This post originally appeared on Threads of Stars.
Over the years, my involvement with music has led me through some strange worlds. One of those worlds is that of the fan club.
I’ve been deep into a couple of bands’ fanbases over the years, though these days I’m only really involved in one due to the conflict of interest with my job. If you’ve ever been in far, you’ve likely observed that one of the things that happens in almost every band’s fanbase is that the fans start bringing the band stuff.
That stuff can be anything from art projects relating to the band’s work to gifts related to the band members’ interests to food. Lots and lots of that last category. Birthday cakes and chips and candy and regional specialties. If a band member so much as indicates once that they like an edible item, they’re likely to get it for the rest of their career. For example: in a hidden track on Relient K’s 2001 album The Anatomy of the Tongue In Cheek, the band jokingly sings about their love for combos and Skittles. At a show I was at a few months ago, fans were still throwing combos and Skittles at the stage. 15 years later.
When my friend and then-roommate was touring running merch for a major Christian band, she’d sometimes bring back bags of food for my husband and I to try and finish, since there was no way the band could even fit all of the food they were given into the vehicle they were using for that tour. Even with us serving as backup, we often still threw some of it away.
In some fanbases (such as the only one I’m involved in presently), there’s a core hub of people who coordinate and ask what the band actually needs at the time so less is wasted. It works pretty well. Bands always have needs on the road, and having fans to meet those needs can be legitimately vital to their survival, especially in the beginning.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about why they’re bringing baskets of things to a show for a band. It’s usually a conversation that I don’t even prompt; I’ll have someone ask me, for example, where the best place is for them to leave the items to be retrieved. Usually I’ll answer, and then they’ll suddenly add something along the lines of “I’m not a crazy fan or anything. The band members are just my friends.”
It’s a self-defensive response that I know is being given because nobody wants to be counted as “one of the screaming crowd of fangirls.” There’s a tremendous amount of insecurity in fanbases about being relegated to that classification (and understandably so). But sometimes it does prompt some curiosity in me, and I’m half tempted to ask “do you bring your other friends the same kinds of things?”
And I’ll be honest: this challenge hit me first as a teenager when I was in the thick of multiple fan bases at once, and it suddenly struck me that if I was going to pay so much attention to certain groups of people I saw a couple times a year on a stage, I should probably be sure I was paying equal attention to the people right in front of me year round. It opened my eyes to a lot of the weirdness of the concert-going world. Is there anywhere else in life where we really do lavish the people we care about with so much generosity and enthusiasm?
And I want to be clear: what I’m not saying is that fans should care about bands less, make them things less, give them less gifts. Certainly, do what you can to be sure you’re bringing what an artist actually needs so that things aren’t being wasted. But don’t care for them less; they need you. I’m saying it might be worthwhile to care for everyone else in our life more, to treat every single human being in our lives the way the most dedicated fan treats a rockstar.
The same way a touring band might need a hot meal brought to them once in awhile, there are people in our lives who are also overwhelmed by their job who would benefit massively from an out-of-the-blue meal provided for them. It’s a beautiful, soul-touching thing to create handmade things for another human, be it a card or a painting or even digital art. To remember with keen interest what a friend likes and dislikes is a way to make them feel truly seen. I want my couch to be as open to every one of my friends as it would be to Bono if he needed a place to crash for a night. I want random gifts and startling generosity to be the norm for all of my friendships.
I have a long way to go, if I’m going to treat everyone like rockstars; every time I think I have it sorted, I notice another area where I have a ways to go. But I believe there is not a single person I know who isn’t worth it. This world would be so much more beautiful if all of us acted a little more like fans of each other.