Back in elementary school I started my first rock band. Myself and a few friends would lug our gear down to our drummer’s basement and hack away at our favourite songs by Green Day, Metallica, Silverchair, The Offspring. For the first year our only fan was our drummer’s mom, though her favourite part was when we were finished and her ears could rest.
Once we had pulled together a fairly lengthy repertoire of songs, my girlfriend at the time asked us to perform at her birthday/Hallowe’en party. About 30 of our friends crammed into an old Anglican church in town, and we played music for a couple hours. Everyone was dancing, having a great time. Even the adult chaperones were enjoying the performance from the kitchen where the walls could deafen the decibel level to a tolerable level.
This was my first real live performance, and from then on, I was addicted.
Throughout high school and into college, I continued to perform live at parties, county fairs, bars, churches, living rooms and even a grocery store parking lot. I grew to love the feeling of moving a crowd through multiple emotions in a set. After a show, I enjoyed connecting with old friends that had come out and meeting new people who had heard me for the first time.
A few years into performing, a shift began to take place. The faces of those who came out to shows became less familiar, to the point where I was playing shows in front of crowds of total strangers. Travelling through the US and around Ontario, the audience was no longer made up of people I sat next to in class and hung out with at recess. These people weren’t the people I could call up on a Wednesday night to hang out or watch TV. I was no longer playing for friends.
This shift was a hard one for me, not because I had any problem playing in front of strangers, but rather because I started to treat my friends differently. When I would have a bit of news I would tease my fans about through my website, I would do the same thing in person with my friends. When a friend asked what was new in my life, the first thing I would share would be where I was playing next, or I would drop a name of someone I had just opened for. Instead of sharing my life with my friends, I was selling them my music.
This all came to a head when I was in college. A good friend that I cared about a lot told me they couldn’t stand being around me. Not because she didn’t like my music, or because I was a bad person. It was because rather than treating her like a friend, I was treating her like a fan. My words and actions all had the goal of selling myself as the rock star I thought I was (but most definitely wasn’t).
This conversation left me with a bit of an identity crisis. I had built up this persona for several years, and had lived it out both on stage and off. Whether the persona was based in reality or not, I lived as though it was exactly who I was.
I still struggle to this day with the reality that while I am a performer, I am also a human being. I have not even come close to reaching any real level of fame, aside from a little recognition through music as well as this blog. I have to fight the urge to sell my persona to my friends. If I have something big to announce, I try to share it with as many friends as possible first, so that they know they are invited to be part of my life, not my performance.
It sucks when you think that you are someone’s friend, only to find out that to them, you’re simply just another fan.