Autobiography of A Front Row Junkie

Posted on February 19, 2013

My love affair with the front row started my freshman year of college when one of my favorite bands, Phish played on my campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison literally eye shot of my dorm room. Just twenty four hours before the show, I was informed by a friend that the band members were eating at the local burger/wing joint blocks away from my dorm. My best friend and I quickly ran to meet them, (after applying a fresh layer of sparkles to our face.) There they were eating nachos. Trey Anastasio,the front man guitar genius flirted with my friend and I praised them for playing the obscure Pink Floyd song Bike at a recent show. After the awkward banter between teenage girls and their rock star super heros died down, we snapped some photos and left.

The following night, dolled up in our rainbow hippie regalia, we crossed the road to the venue and literally followed a current of energy to the front row. We were chased away repeatedly by a large security man. Trey played the song split open and melt seemingly to me (confirmed by a skeptical friend who witnessed). We were saved (from aforementioned security man) by a gaggle of faerie ladies who offered us asylum under their legitimate front row tickets, and then the band played the song Bike, I had mentioned hours before. Moreover, I was imprinted with the rush of hormones and amazement about the interchange with the musicians happening in the front row.

This experience started quite a habit. Show after show,I would wait for the right moment, often when the lights dimmed or the ushers looked away and dash to my special spot. I engaged the musicians (once threw my vibrating magical crystal skull to Trey at a certain show and then taking a road trip across country to get it back) and deluded myself with visions of self importance. I spent more than half of forty shows in the front row. I was filmed in front row, playing with Trey, on a VH1 special filmed in NYC in 2001.

A few important features of my psyche became clear through my addiction. First: I continually left my friends to make this journey, a logistical consideration mostly, but revealing a deep belief that to get what I wanted, I had to go alone. Second, I realized my parent’s old nagging/teaching “enough was never enough”. If in the second row, just one body between me and the band, instead of feeling joyful abandon and delight, I would sometimes stew in jealousy and disdain for the person between me and my goal. I repeatedly evaluated the worth of the rush given the accompanying stress of hiding from guards, the guilt of being in other people’s rightful seats, and the occasional loneliness of abandoning my friends to solicit attention from some old guys with instruments. Many a concert, I returned satisfied to my friends, clear that the real meaning for me was dancing and friendship, not proximity to fame.

After two years of these shows being a central feature in my social, spiritual, and recreational journey, I attended my final show before departing for a year of personal and academic study in Nepal. After the show, in which I sought meaning in my typical closer vantage point, I was alone leaving the venue. Leaving that amphitheater alone at the end of the Summer was leaving an era of my life. Just like I journeyed alone to the stage and back, fulfilled or unfulfilled, I was embarking on a solo journey of growth and exploration, this time across the world. I looked up to the moon, knowing she alone would accompany me as I chased and relinquished highs and remembered what really matters in life, only this time in a foreign land and I walked out of this chapter of rock stars and conquests.

In recent years, I do still dabble in the front row. I waited ten hours to be smashed against the railing for my favorite band Radiohead’s epic closing to night one of Outside Lands 2008, not eating or drinking the final five hours to eradicate needs that would require leaving the spot. But, a few things changed: the rush of Thom Yorke singing my favorite song on their new album seemingly directly to me didn’t go quite as much to my head and I saved spots for friends.

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