Anyone who’s been following this blog for a while (and if you have – I’m sorry) will probably have picked up on my, uh, enthusiasm for an old indie band called RUTH and various spawnings thereof. I was sure I’d also mused on the relationship between fan and band but I can’t seem to find it; perhaps I didn’t.
I first met the gentlemen of RUTH back in 1998 – there were only about seven of us at that gig and my friend, who was far more experienced in the ways of meeting bands, dragged me off to chat to them. I met them again a few weeks later, interviewed Matt for the university radio station and went to a few more gigs that involved travel to different cities – but that’s what you do when you don’t live in London and bands aren’t exactly playing on your doorstep, right? On several occasions they happened to be playing in places I was anyway. We always chatted, I got to know their wives and girlfriends, manager, record label, parents. But I was always, always, conscious that these people had never asked me to keep turning up. They were appreciative (I think often they thanked god for me on those nights when it was just me and a few friends), we joked around, their girlfriends tried to get me down the front dancing with them. But I could never properly relax, never let go of that knowledge that no matter how pally we were, no matter how many times we’d sat down and chatted after a gig, we weren’t proper friends; we hadn’t met at a party and discovered we got on. I just kept showing up and fortunately they quite liked me.
Obviously once Aqualung got bigger, opportunities for hanging out at the Borderline or Water Rats became few and far between. And while part of me regretted that, another part was quite relieved.
Why am I unburdening myself of this now? Well, Ben Hales was never just a talented musician and creator of songs, he is also a talented writer. (Check out some of his old tour diaries.) And it seemed entirely right and reasonable that he won a competition run by the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, and that his first play would be performed at said theatre. Which is a short bus ride away from me. Obviously I bought a ticket (just one ticket, nobody else being available) and went along on a Sunday afternoon.
I hadn’t actually given a second thought to whether Ben would be around. He’s the playwright, he wasn’t performing. If he was present he’d probably be busy backstage. So I was a bit stunned when, just as I’d tucked myself into a corner to await the doors opening, Ben walked over and greeted the people right in front of me.
Yow know in farces, when all the timing is off and people keep walking through doors and just missing each other? When I first realised Ben was there I looked up and see if he’d noticed me; when I didn’t think he had I looked back down and then saw, out of the corner of my eye, his head turn in my direction, but by the time I looked back up he was talking to his friends again. A minute or so later he said something about going back to his family and left.
You might wonder why I didn’t stop him or wave or go see him. You have to remember – Ben’s never asked me to turn up to all this shit. I don’t feel I have a right to his time. And that must confuse the hell out of him and the rest of them – I keep showing up yet am reticent to talk to them, even – I admit – acknowledge them on occasion. You might think that’s rude, but when they’re in conversation with friends or family, is it ruder to interrupt than to walk by? We’re not friends, I’m a fan. What are the rules governing that kind of relationship? It’s not even a relationship is it? It’s stalker and victim.
It’s time to give all this up, I think. My own reserve and lack of self-confidence have buggered this up to the point where I can’t even go to theatre without creeping them out. And while I’m going to be sad about it, I think I’ll also be a bit relieved. And I’m sure I won’t be the only one…