I’ve always been something of a fanatic. Friends have seen my work and called me a “machine”. So perhaps it’s natural I’ve always been attracted to the idea of being a number one fan. The moniker was first attached to me in middle school when I was obsessed with Led Zeppelin. At one point I would wear a different Led Zeppelin shirt to school every day of the week. People would look at me like I was crazy, but I would just say “Jimmy Page man…” Of course, at this point, I know I wasn’t the number one Led Zeppelin fan in the world, but it still felt kind of cool to be considered as such.
After I started my blog Two Guys Metal Reviews I think I started to really obsess over bands and come into my own as a fan. Yet, I still wasn’t into any band enough such that I could really claim to be a ‘number one fan’. I would dig bands, buy the merch, but I didn’t know any band members and no one would really call me a number one fan of anything. I was just the freaked out metal kid in the class who everyone kind of avoided.
Then I discovered Steeltrooper. This power metal act from Birmingham got my 14 year old sense of humor with their cover of the Power Ranger theme song. (I know, I was a stupid kid) They were a lot of fun to listen too and soon I started to comment on every photo they posted and status update the band made. At this point they were a small act with no tours under their belt and not even a record out. I started to have a special connection with the band, before the bands members even added me as a friend on facebook.
I should note, at this point, in my youthful naiveté I just sort of assumed that any band out there wa making their living off music. (Again, I was a stupid kid) When they added me I asked them all sorts of questions I’m sure they found hilarious and over the top “How much money do you make from Steeltrooper?” “Do you ever get groupies” “How often do you practice” The answers were, none, we all have girlfriends, and every Tuesday. At this point my fandom was still pretty limited. They didn’t have a lot of merch, so I just contributed to their kickstarters and did what I could to help them out.
I think it was near the release of the bands first (And only) record that I started to really see the benefits of being a ‘number one fan’ The band would send me demos of unreleased songs, and even guitar tabs. Suffice to say, for a fifteen year old (And I was fifteen at this point) it was a little bit overwhelming. A band could just send me unreleased stuff like that? That’s really cool! It was at this point that I really started to become obsessed with music, as more than just an art form but also a culture. Though I hadn’t been to too many shows yet I was starting to discover aspects that would make me love metal all the more.
All of this culminated when the band sent me a bunch of free merch with their record release to thank me for my support. Until my final days in Paris the signed poster they sent me hung proudly in my room. That band is broken up now and largely forgotten. Occasionally they hint to me about a comeback, but to a great extent they are mostly just dudes who occasionally show up in my Facebook feed. One of them is a profesional musician now, the others have simply progressed in their jobs, it seems to be a rather mundane start to a group that a younger me had been so obsessed with.
Since then I’ve evolved in my music taste, and the number one fan moniker has been given to me several more times for several other bands. Notable acts who I like to think consider me their ‘number one fan’ (Whatever that means) include Bloodmoon, Unscarred and the band I’m currently on my way to go see SubRosa a band I have never traveled less than 100 miles to see live. Now as I sit here speeding down the highway, wondering what is going to come of this evening I’m trying to take a moment to reflect on what being a number one fan means.
There is a quote in the cult classic Almost Famous that I think really gets to what the beauty of being a number one fan is. The groupie Polexia says to protagonist William Miller “These new groupies don’t understand what it truly means to be a fan. To get so obsessed with some silly little piece of music and you don’t even know why.” There is a certain magic with the reward you get for truly being a number one fan. If your love is sincere I feel like bands can really see that, and they latch on to it. When you express a pure and beautiful love for “Some silly piece of music” most of the time bands can’t help but like you.
Yet, you shouldn’t just be a number one for the free merch and entrance to shows. No, there is something much more valuable to be gained from this. It’s the lasting bonds you can form with some of your favorite bands, and you get to know them as people. Here’s the thing, if you have a special connection to a bands music, there is a good chance you’ll have a connection upon meeting someone from the band. Few bands have ever touched me as much as SubRosa, and now I talk to the bands singer more than I talk to my mother.
I’m not an isolated case either. Many of my friends, especially in the hardcore scene have been able to generate this kind of dedicated and loving relationship with a member of one of their favorite bands. There’s something special to be able to say “Oh Code Orange Kids? Me and their guitarist party together all the time” or “The other day me and the singer of Coffin Dust totally got high as balls.” Having a friend play in one of your favorite bands is one of those things that no one can really compare too, if you reach out and connect, strange things can happen to you.
I think that the whole notion of being a number one fan is inherently tied to the magic of independent music. No matter how much you love Rihanna there will always be someone who has one more poster, one more t shirt, someone who has totally dedicated their lives to her. In the independent field it’s a lot easier to reach out to a band you love and say “Hey, wanna hang out when you’re next in town?” Here’s a little secret, touring bands always could do with more friends, they need places to stay and people to talk too, because after six weeks on the road with the same three our four people, things get dull.
So am I saying you need to be a number one fan? Not necessarily, only do it if you feel moved by the music When you really dig into a bands discography and start to discover a connection you’ve never felt before with the music, that is when it’s probably good write and salutary to dive in and talk to the band, and buy all their merch. Their is no better way to experience a band, but unless you have a ton of money and time it’s hard to really dedicate yourself to more than one or two bands. Being a number one fan, or at least trying to be, is fun, wild and inane. Sure it may be shitty at times, like right now in this never ending ride to New York City, but in the end, when I leap into their arms and feel the love of a band I love perhaps more than life itself, I know it is worth it.