The Groupie Trick
Feest In Het Park, 15/08/2009
While taking a bath I was thinking about the lessons I’ve learned with N.E.R.D.
1. A backstage pass isn’t necessarily a one way ticket to Polaroid heaven.
2. You have to be bold but polite, persistant but not pushy.
3. Groupies get inside. Or at least girls who carry that vibe with them
How do they manage to get in? They have to stand front row, catching the artists attention. Searching eye contact. Maybe a little sexy smile now and then? I decided to be brave and try out my groupie side and see how far that would take me. Since that meant I have to be front row, I decided to dress funky and fresh and chose the most colorful flower printed blouse I have in my closet. Blinged it up with some gigantic earrings and hoped that I would be Illadelph approved since my next goal was Black Thougth and Questlove from the notorious Roots band.
First, I had to figure out, how to get in. Since they would perform at FEEST IN HET PARK, I checked out the line-up of artists that day. My heart jumped when I noticed that The Subs performed. The Subs are the proud owner of that brilliant track called “Fuck that Shit” and are basically the next big thing in Belgium. Since I happen to know one of the band members a bit, I immediately send him a text message asking him if he could get me in. Very quickly he answered back with the lovely news that he got a backstage pass for me, since one of the band members girlfriend fell sick. Thank God for bacteria! I was considering the option of going backstage but quickly decided not to, since I’ve learned my N.E.R.D. lesson, and sticked with the groupie idea.
Polaroid steady, dressed sharp, I was ready for FIHP. The moment my girlfriend and I arrived at the festival the goal was set. We quickly walked through the mass, searching for the right venue where they would perform. The minute we noticed the right spot, the whole crowd left the venue to take a break between performances. We looked at each other and were thinking the same thing. We estimated our time of arrival right. Halleluja. No bitch-fights to get front row. We had the whole damn venue to ourselves! So, we chose a good spot by the fences, meaning: right before the mic and waited. Meanwhile I got a phone call from a connection I’ve contacted before with the question if he could help me get free tickets/passes etc, since he works in the music industry. He told me he could nòt get me backstage, which was fine, since I’ve solved that one myself already. But, so, he said, he could get me on stage. On stage? I thought about the idea and somehow it felt wrong. The Roots is a very respected and serious band, and I don’t see them allowing me to jump on stage while they are performing and quickly striking a pose in between rhymes. I mean…you know. So I thanked him for the offer, and turned it down. So all was depending on the groupie trick.
Everyone who has ever seen The Roots performing must agree on the following: they are on top of their game both musically as well as lyrically. They entered the stage and although I’ve seen them before, this was the first time I saw them performing with a sousaphone. The whole band greeted the audience all lined up like a marching band and then they started with the performance. I enjoyed the gig so much, I almost forgot that I had to take a Polaroid and therefore had to search my inner groupie. So I started with looking at the band members straight in the eye. The moment ‘Tuba Gooding Junior’ was getting closer to the end of the stage, I aimed my camera and snapped a picture.
The cool thing is, it draws attention. Not only the band noticed, but also the crowd standing next to me, already asking me if they could see the result. Nice…another trick to draw attention, but, it’s a Polaroid wasted, since stage pictures result mostly in movement combined with messed up lighting ànd no pose. The end of the performance was getting closer and I started to get nervous. One waisted Polaroid down.
The band started throwing drumsticks and towels and I was surprised to see my normally very calm girlfriend fighting for a sweaty towel. It was funny to see her getting caught in the game. She proudly gave me the towel and looked at me with glazy eyes. I was feeling slightly concerned, but gave her props for her enthusiasm. Suddenly I see what I call the ‘Specific Female Selection’. I see Black Thought pointing out his finger in the audience and directing to the ones pointed at to go and wait at the left side of the stage. I threw my camera above my head, started to wave again and gave my best facial expression and hoped that the following message would be well received: ‘Hellooow! Need Polaroid! Can I take? Where?’ Nòt easy.
But… he saw me. I immediately ran, or at least pushed myself to the left side of the stage, since the crowd was still standing like a rock reaching to grab some Roots souvenirs. When I reached the left side of the stage, Black Thought was already surrounded by a little crowd. I wait politely while he is posing for the fans and their digi-cams. In a split of a second, the atmosphere changed. All of a sudden fans started screaming: “TAAARIQ, SIGN MY HAT, SIGN MY RECORD, SIGN MY CHEST!” and well… things started to get chaotic. I got pushed and pulled and I politely yelled at Black Thought the following; “Uhm, I think things are getting hectic, aren’t they?” He replied instantly while his eyes were looking for an exit: “Hell yes, how do I get out of here?” Then I remembered my backstage bracelet hanging around my wrist…. The security came to push back the crowd and I immediately showed my bracelet. They knodded ok and let me jump over the fence and I see myself taking Black Thoughts hand, while I pull him away from the crowd and manouvered over steal pipes of the stage.
And then. Silence. There we were, two total strangers. He clearly underestimated the fact that even Belgian folks can be swept away and he was sweating a bit. He looked at me, gave me a hand, and said: ‘Thanks, hi, my name is Tariq.” I replied nervously: “No, problem, I’m Elisabeth, nice meeting you.” And then. “Uhm…can I please take a Polaroid of you”?
He looked at my camera and said; “ Sure” and gave his pose, still out of breath from his performance. He posed. I pushed the button. Bingo. The minute I had my Polaroid, I asked him if I had any change of getting Questlove on Polaroid. Things can change quickly, there was no time for hesitating. “I don’t know about that one”, he said and started searching through his clothes. He got a bit nervous and said “Damn, my glasses” He told me to stay where I was and went back on stage to look for his glasses. While I was waiting, I suddenly saw some chicks popping up. Where the hell did they come from? Apparently those were the chicks that got pointed out, I just got lucky. Tariq came back, slightly pissed because he clearly lost his glasses. He told the girls to come with him, while other members of the band were waiting for Tariq to enter the artist village. He had 4 bracelets very different than mine, and gave them to the 4 girls. He looked at me, and said: ‘Come on, let’s go, you’ll get in, don’t worry.” When we arrived at the entrance of the artist village, the security checked all the bracelets. All were cleared, except mine. Ofcourse.
They immediately blocked me and told me that I didn’t have the right bracelet, so I wasn’t allowed in. “What do you mean, not allowed? It’s ok, she’s with The Roots, man!,” Tuba told them. It sounded like music in my ears. The security didn’t want to argue with the artists and they let me in. When I finally stepped into the dark trailer, the room was already packed with girls, bandmembers and other backstage members. Everybody was laughing, smoking, drinking and I was thinking again, “what the hell I was doing here”. I see how the girls smoothly have conversations, laugh with their jokes, grab a drink and take pictures. I’m still standing against the wall and wonder why I can’t be so smooth in conversation? Suddenly Tariq taps me on the shoulder and said; “Questlove is in the room next to this one, you can go, it’s ok.” I really appreciated him telling me this, because that saved me the question, ànd the chance of annoying people. So, I left the trailer and entered the other one.
There he was. Glued to his Macbook Pro screen on his lap. So its true… Questlove loves Cyberspace. He looked up from his screen and instantly said: “Hello, who are you? My name is Ahmir.” I introduced myself and sat down on a bench. I slowly told him about my project and asked him if he would pose for my camera. He put his mac next to him and gave me a pose. He didn’t mind at all. Posed like a pro.
We started talking about photographers and he showed me his favorite portrait shot of himself on his mac while he managed his facebook, myspace and twitter all at the same time. I asked him to explain me the basics of Twitter, since I didn’t knew what it was at that time. We talked a bit about Belgian beers and where the band was heading to next. During the conversation I noticed a guy coming in and out of the trailer handing stuff over for Questlove to sign. A t-shirt, a beer card, an electric guitar… He all signed it with a certain ease and dedication. He clearly appreciates the love of fans and didn’t mind doing it. Questlove is most definitely the coolest artist I have ever met. But all good things come to an end and it was time for the band to leave. They jumped on their tour bus and off they went.
I left the backstage area and finally joined my friend who was bored out of her mind while waiting for me. “Hurry up, she said, The Subs are playing, did you get your damn Polaroid?” I smiled.
Up to the next one. I hope…