What is the sign of being a fan of a team, an artist, or show? What does that mean now as opposed to twenty years ago?
Throughout high school, I was a fan of Pearl Jam. This was 1991-94, so it was before the Internet was prevalent. If I wanted any bits of information about the band, I had to hunt it down. I watched Mtv News in case they gave any update, I scoured magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin for updates, I talked to people who worked at music stores to see if they heard anything new.
It wasn’t only information I gained this way, about Pearl Jam, but also their music. At least once a week I was making a trek to some local, independent record shop (Dirt Cheap, Stage Door, Homer’s, Pickles Records & Tapes, Drastic Plastic, Kanesville Kollectibles) to see if there was some rare/import Pearl Jam record/cd in that I did not previously have.
Little by little, I gained a wealth of info and music about Pearl Jam. I considered myself a “true fan”.
Then the Internet exploded onto the scene in the mid-90’s, and all that information and music was at anyone’s fingertips with a few keystrokes and clicks.
There are a lot of story lines one could explore as it relates to culture, identity and idolatry. The loss of wealth for “true fans” was an interesting one.*
*Patton Oswalt suggests this mindset happens online with people looking to be the first to respond to a particular post. Even if they don’t have anything to say, they want to be the first one to respond to prove they were the first one to see and read it.
While I was tracking down anything related to Pearl Jam in the early 90’s, I was also doing the same for U2. I was a big fan of the reborn U2 of the 90’s, even though I had been following them throughout the 80’s.
Early on as a Christian, I can’t recall how many times I tried to convince people of U2’s spirituality and Christianity. Achtung Baby made it difficult for people to believe because it had depth, wasn’t easily packaged like contemporary Christian music, and was artistic. I gave up after while.
Then the Internet exploded.
What hardcore U2 fans knew now everyone knew. This was good…and perplexing. People I had tried to convince before started to realize they were Christian. It was almost comical. These were people that would never, ever, EVER listen to “secular music”, but now they made an exception for U2. It was a step in the right direction for some of them to see how God can work beyond the labels and stereotypes Christians can assign. The perplexing side was since they became accepted by Christian culture as a “Christian band”, Christians threw themselves at U2. All of a sudden, the info and music I had accrued was now available in mass.
Early in 1996, I remember talking to a woman about U2, and why I was a fan. She hadn’t been a fan, and was a bit down on them. The thinking within her changed over the course of the year, though. In the fall of 1996, she came up to me and told me how much of a fan she was now. I thought, “Cool”. She then showed me a stack of papers she had printed out. It was pages upon pages of information about U2 she had printed off from the Internet. Six months previous she knew nothing, and didn’t care to, but now she was about to know as much, if not more, about one of my favorite bands by having a cram session that night. She now considered herself a “true fan” of U2.
I saw a lot of people do this, and it bothered me. I wasn’t against people becoming fans. I didn’t want to be that guy who stopped being a fan once a band became popular. I wanted more people to like U2. People were becoming fans, but not in the way I had wanted. I wanted people to be fans like I had, and everyone else had previous. No more. The Internet had leveled the playing field.
It was an adjustment. Was I going to scour the Internet every day for new information relating to my favorite musicians? Was I going to visit message boards and find downloads of concert bootlegs? No.
I was going to enjoy the bands on my terms. If that meant not being considered a “true fan” by others, so be it. I didn’t want to impress anyone anymore, partly because it didn’t matter. There was always going to be some bit of information that you did not know. There was always going to be some unreleased track. Before, it had been part joy, sleuthing and fandom to find some new tidbit of info about one of your favorite acts. There wasn’t any of that for me any more.
This mindset didn’t happen overnight, but it started with that conversation I had in the fall of 1996. The past fifteen years I’ve sold a majority of items from my music collection. Some of the rarities I sold I never thought I would. There are a number of factors for this, but one is I’m not the fan I use to be. Or, I should say, I redefined how I’d be as a fan.
I realize this sounds a bit ridiculous, but if you read this blog you’ll know I can be ridiculous at times.
I was, am, still a fan of U2. My fandom has waned since 1996, though. It’s highest point for me, since then, was probably when U2 played at the Qwest Center here in Omaha in 2005.
|U2 performing in Omaha at the Qwest Center (12.15.2005)|
When they released their latest album in 2009, No Line on the Horizon, I listened to it and thought, “If I wasn’t a fan, would I listen to this album again?” No. While I appreciate the compassion and social justice efforts of the band, I don’t listen to them much any more.*
*Granted, I hardly listen to music any more.
Fast forward to November 2011, and I’m going through more cd’s to take to Half Price Books. I see an album I haven’t listened to in its entirety in over two years. And, despite my history with the band, I decide to get rid of the album. So long, No Line on the Horizon.
|U2’s No Line on the Horizon.|
I have a few other U2 items that are in storage that I pull out. I have the tour shirt I bought at the 2005 concert, and a rare remix compilation, Artificial Horizon, I got for being a member of U2.com.
They are cool items for the U2 fan, but what good are they if they just take up space? That’s all they were doing at my house. I can’t recall the last time I wore the shirt, and the cd was not something I listened to. Since U2 is still one of the biggest musical acts in the world, there would be someone that would appreciate this shirt and album. I know just the person to give them to, someone who has been a fan of the band almost thirty years…my step-sister Danica.
Over the years, I’ve given her some of my collection of U2 stuff. She’s always been beyond grateful for it. I’m not sure how many times she’s seen U2 live. She even met Bono when U2 was shooting a music video in Kansas City. She is you stereotypical U2 fan.
I was thinking I’d wait till Christmas to give her the items, but then I found out last week she’d be in over the weekend to visit. She came by this past Saturday, so I pulled them out and gave them to her. I knew well in advance what her reaction would be, and yet I loved it. She was thrilled.
I took a few photos of her with the items. She didn’t like some of the first few shots, because she thought she looked silly. I thought it was perfect, though, because it captured her love, as a fan, for U2.
|I did not have to tell Danica to smile.|
Am I still a fan? Perhaps not by my standards of old. Perhaps I’m just two stops down the line now.