in mine as well, which was exactly the opposite of what I was going for.
“They’re cookies for the band,” I said sweetly, hoping I would seem non-threatening.
“Cookies,” she repeated. She wasn’t buying it.
Out of nowhere, and in the corner of my eye, a guy with a bearded face and glasses appeared. “Hey I know them!” he said. When I turned to the side, I realized he was talking to me and pointing to my shirt. My Airborne Toxic Event band shirt. I wondered why he was talking to me at all, why he had announced that, and didn’t he see there was something going down between me and security here?
“Oh, cool,” I said dismissively, and then turned my attention back to the girl who was watching me with eyes narrowed by distrust.
“You can’t bring those in,” she said coolly. Then she called for the bouncer standing a few feet away.
Oh, no. She thinks I have a bomb.
“So, can you just take them and give them to someone who can get them to the band?” I asked nervously.
“I don’t know.” The bouncer was now standing beside her. “Which band?”
By now I was thoroughly done. I didn’t want to be here, and these weren’t even my cookies, and this wasn’t even my band. And now I was going to be accused of bringing a suspicious package to a public place, which, in light of the recent attacks in Paris, wasn’t so improbable, despite the perfectly-coiffed pink bow and Susan’s professional Delish bakery sticker on the box.
“It’s written on the box,” I said. “Dreamers.”
With extreme hesitation, she took the box from my hands. Then she turned to the bouncer. “Hey, can we take this?”
“What is it?”
“She says they’re cookies.” The way she said cookies, it was clear she did not believe it was actually cookies.
“We’ll have to ask. Who are they for?”
“Dreamers,” she said. “Who do we ask?”
Then it occurred to me that this kind of thing was not common – some fan bringing a parcel of gifts to a band, and they were just as confused about accepting it as I was about bringing it there.
Suddenly, Bearded Glasses appeared again, never really having left, and was now reaching for the box.
“That would be me,” he said.
He took one look at the box and his eyes lit up. “Oh, you’re kidding me. How did she get this here? Oh, my god. She spoils us.”
Instant relief. Everyone relaxed.
Bearded Glasses turned to me with an outstretched hand. “Hi, I’m Plotkin. I’m their tour manager. What’s your name? How do you know her?”
I explained that we were friends and had met via Airborne, the very band he said he “knew.”
“I’ll take these,” he said to both me and security. Meanwhile, the girl was scanning my ticket and checking my ID. I was no longer a threat. Plotkin had diffused the situation.
“Hey, you know what they said in school,” the bouncer added jovially, “if you bring cookies, you have to bring them for the whole class.”
“You’ll have to ask the band for cookies,” I said coyly. “I’m just the courier.”
And I walked inside the venue and found my friend. We headed for the bar. I pulled out my phone and sent a flurry of messages to Susan. Meanwhile, my head was spinning.
Concert Buddy asked if I wanted a drink, and I said no. Did I need one? Yes. Of course I needed one. But I found myself so dizzy with anxiety that the very idea of speaking to another stranger and telling them what I wanted would have had me collapsed on the floor. I excused myself and went to the bathroom.
There I could barely meet my own reflection in the mirror. But when I saw the Airborne shirt, I smiled. Hey, their tour manager had said, I know them. Yeah, I knew them, too. Once.
There is a person I like to remember when I’m afraid of being brave, or talking to strangers, or when I’m suddenly in awkward situations I’ve never been. It’s a version of myself that is usually put away and out of sight from disuse, like a costume. And to be honest, I don’t even know if it fits who I am anymore, but I love the memory of who I was when I knew Airborne, or that time we hung out backstage with them and I put the fangirl away and pretended I was confident and someone worth being backstage with a band. I know that deep down that “version” is just me, Colleen, the person. But buried so deep in crippling anxiety and a loss that has made me question the value of my own existence, I forget that she and I are the same person. And sometimes, when I’m really in doubt, I wonder if it was real.
Real or not, I took a breath and summoned the costume and its faux confidence, and went to find my friend.
The opening band, Karma Killers, had just taken the stage. In the L-shaped space of the venue, Concert Buddy hung back near the bar, sipping her beer. “Are you sure you don’t want a drink?” she shouted over the music, and I shook my head. It wasn’t something I could explain at the time.
Meanwhile, I was back and forth with my phone, texting Susan, feeling more like the cardboard box the cookies came in and that used to sit on my kitchen table, buried beneath layer after layer of useless excess that would just get thrown away later. I wanted to be the box with the pretty pink and perfectly coiffed bow that nobody could refuse. I wondered where the bomb cookies were now in the building.
I did a quick head count, quietly surveying the people around me, which didn’t take long at all, given the fact there were only 50 people or so in the whole place, and most of them looked to be about my age.
After Karma Killers had finished their set, out of the corner of my eye I saw the band members that comprise Dreamers walk past Concert Buddy and I, toward the middle of the bar, with their tour manager, Plotkin. They weren’t flanked by fans, and didn’t seem too bothered, so I nudged Concert Buddy and pointed in their general direction. “That’s them,” I said. “Should we go talk to them?”
She shrugged and turned to walk. Just like old times.
Let me just reiterate how completely vulnerable I feel approaching a group of people who regularly go onstage and perform and sometimes are on my TV and phone at home and then suddenly are in the flesh and don’t know who the heck I even am. It’s weirdly bizarre at best, and then there is also the very real possibility I am about to say something epically stupid.
I can’t explain what happened next. Maybe it’s just a band-fan thing, I don’t know, but Nick – the lead singer – made eye contact with me and held out his arm like he was waiting to give me a hug. And that simple, unexpected gesture put me at ease at the same time it made me clam up because of the imaginary pedestal I put these people on.
I’m not even sure I said any words. I hope I said hello and introduced myself. I don’t know. Because Concert Buddy swooped in as Nelson extended the same gesture to her and explained that we were the ones who delivered the cookies and we wanted to introduce ourselves. “There’s cookies?” Nelson said, and then Plotkin or someone confirmed that there were cookies. And the guys – Dreamers – were super sweet. Again, I’m not sure I said a single word due to my state of star-struck awe, but I do remember leaving the conversation feeling better about the whole thing.
We said we were looking forward to the show and then excused ourselves. Concert Buddy leaned in and said, “Best to keep it short and sweet. Don’t want to overwhelm them, you know?”
I looked around at the out-of-control and wildly insane crowd of 50 people and observed, “Yeah, I really don’t think that’s a problem for them yet. Maybe one day!”
“Sorry about taking over earlier,” she said, referencing to swooping in with Nelson. “I hope you didn’t mind.”
I laughed as the next band, Arkells, was setting up. “No, of course I didn’t mind.” Then I wondered if I could ever be that confident person again who didn’t care if people were in bands or not. It didn’t seem to fit. I was going to need a drink or I would never loosen up.
A few more people filed in, making the total count to around 100, and most of them were filling the small pit below the stage. Arkells had a greater following, from what little bit of research I had done before the show, and I was looking forward to their set. It didn’t hurt their lead singer, Max, was super attractive and had more than enough charisma to fill the entire room. The set was lively and fun, and though they had fans who had traveled out of state to see them that night, Max made the comment this show reminded him of the shows they used to do in their hometown, and I immediately thought “small, and probably in someone’s Basement.” But if the band was bothered by this, they didn’t let it show. It was one of the best sets I had seen post-Airborne, with enough heart and pageantry to more than make up for the lack of a crowd. And I instantly had respect for them, that they would put so much heart and soul for such a small audience.
Something about live music has this transcendent effect on me that I forget about until I’m at a show. The loudness of it, the revelry, the lights and colors and expressions of art happening right in front of you just hypnotizes me and sends me to a kind of sacred space in my head where the music drowns out the anxious chatter and the spotlights chase the darkness away. It’s cathartic and wonderful and I kept thinking it’s too bad I don’t do this more often. It’s too bad I let myself get in the way.
After the Arkells’ set was over, I headed for the bar and very bravely asked the stranger behind the counter for a whiskey and Coke.
As I sipped on the strong bite of the whiskey mixed with the sweetness of Coke, Concert Buddy and I talked about the playlist between sets and how all the 90s music was bringing up memories for her of concerts past. All I could think of was how short my own list was, and how few the years I had actually been going to concerts at all. If someone were to tell me 10 years ago that one day I would be bringing cookies to band from a stranger across the country that I’d never met, well, I wouldn’t have believed it. Not to mention all the other Airborne-related stuff in between.
Dreamers took the stage, and the whiskey started to do its work.
The show could be summed in the response of the crowd. Once Arkells had left the stage, the majority of the pit had cleared out, and it was obvious Arkells held the greater fanbase.
But midway through Dreamers’ set, everyone was back in the pit, proving it was truly “Never Too Late To Dance.”
Their set was tight and fun and full of energy, and totally blew away any preconceived ideas I had about the 3-person band. Nick was a confident and talented frontman, his voice clear and compelling. Nelson was tearing it up on bass and background vocals, and Jacob was killing it on drums. Their songs were just plain fun, and I found myself dancing and singing along, though I barely knew any words. Their 11-song set was over in a flash, and I was both impressed and humbled.
So Susan was right. There is life after Airborne, and there is magic at a Dreamers show. I witnessed it firsthand, and it was an exciting thing to be part of.
Barely remembering I had an assignment, I approached the stage as the crew was taking everything apart. When a crew member bent down to retrieve a setlist, I reached for it and he handed it to me with a smile.
Now I was buzzing from the excitement and energy of the music, and so was the rest of the crowd. Concert Buddy and I made our way to the back of the building where a throng had gathered around the band merch tables. I bought a Dreamers tee and the band suddenly appeared in the throng. I high-fived Nick and Nelson and told them I genuinely enjoyed the show. We talked about how I knew Susan, and my nervousness melted away to the point I almost forgot they were in the band I just saw, and I asked if they would sign my setlist. They happily obliged.
While they were taking selfies and signing autographs, another random fan approached me and said “I like your shirt. I love The Airborne Toxic Event.”
“Oh, yeah? Me, too! They are great! Have you seen them before?”
“Yes! But just once. It was an amazing show, though. It was like, life-changing.”
“I definitely know what you mean.”
We talked Airborne for the next few minutes, and in the back of my mind I was laughing, thinking how funny and how true it is that Airborne is this instant bond between two strangers, whether they just met, or had known each other years ago but lost touch and were now reconnected, or are Facebook friends that live on the other side of the country or even the continent. It’s funny and strange and yet familiar, and as it turns out, it was exactly what I needed in more ways than I could ever express in words.
I got a quick photo with the band and we said our goodbyes. I even talked to and took photos with Arkells, genuinely adding that I thoroughly enjoyed their show. Looking back now, I suppose I could have said more, or tried to be the most confident girl in the room, or invited them out for drinks somewhere. I could have tried to take something away from that night as proof that I was special, and that they were truly glad I was there. But I didn’t. I guess it didn’t seem to fit, and it wasn’t what I wanted, and it wasn’t me. The me that is now just wants to support the bands I love and tell them how much I appreciate what they do, and give back in some way, whether it’s dedicating my blog post to them or nearly being thrown out bringing cookies to their show. I’m just a fan, and that’s okay, because being a fan can be so much fun sometimes, I forget about everything else and all the things that bring me down and make me never want to leave my house. Being a fan is the bomb in the cookies, and it has blown up my world and made me tear down the walls and open doors I never thought existed. Being a fan has been an adventure for me, and I am forever grateful.
In the bathroom before we left the venue to head home, another random girl approached me as I was washing my hands at the sink. “I really like your shirt. I have that exact shirt at home. I love The Airborne Toxic Event.”
“They are awesome,” I said. “And their fans are pretty awesome, too.”
This post is dedicated with love and admiration for such amazingly talented people such as DREAMERS, Arkells, Karma Killers, their managers and crew, and of course, Plotkin, who saved the day.
And as always, The Airborne Toxic Event.
With much love and thanks to Concert Buddy, and Susan for the infamous cookies.