I got home late last night, soaked in about twelve ice baths, watched a marathon of Ice Road Truckers, and stored my contact lenses in the freezer to give them a nice chill before wearing. And I think I’m finally back to a normal body temperature.
I spent the weekend attending the 2009 edition of Rocklahoma, a four-day festival of heavy metal and glam metal (or hair metal or eighties metal or whatever the hell you want to call it) held in Pryor, Oklahoma.
And the weather reached a level of hot that strains my ability to describe. Local media reports were that the heat index reached 109 degrees. Rumor had it that temperatures in the crowd hit 130. Or, at least that’s what folks with fancy schmancy iPhone applications claimed. My eighties era bag phone doesn’t have that gadget so I couldn’t verify that figure myself. But eventually, you just reach a point where a degree here or there doesn’t really matter when your melted brain is leaking out your ears.
I’ve got some work to do regarding Rocklahoma, so I’ll keep my opinions to myself for now other than to say I enjoyed myself immensely, even if I did have to check myself to see if I had grill marks on my back. I took over 800 photos of the event, many of which improved immeasurably after a kind and helpful shutterbug shared some tips on getting good shots of the nighttime concerts and how to work with all the spotlights and effects. So I had a great time and got a lot of work done, I’ll say that much. For a more full-fledged account of the show, you can check here for a rundown of the weekend from a veteran of the festival.
However, I will mention one quick story about the weekend that is a lesson for all of us who have fans, whether it’s a singular admirer who shares our last name or millions of adoring legions just waiting to buy your work. This sound so incredibly obvious — and it is — but I don’t think we can be reminded of it enough:
Always be respectful and appreciateive of your fans. And be aware that anyone can potentially become a fan. This is true whether you’re a writer, musician, actor, or construction worker.
Pictured here is a snapshot of Iggie, the guitarist for a British band called Gypsy Pistoleros. I had heard the name but didn’t know anything about the band. They had the unenviable chore of opening Saturday’s festivities at 1pm, prime-fry-time in the heatwave. I worked throughout most of the set and can’t really tell you much about the band’s music.
But during their press conference after the performance, they stressed how they wanted to hang out and spend time with their fans. They agreed that yes, it was hot on stage and it was difficult to perform under those conditions. “But we had fans, and shade,” Iggie said. The audience, he pointed out, was standing on concrete under the blazing sun. Iggie and the boys hung around the press tent taking photos, signing autographs, and answering questions until every single media member had been accomodated. And then, they headed back out into the heat to find more fans. I saw them throughout the afternoon taking pictures, buying people drinks, and hanging out.
About ten blistering hours after their performance, I saw Iggie and his bandmates walking in the dark with a group of fans. Their arms were around each other and they swayed into the darkness like a group of well-lubricated soccer supporters whose team just won the big match.
All the Pistoleros still wore their stage clothes. They hadn’t gone inside, hadn’t taken a break, the entire day.
I still can’t tell you if the band’s any good or not. I can’t tell you what they sing, other than a demented cover of Livin’ La Vida Loca. But as soon as I climbed out of the meat locker I sat in all day to cool down, I logged onto my iTunes account and bought every fucking piece of Gypsy Pistoleros music there is to buy. I might never listen to those songs, but I wanted to support the band, to give them some of my meager dollars, because of how they interacted with people at the festival.
None of this is to insinuate that the other bands at Rocklahoma were aloof or rude or jaded about their audience. Every band I met and saw were cool guys who seemed happy to be there. But the Gypsy Pistoleros just went so far above and beyond the call of duty that it really made an impression on me.
So when you have a booksigning, remember to treat everyone as though they are your biggest fan. If you give a reading of your work, be sure to hang out, to mingle, to speak to everyone. You never know who you might win over with your positive attitude. If some drunken blokes from Birmingham, England can spent sweltering day in leather pants and cowboy boots interacting with their fans in Okalahoma, then the least we can do as writers is be happy to shake some hands at the local bookstore.