“To making a ride inside a dream
Live in a world I’ve never seen
Wishes come true, that should have him
Looks familiar, feels unseen“
Inside a Dream
One of the most vivid and impressive memories I have from my childhood is watching an old black and white documentary on TV in which thousands of girls and boys were seen in a total state of hysteria (screaming and crying) on the terrace of an airport looking towards an airplane from where four impeccably dressed guys with suits and black ties were getting out. I did not understand if those fans were crying and screaming in pain or in joy ... but I have never forgotten that scene.
Over the years, I have watched the documentary again and I realized that this mass of people sharing the same state of absolute exaltation were American fans of an English group called ... (If you still don’t know what the group was called, you shouldn’t be reading this. LOL!)
Probably that was one of the first audio-visual recordings of a massive historical gathering of what could be called "fans" who were there trying to get a personal glimpse of their favorite musicians.
The remarkable thing was that all those fans knew very well that The Beatles were not going to start playing their music as soon as they got off the plane. That would happen later in a mega concert (a historical event as well). So, why did they go to the airport to wait for hours and hours?
Why are the fans always so obsessed with getting a photo or an autograph from their favorite musicians? Is it a souvenir, is it a memento, or maybe both? What does it really represent?
My conclusion is that photos or autographs represent a close encounter. A meeting in the same space and time face to face with that artist who had the genius of composing music that "washes the soul".
A close encounter with a world-class artist is usually always fleeting. It lasts less than 5 or 10 seconds and to achieve this the fans have to wait for hours at the airport (if they are guessing at what time and on which flight they will arrive), or at the hotel (if they find out in which one they will stay in) or at the entrance or exit of a show (if they are lucky enough to be able to go to one, or to be living at the same time that they exist or give concerts). Even the paid Meet and Greet encounters that can be arranged in some countries are brief and you can see in the photos that the artists look a bit obliged to pose with the fans.
There are artists who detest the hordes and the screaming of some fans who are more interested in getting a souvenir than simply getting close and saying hello. Posing and smiling for photos while standing next to a perfect stranger, is often difficult for an artist who may be an introvert or a shy person in public. (Even ordinary people can be uncomfortable to pose and smile for a photo, especially with strangers).
In the eventuality of having a close encounter (deliberate or casual) with their favorite artist, the fans react in two predictable ways: Almost absolute paralysis and inability to speak, or trying to forcefully take a "selfie" or requesting an autograph. Sometimes the artists react well and accept (or resign themselves) to the taking of a photo and to signing autographs. Other times they directly flee from or drive away fans like these.
I am one of those fans who remain paralyzed. The fear of being "driven away" by my favorite musicians is stronger than the desire to achieve "the picture" or the autograph. It is better to remain still and watch them from afar (or on stage).
Many artist interview programs are terrible because the journalist (especially if they know little about the interviewee's musical work) asks questions that neither the artist nor his followers are interested in. Because the only thing that really matters, is "the finding of each other" that takes place between the musicians and their followers every time music is composed and performed by the artists, and the subsequent enjoyment by the fans whenever or wherever they listen to the music. Whether it is at work, at home, on the street, or live at a concert.
Gustavo Cerati, one of the best exponents of Latin American rock said in an interview:
“In the hours before a show, I'm overwhelmed by the desire to be with Soda Stereo”
The interviewer replied: “But you are Soda Stereo”.
He answered: - "NO, Soda Stereo is the band together with our fans. Separated we are nothing. Being together, the getting together, is everything".
The being together, the getting together, THE MEETING.
The fans dream of getting a photo (even if it's a group photo), or an autograph (even on a napkin or on the forearm with a black marker and then run to a tattoo artist to immortalize it) because those things are evidence (even for the fans themselves) that this mini-meeting, although fleeting, really existed.
Like those crazed Beatles fans, the fans dream of a physical encounter, in person, face to face... but then, what?
¿How about dreaming about having a brief conversation?
¿How about dreaming about playing the role of a journalist and asking some things of the interviewee as if it were a stand-up interview?
¿And how about dreaming of something "even impossible to dream", like being able to do the same interview, but at a table having a drink together?
Or one of those dreams with 40 degrees of fever: Dreaming that we share a table talking like friends, drinking something and telling about "who we are".
Those are the kind of dreams that we do not even dream directly. They are too good to be dreams.
It took me a while to sit down to write my version of an experience to which I still can not put an adjective that justly describes it.
There are three other versions of what I am going to narrate now: One is from Vaucemir Boone and another from Cristian Thomas. Both are great and reading and rereading them is "absolutely fabulous" (literally). The third is a narration in audio format that Federico Jara recorded for a friend Pethead who lives in Australia. They are priceless.
My wife and myself went to “Rock In Rio 2017”. The seventh version of one of the most important musical festivals worldwide. This year there was a very special band on the first day of the festival's first weekend. The Pet Shop Boys.
The concert was on Friday, September 15, and we decided to go to Rio de Janeiro a couple of days earlier for sightseeing and to join other fan friends who we identify as "Petheads". What better time, place and company in which to talk endlessly about our favorite band.
On Tuesday the 12th we were welcomed by Vaucemir, our host who lives in Rio and that night we met with Federico and his wife Nancy, who came straight from Buenos Aires and stayed at a hotel just one block from the famous Copacabana Palace hotel, where the Rolling Stones held their mega concert on the beach. We decided to eat at a little bar just in front of the hotel. The little bar was called "Cabanna".
On Wednesday the 13th, Cristian Thomas arrived from Trelew, Argentina. As Cristian is a professional DJ and Pethead, we wanted his help to organize a party on Thursday 14 (The day that all the other Petheads were arriving) awaiting the supreme moment of seeing the arrival of our idols the next day.
It is always exciting to take advantage of an opportunity to see a live performance by two musicians whose music will only be heard on audio or video by future generations. I always say we are a privileged generation.
All along the Copacabana beach there are about 50 very nice little bars where you can see the beach and the sea on one side, and a large avenue with rows of buildings and hotels on the other side. That night of September 13, as a meeting point we chose the little bar Cabanna again. As Vaucemir wanted us to know the enormous variety of spectacular places to eat, he suggested going to a bar called "O Pavao Azul", but the Cabanna was nearby, and it also had a "I do not know what allure", which attracted us to return there that night.
We all arrived together at Cabanna with Vaucemir, his little dog "Teddy", Federico and Nancy who then went to find Cristian at his hotel one block away. It was a long day of taking walks and we were all very tired. The idea was to get together for a while, have something to eat and go to bed early.
While we waited for them to return, Vaucemir took his smartphone and connected to the social networks to continue inviting as many petheads as possible for the integration party the following night, in another little bar set up for “Rock In Rio” located about 1500 meters from where we were at that moment.
Without looking up from his smartphone he said: "Javi, how nice would it be if tomorrow while we are having the party, by chance Neil and Chris pass by and sit down for a moment to share some time with us". With some compassion I answered: "Sure! Why not? "(It doesnt cost anything to dream that your favorite artist might appear by chance at the same place where you are).
At that moment, I turned to see if our friends were returning, and I saw no-one less at the bar than Pete Gleadall, the sound engineer who accompanied the Pet Shop Boys several years ago. A really surprise, although it is normal to see him always walking alone and willing to greet fans and take pictures with them. Seeing Pete was exciting, because of what he represents as a musician and also as part of THE most important music group for us.
We gathered our courage and together with Vaucemir we went to say hello to him. Very kindly, he agreed to talk to us and have a couple of pictures taken with us. I took the opportunity to say: "For me and many others, you are the 3rd Pet Shop Boy". With humility and modesty he replied: "Oh, thank you very much!" We said goodbye and left, excited by the experience.
A while later, Federico, Nancy and Cristian arrived, and they also went to greet him and take a couple of photos. Again, the same jovial response. A small detail. None of us asked Pete about his " bosses". It was a tacit gesture of respect on our part for his being so cordial and friendly.
The five of us sat at a table located right on the side of the path. The little bar had a kitchen and bar in a circular shape, so on the other side to where we sat there were several tables not visible to us.
We were commenting on the tremendous coincidence of finding Pete Gleadall right in front of the Hotel Copacabana and Federico asked the group: "Could it be possible that the PSB are also staying in that hotel?" Before continuing to speculate, Nancy looked towards the avenue and with her eyes wide open exclaimed: "LOOK WHO ARE CROSSING TOWARDS THIS PLACE HERE!!!"
In those seconds that it took them to cross the avenue and we saw them approaching, like oxygen masks descending automatically in an airplane, the questions fell on our heads: "And if we approach them in greeting?", "Will we be welcomed or be blocked by the bodyguards?" Tremors, chills ... the probable benefit of being well received versus the probable cost of being chased away, by them or their bodyguards… Decisions, decisions ... Suddenly the refreshing marine Carioca night became cold.
The electrical commotion between the 5 petheads around our table could be measured with a tester. They were approaching there, in the same space, at the same time. There was no need to ask the typical question that fans ask themselves: "Where are they right now?" "What are they doing?" At that moment we had the precise answers to those questions.
They arrived, they greeted Pete at the bar and ... they entered "our" little bar!!!
Fortunately, the only woman in our group, Nancy, took the initiative and jumping up from her chair like a spring she notified us with conviction: "I am going to say hello to them". At first the phrase sounded to me just like someone who would say "I'm going to jump from a plane with a parachute or get into a lion cage to see what happens". We didn’t have time to react or answer, she was already going straight to meet them both.
Nancy did exactly what she said: As they entered, she cheerfully welcomed them, showing them the design of the album "Discography" that was stamped on her shirt, as a kind of identification, a gesture that Chris Lowe himself celebrated with a smile of admiration. (We were off to a good start).
Federico and Christian decided to accompany her in the adventure and Vaucemir did the same, but discovered a small 4-legged detail in his lap. He stood up and threw his dog Teddy at me like a rugby ball and asked me to to take care of him while they all went to say hello to the PSB.
I made a quick assessment of the situation: "Go explore the terrain. If they come back with good news, I'll go… " I took care of Teddy and waited. To add drama to the situation, the PSB had seated themselves right at a table where we could not see them from where we sat because of the bar and kitchen wall separating us.
Trying to see something, I moved closer with Teddy in my arms and saw my friends chatting and greeting those who were at the table. Within two minutes I saw them return with enormous smiles of joy, obviously very happy with their reception, so I returned Teddy to Vaucemir and I told them: "I’m GOING" (Alone) and headed towards PSB with firm steps. (I had to take advantage of the adrenaline. If I allowed one minute to go by, there would be no firm step. In fact, there would be no steps at all ...)
That circular wall construction of the kitchen and bar definitely gave an additional touch of suspense to the experience of going around a curve walking those endless few meters towards THEM blindly, because from where our table was, it was like coming from "the dark side of the moon". I thought that their table would be further away and that would give me a chance to calculate my "boarding" strategy for the last time, but in a second I realized that they were there just around the corner, one step away! Only centimeters! (And I always considered myself lucky to have seen them before in shows from only a few meters away.…
Quick visual scan: Small square table, Chris on the left, Pete at the head and Neil on the right. Two bodyguards occupied another table next to theirs and were chatting contentedly. Like “The Terminator”, I opened a mental menu of alternative actions and on the fly chose the strategy of the waiter who comes to offer something to people who are chatting at a table hoping not to be disturbed (Not even by the waiters).
I enjoyed the mixture of adrenaline (terror) with endorphin (joy) that invaded me at that precise moment, because the dose of endorphin was higher and my face had a smile of reinforced concrete, so I started talking:
"Good evening, excuse me" (attitude of waiter about to offer something, looked at the three of them, using all my known and unknown resources to approach an audience that didn’t know me).
I stooped over a bit and put a hand on Chris Lowe's shoulder - who looked at me with a face of surprise and maybe thinking "I forget to bring my helmet" - and the other hand on Pete's shoulder, who was listening to Neil who was animatedly telling them something, but when he saw me, he stopped and looked at me. So, I started:
"I just want to tell you that I have been a fan of yours ever since you started more than thirty years ago, and I want to thank you for having accompanied me all these years: Thank you, THANK YOU, THANK YOU !!!"
Neil smiled at me and said: "You are welcome!" Chris nodded as well and returned to his natural position of looking at the horizon in absolute silence.
So, I found some courage, and I spoke a little more: "A few minutes ago I told Pete (my friend, haha) that, for me, he is the 3rd. PSB. "Neil laughed and said to Pete: "Wow, what an honor!"
Pete laughed too and made a gesture of "Boss, he is exaggerating. Don’t pay any attention to him!"
I was finishing MY self-imposed minute, so I launched the last sentence: "I won’t bother you anymore, thank you again, Goodbye!" And I went back to our table.
The word "Glory" is only a word until the day it is experienced and then you can understand its deep, real, full meaning. It is an experience, it is a state, it is a consequence that has as its cause an encounter. THE encounter.
I went back to the table. We were all completely euphoric. A close encounter, dreamed about. They received us well, let us greet them, what a wonder!
So, I got solemn and I said: "Guys, this was the BEST moment of my life as a PSB fan. I'm happy, I was able to tell them something I had been saving for 32. NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING CAN MAKE ME HAPPIER". I had just finished saying those words when I saw Vaucemir with his eyes wide open looking towards the front and waving at someone. Christian was saying in a low voice but shouting: (Yes, I discovered such a thing was possible)
"NEIL IS COMING OVER HERE!!!"
Two milliseconds passed and from the other side of the famous circular wall, we saw Neil Francis Tennant calmly walking towards us. Another causality: At our double table of 6 people we were only 5. There was a free place just to my right at the head of the table. Fast as lightning I stood up and offered him a chair, and everyone else jumped up too.
Neil approached us. Smiling and with a large glass of white wine in his hand he said: "Salud Rio de Janeiro!" and extended it to us to offer a toast…
We were so stunned that for an instant we tried to remember what we had to do when someone handed us a glass with a drink in it... like zombies we looked down at the table not knowing for a moment if we had to grab our glasses, a plate or a piece of table ... to toast with... HIM.
We raised our glasses and touched them gently with the glass of the self-invited guest to our table. He smiled, happy, relaxed, as if glad to meet us.
We had drunk a toast with Neil Tennant.
HAD WE JUST SHARED A TOAST WITH NEIL TENNANT????
Group status: Shock upon shock.
Post toast, he sat down and, like an improvised host, gestured for us to sit down too (if he had asked us to race to the sea, we would have done it without any problem)
He started by saying:
"I'm here to APOLOGIZE because the “Rock in Rio” organization is only allowing us one hour to perform our concert. They will not allow us to do the full show".
We all looked at each other with a face of "Wait, WHO is sitting here apologizing to us?"
Of course, at that moment he could have informed us that they would only play a single song at the concert, which would have gotten him the same response ... so we told him in chorus not to worry about that ... (At least for us, everything was already paid for - the airplane ticket, the concert, the hotel, everything!)
He told us that they had only arrived from London a few hours ago and that they were super tired, but they still wanted to go out for a while before going to sleep. At the end of saying this, he could easily have taken his leave from us and go to rest, but instead of that, Neil began to interview us, one by one.
He started with the lady on his right and asked her: "Where are you from?" Nancy answered him with another question: "Is this REAL???" about three times, until she finally replied that they came from Buenos Aires, Argentina, adding that when she was 15 years old she was in love with Neil. He smiled and gave her a pat on the back as if he were celebrating the confession of an accomplice. Then Nancy quickly clarified that she was now married to Federico, as if to say: "You lost your chance" and we all laughed a lot (With nerves and exaltation at a high it is easier to laugh).
Federico, the next interviewee, proudly showed his forearm with the initials "N.T." that Neil had signed almost a year ago in Buenos Aires. He quickly went to a tattoo artist to make it permanent. Neil laughed and said: "You are crazy!"
Then he continued with Vaucemir, the only "local" at the table, who told him that he lived in Rio de Janeiro, on Copacabana. At that moment there was a singer performing live at the bar, and Neil said that they were fascinated by Brazilian music, which gave them inspiration for several songs from his Bilingual album. Then Cristian invited Neil to sing something and Vaucemir started to sing out loud the chorus of the Brazilian "It always comes as a surprise". A gesture that Neil celebrated almost applauding and told him: "That song is beautiful. When we were recording it, George Michael who was in a recording studio next to ours, came over and he asked us to play it one more time. He was delighted by it"
Afterwards Vaucemir said that "Being Boring" is one of the favorites in Brazil, and Cristian asked if it was true that they were going to add it to the setlist of Friday's show. Neil responded that it was technically complex to include or modify the order of themes due to the synchronization of lights, videos, etc. Cristian then told him to sing "a cappella", Neil laughed amused and hummed:
" Cause we were never being boring,
We had too much time to find for ourselves ... "
and ended it smiling again. I wondered to myself if this counted as a "micro concert" and the answer was: YES, IT COUNTS.
As he asked everyone the same first question, when he came to Cristian, he said: "I am from Patagonia Argentina". So, Neil asked: "Patagonia? There are many Welsh descendants there". Cristian told him: "I am one". Then Neil asked him his name and last name. Neil took his time to get to know everyone.
Until finally he came to me, the last one at the table.
He looked at me and asked: "And where are you from?"
I told him: "I'm from Paraguay" and he answered me: "Paraguay! I think we were there a couple of times", and I said: "No, only once so far". (Hope is the last thing you lose).
And as the preliminary round of introductions ended, a cross-talk with everyone started. Taking his time with us to ask, listen, ask again ...
I looked at him, sitting on my right as if he were an old friend who came to say hello. Calm, and cheerful, and I thought: "This is not happening, this is not happening ... Neil Tennant is interviewing us, he is chatting with us ..." Nancy was right ... "is this real?"
Then he told us that he was reading a new biography of David Bowie (one of his idols from his adolescence).
I was trying - unsuccessfully - to remember the 2000 thousand questions and 5000 comments that I have always wanted to ask and make to him. At the time I did not remember telling him, for example, that I had traveled to Edinburgh to a university for a 2-day symposium about their work, that I went on to visit Newcastle, his hometown, and toured the places in London they show in the documentary "A life in Pop", as if they were museums. That I created a web page to translate their songs into the Spanish language or that I designed all the shirts that we were wearing that night (Vaucemir had the first shirt I designed in 2007). I also did not ask him what it felt like to be the best musician in history, but I thought that all those things did not need to be said at that moment!
I was in the process of trying to remember to resume the conversation, listening to what my friends were saying and what he was saying to them, when I noticed that there was a glass of wine out of place, and I asked myself: "Who left that glass of wine right in front of him!!!? "So, I took the glass and placed it almost in the middle of the table. Then Neil, as if it were a chess piece, took the glass again and placed it closer to him and looked at me with a "Leave my cup alone" face.
Luckily the mixture of endorphin and adrenaline that had me well anesthetized, prevented me from being ashamed of the monumental blunder I had committed ...
Then he asked us: "How about the security issues in the streets?" I did not hesitate to answer him on the spot: "Here you have 5 bodyguards, we will accompany you wherever you want to go"
- "Thank you very much, we already have them".
At one point, we were "without conversation topics" for a second, in that phase of the brain that is processing everything at a thousand km per hour and "nothing comes out", creating that moment that usually precedes the end of a meeting (We did not want it to happen. If it depended on us, we would still be there with him until “the morning comes”). So, I broke the silence with the first thing that came to my mind and I asked him: "Do you want to eat something?"
- "Oh, no, thanks, I'm full!! (He grabbed his belly).
Federico put his hands in a prayer position and asked him with a good boy face: "Could we take a picture with you? Please?" (Tone of "please say yes?").
Gesture of "understand me please": "Oh guys, rules are rules. If I take a picture with you, other fans from elsewhere will demand and claim one too. "
All in unison: "Ok, it was just a small question" (let's change the subject). Later I told Federico that request allowed us all to sleep with our conscience in peace. Otherwise we would have asked ourselves for life: "And if we asked for the photo and he said yes?" More than to show it as a trophy, we wanted it as proof to ourselves that it was not a collective hallucination that it was happening to us.
Then Neil looked at his glass and observed that it was almost empty. He stood up, all of us jumping up as well and he lifted his glass again to offer a final toast - again - with us- He took his last swallow and told us "Enjoy the show, have a good time", and turned on his heels and returned to his table.
"Have a good time"
Have a good time ... we had just lived the happiest and most spectacular 15 minutes of our lives as fans ... ¿How could we have a good time BETTER than what we had just had at that moment?
While we watched him cross back to his hotel with all his group, in my head I heard a part of the song "Was that what it was" where it says "I dont need any more in my life ..."
In Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the night of September 13, 2017, we were five lucky ones that were... Inside a Dream.