Tag Archives: Superfans

Banning Superfans and other misnomers

Amanda and I have been studying fandom for about ten years now. I think we each try to stay current with publications and research, but every now and then something will come out that takes us by surprise. This weekend, an article was published in the Daily Mail (maybe not the hardest hitting newspaper out there) that made me stop and think about superfans. I shared it across social media, hoping to generate some careful thought and response.

The article is about a fan named Heather Vaughn, who considers herself to be a Bay City Rollers Superfan.  By her own estimate,  she has attended over 4000 BCR concerts and has been a fan for over 40 years. Unfortunately, since April, she has been asked to leave gigs and has been banned. She claims not to know why, although the article discusses a specific situation where Mr. McKeown was checking into a hotel, saw Heather out front and took a photo of her on his phone.  You can read the article here (in fact I really think everyone should).

Just in case you’ve never heard of them, the Bay City Rollers were a 1970’s Scottish pop group that happened to have quite a huge female following. They split in 1978, but the lead singer (after taking time to recover from drugs, etc) continues to tour under the name “Les McKeown’s Bay City Rollers”, and – this may surprise some of you given some of the “Who the heck are they?” responses I saw yesterday – they still have quite a strong following. These are people who go to every show, who have been fans from nearly the beginning. There have been many books and articles written about their fans, and there are definitely parallels to be found between that fan community and our own.

While the article interested me, I was even more curious about some of the responses I read, specifically from Duran Duran fans who had posted the article for their friends to read.  The responses went one of two ways:

  1. People felt there must be more to the story than this woman simply being seen at the same hotel that Les McKeown was checking into.
  2. People were appalled that the band was not thrilled that they had such a loyal superfan.

After reading those types of responses from several people who had commented, I decided I would post the article to the community-at-large over social media and monitor the reactions. I wasn’t really sure what people might say, but I was fairly convinced Duran fans would have SOME sort of opinion!  I was not wrong.

Overall, the same two original types of responses I read seemed to be the norm throughout the community. Although stated in a myriad of ways, directionally they were the same. Either fans were convinced there was more to the story than what was being shared, or they were firmly supportive of superfans.  There was also some discussion defining obsessive behavior and “crazy fans”, but ultimately – it comes down to whether or not you support the superfan, or you believe something happened where the band is “just” in their decision to ban said fan.

This seems to always boil down to the same discussion of what is acceptable fan behavior. And, as I could have predicted—everyone has a different opinion about that. It’s not an easy conversation.

I chatted with some people who felt that if you go to “too many shows”, it starts to look odd to the band. If you wave to band members, maybe that’s too “familiar”.  If they begin to recognize you,  that’s too much. If you talk to the band online as though you would anyone else, and expect them to answer, that’s bizarre.

I started looking hard at my own past “fan” behavior after I got offline. Unlike Heather Vaughn, I’ve never been called up on stage, or had photographs taken of myself doing housework for one of the band members. (Don’t even think about it. I love the band…but not that much!!) I have, however, traveled great distances to see them. I’ve been in hotel bars and restaurants at the same time as they’ve been. I’ve stayed at the same hotel before. I’ve gone to show after show, and yeah, I’m pretty sure that at least Simon recognizes me at this point, and likely Nick too.  What makes me any different from Mrs. Vaughn, other than the amount I’ve done?

The thing is, we don’t know why Heather Vaughn was banned. Chances are, there’s more to the story than what was reported, on both sides. What really concerns me is the idea that some Duran Duran fans think that no matter what she’s done, it’s OK because it was done in the name of being a loyal fan.  What exactly does “loyal” mean, anyway?  How do any of us know that she didn’t try to break into a room, or make threats, or continually show up to private events completely unannounced—purely because she thought that she was so much of a great fan that she belonged?  We don’t, but think about it the possibility. She’d gone to over 4000 shows. The band clearly knew who she was. She felt familiar, both in being a fan, as well as thinking they knew her.  I would imagine it is very easy to believe you’re more than just another fan in that case. It can be intoxicating to be validated by a celebrity, and after decades of just that, you start to believe you belong. That’s the risk.

It is those types of things, where you’re showing up to things a fan shouldn’t be, and getting into places you were not invited, that get a fan banned. Fans do not get banned because they happen to be in a hotel lobby, or because they’ve been to one too many shows in a stretch. Fans aren’t told to go away because they asked for a photo, and I’ve seen some really forceful asking! Restraining orders are for people who don’t know enough to back the heck off.  Blocking and banning are used for those who don’t realize what “private time” or “personal space” means, and have to be continually told, most of the time at the peril of the band member or others that work for the band.  Fans are banned because they ignore that a band member is actually a human being with a real life, or because they threaten a band member and/or their family.  Bands and artists don’t want to have to block fans from events. That’s not their goal, so when they do it, it is as a last resort, when nothing else has worked.  Assuming that this person is the victim is likely the wrong way to go here, and I really hope people who see it that way think twice. Or even three times.

Superfans aren’t the problem. Loyalty isn’t the issue at all.

If nothing else, the article gave me food for thought. I hope it did the same for you.

-R

 

Through the Barricades – Spandau Ballet at Pacific Amphitheater

Last night I joined about 8,000 of my newest friends to see Spandau Ballet in concert at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa, California. I don’t want to brag (actually I do), but Spandau says that it was one of the best if not the best amphitheater show they’ve done.

First of all, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to this venue, and they’ve completely improved the gates leading from inside the fair. What once felt like a back alley was open and inviting, which is nice. The amphitheater has it’s own set of unique problems though, some of which are that it’s attached to a fairground, not permitted to run year-round, and there’s some nasty rules about noise, curfews and horrific fines if a band should happen to go past their time-limit.  Even so, I love it when bands play here…especially when those bands are named Spandau Ballet, Tears for Fears, or Duran Duran.

I recently saw Spandau (by recently I mean earlier this year and you can find my review here), for a show at the Wiltern Theatre in LA and it was fantastic, far exceeding any expectations I may have had. I was a fan who had never seen them live, and I still can’t quite believe my luck at having them play twice in a single year. From what I could gather between the LA show and last night – they have an amazing, fun-loving, and supportive fan base, and it’s a shame it had gone thirty years (according to Tony Hadley, whom I’m assuming knows these things) since their last show in the OC, otherwise known as my backyard.  So, I was curious to see how their shows might differ, especially after long months of touring. Would fatigue get the best of them? Would their music feel a bit tired, or polished?

Once again, Spandau blew me away. In retrospect, the show in LA felt almost a bit stiff compared to the warm, friendly and loving nature of the show last night. While the band certainly interacted in LA, it couldn’t even compare to having Tony Hadley and Gary Kemp decide to literally go play Empty Spaces in the audience….only to follow that up with a brief sing-a-long a cappella version of Gold before going back up to the main stage. We were treated to Steve Norman getting right down to nearly eye-level as he played sax with those in the front rows, quite possibly giving Krista Blade (Richard Blade’s – the KROQ radio DJ and 80’s music guru wife) the show of her life.  Martin and Gary Kemp traded sides of the stage several times throughout the show as well. But it wasn’t just those moments that made the show feel special or intimate. Tony Hadley commented not just once, but several times as to how great the audience was; and I have to say – in all of my years of attending shows, I have NEVER heard an audience sing in quite the same way as we did last night. We sang along to Gold and of course True…and no matter where Tony would hand off the singing of a line to the crowd, it was picked up and beautifully finished with enthusiasm. I think in a lot of ways, True is sort of Spandau’s Hungry Like the Wolf, and rather than the song being tired or boring, which let’s face it – by this time is absolutely a possibility; the band has worked to give it new life and make it something that the fans can sing together with the band as sort of a sentimental moment. It worked beautifully.

The crowd was willing, open, warm…and even had a few self-named superfans present. One such person was in the front row. I noticed him throughout the show because he knew every word to every song, which made me smile. He danced and sang right along with the band, and reminded me of the time someone announced to Amanda and I that they’d never seen more enthusiastic fans at a show. (I don’t really want to know what we must have looked like that night….) In any case, the band went offstage from their main set at precisely 10:01 by my watch, and came back out to do “Through the Barricades”, which has got to be the most romantic song ever written (and I adore Steve Norman’s sax on this one). It was about this time that I glanced down to the front row and noticed that the guy I’d seen earlier was wearing some sort of, well…hat and feather get-up. It was canary yellow…which I’m assuming he wore because he was insistently hoping that the band finished with “Gold”.  They did…but not before Tony Hadley had to turn away from said superfan because he was laughing and couldn’t sing. I have to give the guy credit, he wore that little number (and I’m sorry I don’t have pictures – I was too busy enjoying the song!!) for the entire song, and then the band literally pulled him onstage during their goodbyes as Steve Norman carried him…yes CARRIED him in his arms.

  1. Spandau Ballet loves their fans. A LOT…and they’re definitely not too cool to show it.

  2. Steve Norman can carry a full-sized man. So my hope of someday having him show up and carry me away is still on!!!  😉

  3. I don’t suppose my showing up in a wolf-suit to a Duran Duran concert is really going to help anything…so no one need worry.

  4. I wish I’d bought tickets to see them in San Diego tonight.

  5. It’s not REALLY cheating on Duran Duran. It’s training for the next tour…I swear!!

One last thing: prior to the show, Richard Blade did a DJ set with his buddy (and Duran Duran fan), Steven Wayne.  Steven actually played the songs, and Richard always likes to do the trivia and contests.  The coolest part of his set before the show was when he dramatically said a line from When In Rome’s song “The Promise” (the point was to guess what song the line was from), and Clive Farrington, the lead singer of When in Rome, was planted in the audience with a microphone. He came down on the stage and actually SANG the song. Gotta tell ya, When in Rome was another favorite band of mine from way back when, and I nearly fell out of my chair when literally he rose up from his chair to go sing RIGHT DOWN THE AISLE from me.  He still sings with stunning beauty, and I can cross one more thing off of my lengthy bucket list.  I felt bad for him because people continually stopped him throughout the show for pictures, but I didn’t need any….the memory of having him sing is going to stick with me for a long, long time. Loved it.