Last week (or earlier this week, depending on how you look at it), Rhonda blogged about the ten year anniversary of Red Carpet Massacre. After I got over the shock that ten years have gone by, I started to really think about what that album era means to me. That time really shook my fandom and made me question quite a lot. I think the fact that I got through it made my fandom a lot, lot, lot stronger.
Before I dive into the lessons I got during the years of 2006-2009, I have to acknowledge what fandom was like for me during the Astronaut era of 2004-2005. That, of course, was when I had jumped head first back into the fandom and into the fan community. I spent a lot of time online on message boards and wanted to make a lot of friends within the community. If someone asked me then about what it was like to be a Duranie, I guarantee that I would have said something about how it was a non-stop party and that everyone was really great. It felt to me that I had a thousand best friends and the potential for thousands more. Everything about the fandom felt fun. Were there some signs that everything wasn’t rosy and perfect? Sure. I blew them off. I ignored them. I continued on in my happy way.
As soon as the rumors about the next album started to fly, the fandom seemed to take a turn. Suddenly, opinions were flying across each and every message board. Was Andy going to be on the next album? Would the band use a hip hop producer? Was the rumor to Justin Timberlake true? If so, what does that mean for how good the album is going to be? I couldn’t keep up and found myself feeling dismayed. Pushing my thoughts and feelings about those rumors to the back of my mind, I focused on how divided the fan community was. Some loved the ideas and others hated them. I hated the division.
I tried to hold off judgment but I, too, had concerns that it wouldn’t be like the Duran I knew and loved. While that worry lingered, I found myself desperately wishing for things to go back to the way they were during Astronaut when everyone was happy. I realized right then that I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t go back and I couldn’t keep the fandom in a bubble. It doesn’t work that way. I needed to figure out how to just go with the flow.
New York City
During 2007, I went to see the band perform twice in New York City. The first time was with Rhonda at the fan show in June of that year, which only added to the division and strong feelings. I found my worry growing exponentially as it felt like the band wasn’t sold on their album either as I saw them stand on the stage demonstrating less than confident body language when introducing the five songs they played from a CD that night. My biggest fear? It wasn’t that the band had created an album that I would hate. I figured that I could get through that. No, my biggest fear was that my friends would leave the fandom, that I would be left alone, that all the fun I had in 2004 and 2005 were never be repeated. While I, too, had many criticisms over what I saw and felt that weekend, I didn’t say much. I feared that I would add to the reasons for people to walk away, for me to walk away. I didn’t want that. Thus, I watched as many of my friends vented their frustrations and concerns while I tried to hold on to my fandom for dear life.
With that goal in mind, I went back to NYC to see the band perform on Broadway in November. I hadn’t planned on going as my closest friends weren’t going but when decent tickets popped up and my friend who lives there was interested, I jumped at the chance. The reason was simple. I hoped that the band would ease my anxiety, that my fandom would be given a shot of armor to get through this battle of sorts. It worked. I saw a very different band that night. Instead of the anxiousness I witnessed in June, the band on stage in November was tight, thrilled to be performing, and confident. They embraced their performance and allowed me to as well. I went into 2008 in a stronger stance.
Fall 2008 Tour
Somehow, through the messiness that was Red Carpet Massacre and shifting friendships, Rhonda and I decided to go to a few shows in December of 2008. It was there that the shift in my fandom that started in late 2006 was almost complete.
Throughout 2004 to 2008, I focused a lot on what I should be doing, thinking and feeling as a fan. I wasn’t doing this consciously but looking back, it is clear. Should I love Astronaut? Should I hate Red Carpet Massacre? Am I supposed to try to find the band after shows or not? What’s the cool way to respond to being near the band? I watched my fellow fans closely and often followed their lead. Some indicated that I should keep my fandom at arm’s length, that I don’t need to show my fandom that much. They believed that there was a definite line that should not be crossed. Cool fans don’t need to be up close. Cool fans don’t want to be where the band is. I never questioned. I never asked why. I just followed the lead.
During those December 2008 shows, I decided that I needed to do what works for me, what makes me happy as fan and that it is okay if it is different for others. They should be able to do what makes them happy as fans. How did I come to that conclusion? Two things. First, two shows happened that I wish that I could do over. Why? Well, in the case of the first one, instead of just being happy to be there, we complained about a lot. Some of it was definitely legitimate but still stupid for us to focus on. For the second show, we had the chance to be up front and didn’t take it, in order to be cool. Can you imagine? Yeah, I kick myself for that. Second, I did a lot of talking with Rhonda as we drove around that weekend. Our conversations made me realize that I didn’t like the direction my fandom was going. I wanted to still have fun and I wanted to have good times at shows. Since then, we have made the best of the shows we have been at and always try to get the best spot possible (within reason).
Overall, the RCM era tested my fandom quite a bit. I had to figure out who I was at a fan and what I needed to have fun and what I needed if I was going to continue being in it. Really, it also pushed Rhonda and I into taking action, which led to this blog and where we are today. While RCM isn’t a favorite of mine, I can appreciate the lessons that came along with it.