Beck Live in Santa Cruz

Imagine for a moment if you will, the thought of meeting your favourite band after finally seeing them live in concert. This is what happened in July 2005 when by chance I met Beck after an amazing show in Santa Cruz, CA. I've been listening to Beck since the excellent Mellow Gold was released in 1994; he is without question my favourite artist of all time.

A Lifetime Opportunity (or, "Fan Mentality 101")

Meeting Beck in Santa Cruz: An honour. Meeting Beck in Santa Cruz: An honour.

Following this event, I think I began to understand why teenage girls scream and lose their minds when in the presence of their enamoured star-of-the-moment (New Kids On The Block, anyone?)

Being "star-struck" is a psychological effect, the mind's response to the realization that you are in the presence of someone normally not accessible whose work you enjoy, whom you look up to, support the beliefs of, share a common passion with or otherwise admire, and that you are finding yourself in a position to possibly meet or talk with this person. The key "star-struck" differentiator is that the person in question is usually highly-revered, being famous or otherwise usually generally hard-to-reach due to their position or visibility and thus reducing the likelihood of you ever meeting them.

Of course, the realization of meeting one's favourite celebrity usually ends up being expressed along the lines of "Ohmigod, I can't believe this is actually happening!!", followed by a requisite amount of uncomprehensible blabbering and "I'm your biggest fan ever," etcetera. Not exactly the most original thing in the world to say, nor meaningful given the rare opportunity.

My experience in meeting Beck may have been similar, had I not already had something to say in mind.

A Dream Come True?

As cheesy and cliched as it sounds, meeting Beck in person was literally a dream come true for me. I had woken up once years ago realising I'd been dreaming about how awesome it would be to meet Beck, and what I would say if I had the chance (though I had no idea of how this might actually happen.)

Having never really met anyone famous before, I could only guess that most celebrities must endure a constant barrage of fans who, though well-meaning, are too enamoured to say anything meaningful - so I wanted to be sure that if I got to meet my favourite artist of all-time I would keep it short and simple, and try to maintain my composure throughout. I really just wanted to genuinely thank Beck in person for all the great music he's written over the years; that's what I said in the dream.

Meeting Beck: Opportunity Knocks

Beck and the band at Santa Cruz' Civic Auditorium Beck and the band at Santa Cruz' Civic Auditorium

Shortly after the show, I was walking up the street and noticed two girls waiting outside of a secured driveway which went behind the auditorium. It turned out they were hoping to see Beck as well, and they were in a logical spot - the band's tour bus was parked right there in plain view behind two local security guards (they were friendly, we chatted briefly.) I decided to join the girls, figuring waiting around a bit would potentially make an already awesome night even more amazing. I went to my car and got a vinyl copy of Odelay that I'd brought along in hopes of getting an autograph; I almost didn't bring the record when leaving my house as I thought the chance would was so small, but reasoned that tonight was the best chance I'd have at meeting the man, getting something signed and perhaps a photo.

"Thanks, Man"

I was talking with the girls I met about Beck and other artists they'd seen at the Auditorium when Brian Lebarton, the keyboardist, came out to say hello to all three of us waiting out there. We thanked him for the great performance and he autographed my copy of Odelay. I felt somewhat badly since I didn't really recognise him; I think Brian joined the band more recently as I was familiar with some of the other current (and previous?) band members and contributors such as Smokey "Smokestack" Hormel and Justin Meldal-Johnsen. Nonetheless it was cool meeting him, the band had put on an amazing show.

"Odelay", autographed by Brian Lebarton and Beck "Odelay", autographed by Brian Lebarton and Beck

It was while Brian was autographing my copy of Odelay that I heard one of the girls say, "You'd better look at who's coming," and there was Beck walking out of the dark to meet us. It was at this point where time froze for a minute, and I realised I was feeling pretty star-struck: "Oh shit, this is actually happening." I was lost for words at first, but then remembered what I wanted to say. I fumbled for the record I had in one hand, said hi to Beck and shook his hand with the other, and the dream played out from there: "Thank you for everything. It's an honour meeting you, and your music means a lot to me." Clear, succinct and to-the-point - I couldn't think of a better way to sum up the last eleven years of enjoying Beck's music in a brief encounter with the man himself.

Beck thanked me, then met some other people who'd shown up and signed some things. He then signed the copy of Odelay I'd brought, and I thanked him again. I took a picture of him with the girls I'd been waiting with, and they took one of him and myself; my cousin Jeff Schiller would later note that "You even have the faintest tinge of a crazy look in your eyes." For the record, I think I was still amazed that this was all happening (and managing to keep my cool.) I thanked the girls and left, having a rather relaxing drive back to Sunnyvale (it was either skunk, or the guys driving the van in front of me were smoking pot.) I got home realising not only had I finally seen Beck live in concert, I had also simultaneously accomplished one of my lifetime goals: Meeting my favourite musician of all-time.

The fact that these musicians came out to greet some of their fans within 30 minutes of an exhaustive on-stage performance is, I think, a testament to their love of music and their showmanship. Being famous can't be easy, and greeting hoardes of star-struck fans following show after show must grow tiring and repetetive at times - but for the rest of us non-celebrity-types, the opportunity given by bands like Beck is an amazing experience I can't thank them enough for.

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