You know that dream where you meet your hero, and it turns out that they think you’re just as amazing as you think they are, and even though you know it’s never going to happen, you feel happy thinking that, one day, it could happen? What do you do when it does happen?
Joakim Benon, one-half of the band jj, has just thrown his arms around my neck in a warm, loving embrace. “I love you, I love you,” he tells me while Elin Kastlander, the other half of the band, sings behind him. Everyone around me that I had talked to before the show is, rightfully, just a little bit excited. Okay, maybe a lot excited. And by all rights, so am I. As you, dear reader, may have gathered, I am a colossal fan of the band. When I first came across their debut jj n° 2, I became ensnared in the first true pop history of my life. Who were these people, if it was more than one person? What are they doing here? Why did they cover “Lollipop” by Lil’ Wayne? I had questions, and the band made it impossible to answer them. Then, after signing to Secretly Canadian, their names leaked out, as did photos. The band was added as touring support for The XX, and they released a quick follow up, following a great deal of critical acclaim. Shouldn’t this kill a band’s spirit, as it has with so very many musicians?
Let’s fast forward a little bit. My wife, Kelly, and I are sitting outside the Crystal Ballroom, waiting just another hour and a half for the show that we’d gotten tickets for in very early January. We were psyched, to say the least. I am a fan of The XX, undoubtedly, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t here to see my Then, a woman with impeccably crazy blonde hair, who is called Elin, walks out of the door and to the Chrysler mini-van in front of us. We exchange nervous and giddy glances as she fishes through her car. “Are you her?” I ask, sheepishly. “From jj? Will you sign my records?” “Let me find a pen!” she tells me, and after a full two minutes of fishing through the minivan, Elin emerges with a pen in hand, and acts truly surprised when I produce the sleeves to both of their records. “You bought both of them!” she says. “Well, of course I did. It was all worth every penny!” After signing them, she holds out her arms to give me a massive hug, and stands talking to us for a minute. I admit, I gush a little bit. “Thanks for buying the records!” she tells me, and I nervously tell her that the import price was well worth it to have a copy of n° 2. “You should have mailed us, we would have just sent you a copy!” she says, laughing. We let her go, and go on with our time killing, immensely happy.
This has been unbearably awesome, by my standards, because I love meeting musicians. For a normal person, this is enough, and for me, it is enough. However, it seems that this isn‘t enough for the band.
A blonde man, who is called Joakim, who I recognize from the photos I’ve seen, walks up to the door. I stop him, asking if he can give me his autograph as well. Elin and a roadie come out behind them, and ask if they can get a photo of us. Then, the roadie proceeds to have both Elin and Joakim pose with us for another photo. Nobody has a pen, but Joakim vows to sign my records after the show. “How often do musicians ask to get their picture taken with you?” Kelly asks, shocked and bemused. “I gotta tell you, this is a first time!” It’s impossible, at this point, to shake my joy.
Fast forward to that very same blonde man pledging his love to me during “Into The Light.” I’ve had musicians interact with me before, but never like this. My face is beginning to hurt from smiling as much as I am, between seeing all of the songs I’ve listened to countless times being played two feet from me, and the people responsible for those songs showing me immense affection. Joakim disappears from sight for a minute or two, just long enough for Elin to sing “Things Will Never Be The Same.” He returns, with his sunglasses in hand. He walks back in front of me, kneels down again, and places the shades in my hand. The people around us are going truly crazy at this point. He air guitars his part of “Let Go,” and leans in for another hug and, to my surprise, kisses me on the cheek. “Love me! Love me!” a woman nearby is screaming. Everyone is beaming jealously. As the last song ends, Elin follows suit and gives me another warm hug before high fiving everyone in the front row. Starstruck? Maybe, just maybe.
“That was so cool! How do you know them?” A girl behind me asks. I look bashfully back, “I’ve never met ’em before tonight, I’m just a really, really big fan!” “I think you just made everyone here a really big fan just because they were so sweet to you!” another girl tells me.
This is probably true. Musicians may be trained to love their fans more than anything, but how many bands actually go out of their way to make that known? Not enough. Too often do bands forget that the thousands of screaming fans are there for them, and forget to give back, just a little. In singling me out the crowd, they set themselves apart from every other band, because they did something to prove that they are just as big of a fan of us as we are of them. And, from the looks of it, I’ve got a couple of really big fans in Gothenburg.