Sunday, August 14, 2011

Meeting a music idol : Andrew McMahon

It reads like one of those souvenir shirts purchased from a destination touted as fancy. I met Andrew McMahon of Something Corporate / Jack’s Mannequin and all I said was, “I think you’re fantastic.”
For years, I have rehearsed what I would possibly say to this man who sang the anthems of my not-so-angsty teenage years. From the obviously joking, “Have my babies” to “I love you” to “I love your band so much I wore out the CD of your first full length,” I’ve truly worked and reworked what I would say to him given the unlikely opportunity. 
I learned of his original band, Something Corporate, through a good friend, Andrew L. We were hanging out, listening to music when my ears were blessed with their sounds. Their major full length CD, “Leaving Through The Window” - their third CD release of their alternative, indie, piano rock style- was the precursor to the albums I would later spin from the softer Dashboard Confessional to Brand New to the much more punk Alkaline Trio and eventually actually coming to enjoy the hardcore tunes of Bad Brains and Minor Threat. 
Andrew (the friend) burned me a copy of that album. From that day on, in 2002, I played that album every day, no joke. I listened to it in the morning, after high school during my job shelving books at a local college library, at home doing homework and finally, while falling asleep. I searched for their first two CD releases and fell in love with those songs. Ironically, I learned of their epic, widely-popular song “Konstantine” after discovering the band, which is usually not the case. Most people know them just for that song only. 
Something Corporate’s influence on me found me struggling to string piano chords together, getting frustrated at not being able to play two different sets of notes with each hand. As a senior in high school and co-editor of the school newspaper in 2004, it even had me selling the idea to my peers that we should name the infamous senior edition of the newspaper “Babies of the 80s,” a song from their second CD release “Ready ... Break.” That song embodied us as a whole class and resonated with many, when, at that time, the 80s were a fashion and pop culture trend. It worked. I often look back on that particular copy of that newspaper and laugh, from disbelief, that we actually gave it that name, and printed those song lyrics on the inside page. 
I saw Something Corporate twice between 2002 and 2004, first at  Bentley College and next at the Worcester Palladium. I begged my friend Rob to drive myself and good friend Whitney to that second show, as neither one of us had a license at that time. I bought him a ticket, supplied the gas money and he actually took us! It was there, while I was making my way to the front of the stage, that I ran into a girl named Jess. We exchanged our love for the band, and not our names. During orientation for college, she was in my group! We sat at a lunch table together and were chatting about music when we discovered each other was that girl we saw at the SoCo show. We’ve been great friends ever since. 
Eventually, Something Corporate went on a long-term hiatus. In the meantime, Andrew (the singer) formed Jack’s Mannequin, his side project which blossomed into more. No Something Corporate, but still piano-driven melodies of which I instantly fell in love. During the time of Jack’s second CD release, Andrew was diagnosed with leukemia, and much of his second album, The Glass Passenger, is about his battle, which he successfully won.
Having grown up with SoCo and Jack’s albums of the tried-and-true relationship theme, (I am laughing at the number of lyric quotes I decorated my AIM profile with when either angry or happy with my boyfriend) as an adult, I could relate, again to Andrew’s music in a much more adult way. Mum has constantly battled cancer, so while some people may not grasp the concept of “Bruised” or “Bloodshot,” I can. And I don’t mean to say that in a pretentious, “Oh I like, get the meaning, like, I understaaand,” kind of way. Just that, well, I do understand. While I haven’t had cancer myself, I’ve experienced what it can do to a person, what those songs describe. And my Mum fully embodies the song “Swim,” with her positivity. 
I saw Jack’s perform at Toad’s Place in CT back in 2008 and in 2010, Something Corporate reunited for a tour. Of course, I went with Jess. 

Fast forward to Friday night, August 12. Jess, myself and friend Tanya arrive at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston. We’ve got great seats, front and center. Although having seats in general was weird. The show was nothing short of amazing. Jess had read that Andrew would be doing not two signings after each set (Jacks and Guster co-headlined) - just one - after Guster’s set. We quizzed every merch guy, PA and staff member about where this would take place and finally learned the location. We waited more than an hour outside the venue and made friends with two lovely ladies, who were long-time non-crazy fans, like us. 
We stood behind a large group of the crazy kind of fans. The weird kind, who scrunched their neon green tank tops down below their chests to expose their black bras. Seriously. 
As a group, the girls and I rehearsed what we would say to Andrew. I imagined the meeting to be similar to the kind for uber big names. The artist sits behind a table and fans have a few minutes to chat. In my mind, I pictured treating it like any interview I’ve ever conducted. Extend my hand for a shake, say, “Hi, I’m Kristin! I’ve been a fan since your “Leaving Through The Window” days and can really relate to your latest “The Glass Passenger.” I’d talk about my Mum. Andrew and I would have established some sort of report about battles with cancer, how strong patients are and how great the SoCo days were. 
That didn’t happen. 
Suddenly, security guards came out of the now-empty venue, save for the massive line which formed behind us as people figured something cool was occuring. A bouncer or tour manager came out and sternly told fans no personal photos were allowed, only one thing could be signed (Andy Gould, I tried to get you an autograph!) and to quickly move through the line, since it had become so long. 
I’m 25 years old. I felt awkward standing in line to meet a music icon in the first place amidst much younger teenagers, but felt foolish once Andrew appeared because the crazy fans in front of us screamed bloody murder. I’m not kidding. I was leaning up against a railing of a ticket booth when he came out, and while my heart pace quickened from excitement and nerves, at no time did I want to scream. I watched his face as it happened and he literally jumped and looked frightened. 
The girls and I were figuring out who would snap a photo of each of us ( I didn’t lug my DSLR because the tickets said no cameras and it’s not the easiest camera to smuggle) and before we were even finished, the crazy group had long gone and there was a large gap between Tanya, myself and Jess ... and Andrew and his security. I had a postcard in my hand entitling me to a free download of the new album (I purchased a t-shirt) and was looking at it in my hand when the security guard pushed me toward Andrew. Honestly, everything is such a blur because I was so nervous and the situation was so oddly organized and security was rude. I looked at Andrew, said “......hhh hi!” and he hugged me, albeit awkwardly. He is SO much taller than I imagined and his chin rested on top of my head. I thrust my postcard into his hands, forgot what I wanted to say and only managed to squeak “...I .. I think you’re fantastic.” 
We had been warned by security man that Andrew lost his voice and to not ask him questions. So he whispered back, “Thank you!” looked me straight in the eyes and smiled. I melted. Pick my heart up off the floor melted. 
I turned to Jess while he was signing my postcard and she snapped a funny photo of me looking like a happy goon while Andrew signs. Tanya got a great one of the two of us  in mid conversation (upload this ASAP, lady!!). I feel like a 13-year-old teeny bopper as I type this story, but I’ve been waiting nearly 10 years to meet this music idol. I thanked him for well, everything. He was so nice and so gracious!
Security rushed me along to the other side of the line (boo) and in doing so, I left Jess with no one to snap her photo. Security man must have felt bad or thought she was a babe (she is!) because he offered to take one! I had meandered back past security to her at that time, because I felt bad for not being able to stay with her and decided I should jump in on a photo of the two of them. Any normal person would have said outloud, “Hey, wait, let me get in this” so we would all look normal. Nope. I legit photo-bombed it. Hahaha! Not on purpose, but just popped in, like I would any other photo with friends. I look ridiculous. I look like one of those crazy girls with a grin stretching from either side of my face and the raised eyebrow face I make when jumping into photos. 
It’s awkward. It’s funny. It’s perfect. The entire evening was perfect.

Jess and I are headed to see Jack’s play again, in October, at the Bushnell in CT with their music set to an ORCHESTRA! Woa! Hopefully there we can meet Andrew again and I can mumble something more meaningful, more coherent, to the man whose music  has been the soundtrack to the past 10 years of my life, and hopefully many more to come. 


  1. You are amazing. I love you to the moon and back! I am so happy you were finally able to meet our soulmate for the first time, but definitely not the last! That entire night was perfect and I absolutely LOVE that you jumped into my picture! It was a perfect moment and I couldn't think of a better person I would want to share it with. Andrew and his music literally brought us together and I am so grateful for our friendship! Cannot wait until October! xoxox

  2. I absolutely love how excited/happy you look in these photos, especially the one you jumped in on haha! <3 Andrew McMahon and you.

  3. AHHHH I'm so jealous you got to meet him. I too, have admired him since his SoCo days. I just went and saw him play here in town in June. I'm 26 and felt silly in the sea of teenagers but I've loved his music for years so I didn't care :)

    Have you seen his documentary, Dear Jack? If not you should definitely check it out. Its amazing {just like the rest of him}.

  4. Jess: <3 <3

    Jenn! Haha thank you! :)

    Liz! I haven't watched Dear Jack yet because I've heard it's SO sad! I should really do that sometime soon. Where do you live? Did you like his show?

  5. {I normally don't do this but I felt compelled to come back to see if you read my comment haha}

    I live in Sacrament, California. Yes, the show was phenomenal. My favourite song is Bruised & I sang my little heart out during that part of the set. I love how animated he gets playing too, standing on his piano and jumping off amps & whatnot haha.

  6. Ooh, we're on opposite coasts! How fun!

    Bruised is my favorite, too!!! :] I really wanted to ask him how many times he has to bring the piano in for repairs after all the standing and stomping he does on the keys!

    I can't wait to see Jack's again in October! You're lucky he is playing three dates in CA for that tour! I don't know how close you are to each of them, but I would go to all three if I could! :D