The Fan and the Peer

October 20th, 2019

A few nights back, I got a email from the mailing list of one of my faves, Kristen Ford. Kristen used to host the open mike at Bloc 11 in Somerville, quite a while ago, and she’s living in Nashville now, spending a lot of time on the road, touring, and she passes through Boston relatively often. Kristen does the sort of thing I love – high energy performance, eclectic power folk/pop, just a pleasure to hear and see. And on that very night, her email said, she was playing at the Lizard Lounge with two other acts, and lo, I just happened to have the evening free. Kismet!

And that’s where I heard Audrey Ryan for the first time.

Audrey Ryan has been dropping in on the Boston music scene for quite a while, in between international touring and winning awards and getting songs on television shows and such. She’s fantastic. She plays a little bit of everything: guitar, drums, accordian. Her songs are sharp-edged and smart and she’s got a tremendous voice and she does this looping thing where she layers all these instruments on top of each other. I was already sold on her when, during her final song, she triple-tracked a kazoo.

And then, for me, it got a little weird.

I hate the asymmetry of being a fan. I hate telling someone “I loved your set”, when they don’t know me from a hole in the ground. It’s pure ego – they’re great, but so am I, dammit, and I want them to know it. But, short of wearing a T-shirt that says “Ask me how fantastic I am”, it ain’t gonna happen. I do have these dreams about getting the opportunity to impress people I admire – but most of them involve bizarre accidents in which they’re on a double bill at Passim with someone who suddenly contracts Egyptian anaconda fever, and every single person in Matt Smith’s Rolodex other than me is on vacation, otherwise engaged, or being held hostage in an undisclosed location. And this is all assuming that Matt Smith even remembers my phone number.

Sure, I told Audrey Ryan I loved her set, because I did. And then I shut up. Because there are all sorts of ways I could have indulged my neurosis about being a musical peer which would have been oh, so much more uncomfortable for eveyone involved. I could have handed her a CD (granted, they’re just drinks coasters now because no one has a CD player anymore, but it’s the principle of the thing). I could have sung her a chorus of one of my songs. I could have run onstage as she was breaking down her gear and grabbed her guitar and played one of my “hits”. And you just know that in some parallel reality, I did one or all of those things and was either arrested or pelted with parallel-reality tater tots (a Lizard specialty, those tater tots) or banished to, oh, I don’t know, Fredonia (remember, this is a parallel reality).

In the end, I just have to learn to live with the asymmetry, at least until I become infamous, oops, I mean, famous for my brilliant lyrics and infectious tunes. And when that happens, because this is such a weird, stovepiped scene, one in which I could have coexisted for a decade with Audrey Ryan and never heard of her, I’m quite sure that I’ll encounter otherwise fantastic musicians who I don’t know from a hole in the ground. And they’ll walk up to me after my show and say, “I loved your set”, and the next night I’ll see them on television. And I fully expect them to turn to the camera, stick out their tongue, and say, “See? I could have told you I was fantastic.”

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