11 January 2016

A Rainy Afternoon in Philadelphia

I’m a relatively new-comer to the world of David Bowie fandom.  I became a fan on September 6, 1996.  That was the day I went with a friend to see my first Bowie concert.  She had been a life-long fan and I could never quite understand why someone her age was willing to travel to God-knows-where and stand in line for God-knows-how-long to listen to this person sing.  So when she invited me to tag along to a concert, I thought it would be a good chance to conduct an anthropological/sociological study.  She said that, if I liked it, she would take me to a concert in New York City a week or so later.  Convinced I wouldn’t like the concert, she arranged for my sister to go to the New York concert instead.

We arrived in Philadelphia at the Electric Factory in the afternoon and stood outside in a light rain.  When we got inside, lo and behold, no seats.  I was not happy – I wanted to sit down!  Oh well.  So, I start to look around at the crowd that was smooshed in the smallish room.  I was shocked at both the number of people and the span of ages – young kids to “old people”, senior citizens even!  Just what was going on?

My back was aching.

Finally, Bowie came out on stage.  The crowd erupted.  Then it happened.  He started to sing.  I could not believe what I was hearing.  I swear it was on the first note out of his mouth that I became a “die-hard fan”.  

My sister never got to go to the New York concert.  I attended fourteen more (including his 50th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden) before he stopped touring in 2004.

Like everyone else, I’m very grateful to Bowie for his catalog of incredible music.  But for me it was more than the music.  It was…is…the people.  It was through Bowie, his concerts and fan websites that I’ve met some of my closest friends around the world.  The Earthling Tour in 1997 was one of the most exciting times in my life.  The months leading up to the tour involved scores of his fans gathering on the Teenage Wildlife fanpage chat room.  We all discussed the where we were going to be seeing him and as the concerts happened, we raced home to post the set lists.  We made arrangements to “meet up” with our on-line friends at the shows.  Somehow, I was able to convince my parents to allow a fellow fan from Sweden come and stay with us so he could attend the shows here on the east coast with me.  We would wait in line for hours and hours before the show.  Sometimes I think waiting in line was more fun than the concert!  We all “knew” each other from the chatroom so it became a huge tailgate party of sorts.  I ended up seeing Bowie five times in a two week period during that tour, traveling to Philadelphia, Washington, DC and New York City.  

Since then, I’ve been fortunate to attend several more concerts and to travel abroad to finally meet in person many of my on-line “Bowie friends”.  I’ve been to see them several times and some have been here to visit me.  Interestingly, we rarely discussed Bowie when we got together, instead focusing on each other and our lives (but with Bowie playing in the background!).  I’m happy to say that they have become and remain some of my closest and most important friends.   We’ve become more than just “Bowie friends”, we’ve become real friends, sharing in each other’s “real life” joys and sorrows.
I learned of David Bowie's death at 5:00 in the morning when I woke up as my cell phone exploded with texts, emails and Facebook messages from my friends around the world - “Bowie friends” and others – wanting to make sure I knew the news.  While I am mourning the loss of this incredible musician, I'm also smiling as I think about all of the experiences and friends he has made possible for me.  It's amazing the impact a musician has had on the past twenty-years of my life. 

And it all started with a concert on a rainy afternoon in Philadelphia.