Our little corner of the world is certainly small, isn’t it? The longer I am a participant in the fan community for Duran Duran, the more I realize just how tiny it really is.
Unlike most other bands I go to see in concert, with Duran Duran I tend to be more involved. (Shocking, right?) I subscribe to their fan club (DuranDuranMusic), and I tend to buy VIP tickets to most shows because I’m greedy and I want the best seats. I can’t lie about that. The thing is, there are quite a few of you out there – many of you reading, actually – that are right there with me!
I am I myself alone
I don’t make it my business to introduce myself to the “who’s-who” in the fan community. I’m not buddies with each and every person who seems to be attached to the band in one sense or another. I’m not somebody who will go bouncing up to someone I’d call a “well-known fan” just because I recognize them and want to make nice. That’s not me. I hate approaching people as it is, unless I’m comfortable and actually know them.
There’s no way I’m going to just insert myself into someone’s evening just because I happen to know they’re friends with a roadie, married to someone in management, or is actually on “the team”. I would be a horrible politician, and it is very obvious that I’m not the greatest at making connections. All one has to do is look at my LinkedIn to know that I fail horribly at networking. I always assume I’m putting someone out, or that I’d be bothering them. I guess I’ve mostly stayed to myself, as much as one can when they write a familiar blog, I guess??
The thing is, and I’m going to be brutally open about this – the “It” list of fans, you know the ones – they tend to be at most of the shows, they always seem to know where and when to be, and how to get places that normal, everyday fans don’t – aren’t really on our reader list. At least, not that *I* know of. They’re not usually people who will even admit to reading this, or any fan blog for that matter. I suppose we might be a bit too pedestrian, maybe too wide-eyed, and probably far too “Fan” like. With a capital F. I get it.
Got to show now, got to move on
In a lot of ways, I’m more of a watcher than a participant. I remember a number of years back when I was in Chicago for a show. A group of us met up afterward and walked to a local bar. When we got there, the place was packed, to the point where we were turned away at the door because it had reached capacity. We stood outside for a bit, trying to decide where to go next. As I glanced towards the windows of the bar, I saw somebody inside. She was waving at me and kind of laughing. I could guess what she was laughing about. There I was, along with a small group of others, proverbially on the outside looking in. She was IN, along with several members of the band, I might add, and we were most definitely OUT. Weakly, I waved back and tried not to feel like a complete loser. Story of my life.
At every single show I attend, I’ll see quite a few of the same people. Over and over again. I silently marvel at how they’re able to be everywhere. It isn’t jealousy as much as it’s curiosity. I know how tough it is for me to be at the several shows I can attend each tour, and I can promise that from here on out – it will be far less than it was during Paper Gods. (Or so my husband assures) How do they manage?!? Even more so, I’ll watch other fans flock to these people, befriend them, and situate themselves near them. I don’t even know their names or who they are beyond their faces, and yet the fan-community-at-large are already Facebook friends with them, at the very least! On one hand, I’m surprised I don’t know everyone’s name by now, I guess. On the other, I am not one of those super outgoing and bubbly people.
Puts my faith in none of the above
The kicker for me, is when I’m online and happen to be reading a Facebook post or reading through a Twitter thread. As I go through it, I realize that most all of my friends are actually connected, to some of those people I mentioned above. They’re not just “social media” connected, but obviously know them. Or maybe I’m surprised by people who have not really been active in the fan community for very long (not that they haven’t been fans – that’s different), but are very connected to the “A list” of fans and people in the Duran Duran circle. Perhaps I’m shocked when I realize that the reason why so-and-so IS at all of the shows is because she’s married to somebody who works for the band. It could be a million other scenarios, because for as long as I’ve been in the fan community, or have been actively blogging – I know very little about the people within.
I know how people behave as a group. The trends and patterns of behavior are easy for me to recognize. I can, and have helped put together some really fun meet-ups and parties over the years. But do I really KNOW people?
Probably not so much. It is strange how one can blog for eight years and yet really still be on the outside looking in, isn’t it?
I was fortunate enough to snag a Platinum package for DD’s historic show at the Hollywood Bowl through the fan club pre-sale. I say “fortunate” because, subsequently, I met many fellow Duranies at the pre-show reception who had tried and failed to get the Platinum package! (Ed note: Fun Fact – Amanda and Rhonda were two more of those people!!) The most exciting thing about the package — apart from the front-row seat — was the backstage tour. Since I was also lucky enough to be sitting right in front of Daily Duranies Rhonda and Amanda during the show, I promised to do a write-up of the backstage tour for Daily Duranie!!
I didn’t really know what to expect from the backstage tour, but I have to say that the communication prior to the event was handled very well. DDVIP sent very detailed instructions that were very helpful. Here are a couple relevant excerpts from the email that was sent to Platinum package purchasers!!
Greetings from Duran Duran Headquarters!
Thank you so much for purchasing a PLATINUM package to the band’s show at the legendary Hollywood Bowl on October 1st. We look forward to seeing you for the backstage tour and VIP pre-show reception! You will check in at the table in front of the Museum Garden. … Please arrive to check in between 5:15pm and 5:30pm SHARP. If you are not there at 5:30pm you can still enjoy the reception but will miss the backstage tour.
Feel free to text if you have any URGENT issues. Please include your first and last name in your message. Please ONLY use her number the day of the show.
A few important notes:! !
– There is NO meet and greet associated with the reception or backstage tour and the band will not be in attendance!
– Please stay with the group and if you see a performer backstage do NOT approach them unless the concierge has introduced you to them!
– If you stray from the group backstage you will be removed from the venue and not issued a refund (so please do not try to wander into dressing rooms etc). Please stay with the tour. ! !
Armed with this information, I set out from my Beverly Hills hotel around 4:30, expecting to arrive at the Bowl around 5:15, based on what the locals had told me about travel time. Note to self: do not believe the locals about travel time!!
(Rhonda’s note: actually a REAL local will always tell you that if you are in the LA/Hollywood area on any given day, at any given time, with the possible exception of like 3-3:45am, you can expect a drive of at least an hour, no matter whether you’re going down the block, or five miles away… or even out of the city completely. Our traffic is horrendous here. Just saying. – a Los Angeles Native)
It was only due to my cab driver’s miraculous (reckless?) driving, including a U-turn in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, that I made it to the Bowl in time to take the tour. Truth be told I was a few minutes early, but terrified that I’d miss the tour, I actually resorted to texting the concierge for the event. Let’s call her “A.” I texted A and told her my situation. She was very friendly and understanding. She didn’t say they’d wait if I was late, but as I chewed on my nails,consulting Google Maps every few seconds to see how far I was from the Bowl (in case I needed to leave the cab and run for it), she joked with me by text about how I was getting closer and how I had better tip the cabbie well (I did).
After checking in at the VIP table, I waited for a few minutes, and then A and her partner-in-crime for the tour — we’ll call him “L” — gathered us up to begin the tour. There were about six of us on the tour, and I got the impression that a couple of people didn’t show (they’re probably still sitting in traffic). The group was much smaller than I expected, but it explains why it was so hard to get a Platinum seat! At this point, A and L introduced themselves. They have both worked with the Duran organization for some time, and while they didn’t give us their formal titles, it seems that they are part of a logistics team that coordinates between front office, back office and fans. And, apparently, that includes giving tours. L did most of the talking and, as we were led away from the meeting table through various security checkpoints, he explained that we would be able to take pictures on some parts of the tour and not on others.
The first thing we saw was the backlot, where the tour buses and the trucks that carry the stage and musical equipment park. We did not get to go on any tour busses. Then we were led inside to the area where the performers’ dressing rooms are. This is where that line from the email came into my head: “if you see a performer backstage do NOT approach them unless the concierge has introduced you to them.” It was going to be hard to restrain myself should we run into one of the members of Duran Duran. I’ll end the suspense now and tell you that we didn’t see them. 🙁
The first thing we saw was the warm-up room where John and Roger warm up. In it was a stripped down drum kit, a bass and a small amp, so Rog and John can get their groove on pre show.
Across the hall from that room was the dressing room for “female performers,” presumably Anna Ross, Jessie Warner, and the ladies from Chic and Clean Bandit. I don’t remember seeing any dressing rooms with “stars” and specific names on them (because I definitely would have taken pictures had I seen that).
Farther down the hall was the my favorite part of the tour: the wardrobe room. L and A brought us into the room and introduced us to Jeffrey, the band’s wardrobe manager. Jeffery was very welcoming and friendly, telling us all kinds of interesting things. Here are some of the tidbits I remember:
• Each of the guys has an array of pieces in the room from which they can pick and Jeffrey doesn’t know what they’ll pick from show to show.
• Jeffrey predicted that Simon might wear his black, sequined tuxedo jacket since the show was so special (hello, it’s the Hollywood Bowl!). The tuxedo jacket is an Yves Saint Laurent, and Jeffrey says that the band have acquired a fondness for his pieces lately.
• As we all know now, that prediction turned out not to be accurate, as Simon wore a black and white motorcycle jacket. The black and white leather jacket that Simon wore for the show was made by Jeffrey. If memory serves, it’s a knock off of another jacket but made from slightly lighter materials so it’s not so warm under stage lights.
Jeffrey was very gracious and allowed us to take pictures and, yes, to touch some of the pieces. I could have stayed in that room all night, but we were off to our next stop, which was down the hall and down the path that the performers take from dressing room to stage.
We were escorted to the stage entrance area and allowed to walk right up to the edge of stage right, but not to walk out on stage, especially since there were already folks in the seats, waiting for the show to start.
When we returned from the edge of the stage, L and A introduced us to several other members of the Duran management and touring team, including Wendy Laister (a name many of you probably recognize – she’s Duran Duran’s manager) and Orla, their tour manager. Wendy, Orla and a few other folks were huddled a small room that appeared to be the nerve center for the operation, and Orla took a few moments out of a very busy time to chat with us.
In fact, Orla said that she and the team had been at the Bowl since 6 or 7 a.m. that morning (it was 6 p.m. by this time). She talked to us about the demands and the intricacies of managing the tour and mentioned that there were several different sets of stage equipment. While one was being set up and then broken down at the Hollywood Bowl, another was on its way to the next gig and, once the Hollywood Bowl set was broken down, it would be off to another future show. It reminded me of what it must be like to be an air traffic controller — managing hundreds of small details, all in real-time.
She also talked to us about how the sound is monitored and how the mix in the guys’ earphones is achieved, each customized to ensure they hear what they need to hear in order to keep in time and tune.
After we said goodbye to Orla, we headed back outside. As we headed back out past the loading bays and the trucks, back toward the public areas, we did spot one Mr. Nile Rogers sitting outside in a chair, chatting with another fellow who was working the show. While I’m sure we all wanted to call out to Nile and/or run up to him, we didn’t. His head was turned, and he was engrossed in conversation, but I think if he had seen us, he probably would have come over to say hello, based on his graciousness in dealing with fans (signing autographs, posing for selfies, etc.) before and after the Chic set.
As we walked out, I was chatting with A and told her that I enjoyed the tour and that I was really impressed with the way that the pre-sale and the arrangements for the tour had been handled by Duran’s management and Crowdsurge, in contrast to some of the experiences with past companies. She was pleased to hear it and said they are always looking for ways to make the fan experience better and special.
Perhaps most impressive, apart from getting to fondle Simon’s sparkly leather pants (not while he was in them, sadly), was the hospitality and warmth that everyone we encountered on the tour displayed toward us. L and A really were great ambassadors for the band, and even during a very busy time, all of the team members we encountered seemed genuinely happy that we were there, entertained our questions and thanked us for being there.
All in all, it was a great experience, and I hope everyone who wants a Platinum Package is able to receive one, should Duran offer it as part of the 2016 tour packages. See you all in 2016!
Janet has been a Duranie since 1982 when she was in high school (no fair guessing her age). She lives in St. Petersburg, FL, is a Corporate Communications exec for a global bank, and enjoys documentary film and kayaking/snorkeling in her spare time. A lifelong Simon fan, she had the great pleasure of meeting him (as well as Dom and Roger) at a pub after a show in Chicago in 2011. At last count, Janet has seen the band about 15 times — traveling as far as Milan, LA and Chicago — and has plans to see as many shows in 2016, both foreign and domestic, as her work schedule and financial advisor will allow.
An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!