Wednesday night in early May. Finals week. 50 degrees or less. 1:00 AM. Each of these factors leads one to deduce that Lacey, Shannon, and Sarah would be in their respective dorm rooms, perhaps cramming that last information for a final the next day or already catching some shut-eye. But that was not the case. On this second night in May, we were just exiting the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland.
Now don't fret, parents. We'd planned for months in order to go to this show. We'd studied ahead of time, and I had my papers written a day early in order to enjoy myself at the Bright Eyes show. And was it ever worth it... Bright Eyes put on an excellent performance complete with an orchestra for a total of at least a dozen people on stage. I declare that Conor Oberst is a musical genius, and I would say that about an extremely small number of people.
Beside the point.
It was after 1 AM. "It's time to go home," Crystal Ballroom security told us. "The band is not doing a meet and greet tonight."
No, that doesn't surprise us. Like I said, Conor is a genius, and not a genius in the area of personal relations. But that does not mean that we cannot meet him. Conversely, we can force him to meet us if we position ourselves right--directly between the venue and his tour bus. He can't get around us!
We find the tour bus. This is the fifth (?) concert I've been to at this venue in the last year, and I've met many other bands by waiting right outside the front door where the bus parks. But Bright Eyes' bus was not there. It was in the back. Once again, perhaps a sign of their personalities...
We round the block to the main bus. There were about 8 other fans there, 90% of them very drunk.
1:30 approached. Some other fans began to leave. The drunk college-aged or older guys next to us tried being friendly to us, and after rejecting their invitations to go to some bar with them, they too vacated.
Other members of the band and orchestra had come out. But you see, the deal with Bright Eyes is that the name is for the "band" that has only a couple permanent members--Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (perhaps one other?)--then has other people add on to certain albums. He gets very well-known people to help him out--the last album alone had major contributions from M. Ward, Maria Taylor, and Ben Kweller. So, meeting other random members of the orchestra that are only on this tour, not members of the band, did not excited us.
2:30 approached. Guitarist Mike Mogis came out. I didn't even know who he was at the time, but in retrospect, I should have paid him much more respect. He's a very acclaimed producer and supposedly had a very large impact on Bright Eyes' newest album Cassadaga.
We talked to him only to ask him "Is Conor going to come out?" He ended up being the most awkward person I have ever met. I'm not kidding. I think he'd had some assistance in the form of drugs and alcohol from backstage, but nonetheless, he was extremely awkward and difficult to talk to.
He explained that in their business they really don't have much interaction with normal people, so it's become quite hard for them. I think that was needless to say.
"He should be coming out soon," Mike encouraged us. Meanwhile, we had him sign out tickets. It's a crazy blur of a signature that I believe reflects his state at the time.
3:20 approaches. We'd already discussed giving up and getting a good night's sleep hours ago.
But the fruit is in sight.
A skinny and rather short man wearing a beanie over his stringy, long, black hair rounds the corner. Sarah, who has already seen this band live something like four times before and who has called them her favorite band countless times, recognizes him immediately. I, a fresh fan of only a few months, take a couple of seconds to recognize the face that the hat is attempting to conceal.
We're still having an awkward conversation with guitarist Mike. Conor is now within ten feet of us. He veers to the right, near the edge of the street, as though to avoid us. He is now slightly past us. He exchanges a word with the bus driver. He makes to board the bus.
"Conor!" Sarah cries, weak from lovesickness. I could barely hear her standing right next to me. (I cannot describe Sarah's love for this musician.)
He boards the bus. We look at each other. We look at Mike. "Is he going to..." Sarah's voice trails off.
"I think if he's on the bus, he's going to be on there for the night," Mike said. "Speaking of which, I should probably go..." He says in much more awkward language than I am using to retell.
We thank him for talking with us and complement him on his performance earlier that evening.
We look at each other yet again. Frustration. Ridiculosity. Annoyance. Hilarity.
I'd just wasted 2 1/2 hours of my life freezing my butt off in downtown Portland just to have an indie musician that the average American has not heard of walk within ten feet of us. We were in his presence. Perhaps some of his geniusness rubbed off on me.
The next morning, we chuckled over the ridiculosity of our evening. We also commented on Conor's seemingly rudeness for not even acknowledging the three lone fans that waited almost three hours just to meet him. But, this guy is not known for his people skills, I reiterate.
I repeat this story mostly because I have nothing exciting to remark about living in Roseburg, but also because I enjoy retelling it and thinking of the ridiculosity of it. Crazy times. It's nights like this that I'll remember 40 years from now, I believe.
Currently listening to: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young live album (some bootlegged thing from who knows what concert from who knows when, but actually quite good)
Currently reading: Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life
Allusion in the title that no one would catch except Sarah is: an excellent song from Cassadaga, "If The Brakeman Turns My Way"