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Fandom is a funny thing …

It’s 12:43. I should be asleep but the coffee’s got me awake and so I’m waiting for the wine to kick in. (Shut up, it’s healthy in some universe.)

Anyway. I’ve been making some changes in my writing life over the past couple of weeks. Now that Pride is over, I’ve been looking more and more at freelancing work – you know, so I can stop saying I’m a writer and actually be a writer. There’s some connection in there about showing and not telling, but it is later than I should be awake.

But the other thing that I’ve been doing since Pride is getting established with the Sick Puppies World Crew Ambassador crowd. It’s been an interesting process because as I’ve been doing it, I’ve been reminded about the power of fandom when you want it to succeed, when fandom has the potential to be family.

If you aren’t aware of the Sick Puppies, don’t worry. A year ago, I wasn’t either beyond “Oh, they’re the guys who sing Maybe.” I was introduced to them at a concert, one I’d attended because of Lacuna Coil. Imagine my astonishment when the veteran Italian rockers were not the headliners but instead this upstart trio – who proceeded to blow the doors off of the terribly designed venue. Never have I been so glad to stick around.

There’s something special about a band that just wants to rock, but few bands out there have transcendent talent. (Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale is one of those, but you can see my fangirling for that in earlier posts.) The truth is, what makes Sick Puppies isn’t just the kickass awesomeness they bring to a show, but the rhythm stylings of Emma Anzai, who commands the stage and the bass she wields. And that was what I took away with me after the show.

I went home, I researched the band, I got into their music, and I did what I haven’t done in years – I joined up with a webforum to meet other fans. I mean, wasn’t that what facebook was for?! Nope. I joined up. And it was then that I realized these guys had something special. So, I took the next step and this past week joined the ranks of the Ambassadors – those who are determined to help Sick Puppies achieve world domination. I’m highly amused by that tagline because my friends like to say that I’m trying to achieve world domination with my writing. I’m not sure it’s happened yet. 😉

But this cycles me back to my point – the power of fandom.

Used to be, those of us who were passionate about something, unless it was sports (Go Jazz!) were treated like outcasts. We were the geeks and the nerds and the laughter-snorting dweebs who sat around in dark rooms and watched our shows to the point of memorization and wrote fanfic and dressed up in costumes and … and … let’s not forget: Star Trek is a billion dollar franchise because fans kept it alive. Farscape’s mini-series was funded by fans.

But the truth is, nothing is supported without fans and fandom. If you look at the history of the rock/metal/punk world in the states, it was kept alive by fans trading garage recorded tapes and zines. Volunteers who got to venues early and stayed late and helped their friends do something amazing.

So here I am, getting involved in fandom again by doing something other than hanging out on message boards and posting fanfic. (Don’t ever knock fanfic.) This time I’m rolling up my sleeves and helping – whatever that might be. And it feels good because helping good music be spread around the world is a hell of a lot more fun than just hitting refresh on youtube videos and gushing about the latest song to my friends. And I hope that every single one of you out there has something that inspires you to engage. Something that inspires you to get involved. Something … fun that also matters to you.

I’m not sure if this makes sense, but it’s 1:06. So I’m sure it doesn’t.

Peace, to any of you who are reading.

Peace.

On Sick Puppies and the Space Between

When we think of bands, we think of longtime friends gathering together in garages and empty warehouses and coffee shops, lugging gear and crowding into minivans with everything they own, setting off on a journey that will bring them not just fame and fortune and the adoration of fans but will also bring them a deeper, wiser understanding of the universe itself. They, after all, do what so many of us cannot. They bring those confusing instruments to life, the ones we all started at as kids, knowing (because our teachers told us so) that the vibrating strings made noise and that noise became music but in the hands of some of our peers, those instruments became oracles of the gods themselves.

When we think of bands, we don’t like to think of success. Success means selling out, right? It means fans who have been there since the beginning challenging every single move they don’t approve of, it means new fans fawning over every single solitary thing ever because they have so much time to make up for. Years have gone by and communities have been formed and fan bases are so hard to break in to and dammit, but dammit, the music has saved a life.

When we think of bands, we think of music. Radio. Record labels. Youtube and Myspace. How often do we stop to think of the individual fan, the individual band member? How often do we stop to think of the story?

This week in the rock world, there’s only been one story on many people’s minds – the split inside the band Sick Puppies. And it’s just the latest in a long line of fascinating stories for these three musicians. After all, how many bands, how many people actually manage to live the “American Dream”? How many of us would be willing to put everything, absolutely everything, on hold as teenagers and take jobs to save up money, all with the sole purpose of leaving our home country and flying all the way across the world to hopefully make it big in the American Rock World? How many? I know people who wouldn’t do that for love. Now imagine being eighteen and doing it for a dream.

And Sick Puppies did just that and came to the states with two numbers in their pocket and their instruments on their backs and somewhere along the way, people started to pay attention. Somewhere along the way, people noticed the heartbeat that Mark Goodwin’s drums provided and they noticed lead singer Shimon Moore’s wild and doofy frontman stylings, and they noticed that soft-spoken bassist Emma Anzai was anything but quiet on stage.

And the story become one of how Youtube videos can go viral and change everything for a band. It became one of how women in rock music are becoming more and more respected. It became one of number one hits, fan communities, and inspiration. And now the story is “What the fuck happened?”

See, when we think of bands, we also don’t like to think of them splitting up. We don’t like to think that these friends who used to keep the neighbors up until all hours of the night could reach a point where working together is torture. We don’t like to think about how if a band is like a marriage, how half of all marriages end in divorce.

But that’s what happened this week when Sick Puppies announced that lead singer Shimon Moore was no longer with the band.

For me, as a fan and as a writer, I find myself wondering what happened. Of course I want to know. I want to know why choices were made and why things couldn’t be worked out, but I find myself wondering these things as a writer. Because, as any writer will tell you, the truth is always found in the spaces between the words.

Why did public statements use words like “time apart” or “instead”? Why were announcements made the way they were? Why did some people become active on the fan boards out of nowhere? And those will be questions that at some point, a smart reporter will ask. I’d hope.

But more than those questions, it’s the story that calls to me. Sick Puppies, a group known as much for songs like You’re Going Down and War as they are for entreating challenges to the world in softer tunes like Maybe and Run, I wonder where the story will emerge.

As a music fan, I hope it won’t be through social media snipping. The trio has been reasonably professional throughout the split, but it’s clear there are deep seeded hurts that are starting to bubble to the surface (as now-former lead singer Shimon Moore’s facebook post about the situation made clear.) There’s a part of me that hopes it even won’t be through any blogging sites or interviews (although I’m always available to give them). But, instead through the songs that are inspired by the next chapter of this band.

Because when we think of bands, we have to think of their stories and what the music is telling us. Rock is a culture of blood, sweat, and tears. And even bands at the top of the charts, the ones who so often feel like they are cranking out the same riffs and the same lyrics over and over again, even they have their own messy story to tell. They’ve sat in rooms and pondered the end of the very life that feeds them. They’ve walked away from love, from stability. All to get on a bus and go from town to town.

Over the next few months, fans are going to start to be able to say the signs were there. And they were. See, that’s the thing with music: it’s part of the soul and our souls direct us. Or, if you prefer, that instinct tells us something is up. Because in the end, it won’t just be the story they write that stays with us. It’ll be the story that Emma tells on stage with her bass every night and the tales that Mark bangs out on his drums and the webs that are spun in whatever new project Shim finds himself doing.

Speaking as a fan: I hope it’s a good one because sometimes, new blood keeps a band alive but sometimes, the story just has to end.

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