That's me in the corner (with my notepad)

I’m sure you’ve seen this before. There’s this guy in the crowd with a notepad, scribbling down notes as the band plays. You’re standing there watching the band and enjoying the show and this guy is still furiously jotting down notes and even looking at his notepad for an entire song. “How odd?” You say to yourself. And the next thing you might ask yourself is “Who does he write for?” and most importantly “is what he is writing down the write stuff I’m seeing and feeling?”

While at Lollapalooza back in 2006 I had several fellow fans lean into my personal space and crane their neck over my notepad to see what I was writing down as if I couldn’t tell they were doing it.

I don’t know about other music writers who review shows but I often get very protective of what gets jotted down on my precious notepad during a show and as a knee jerk reaction angle the notepad closer towards my body since I don’t want anyone to see what I written because usually it’s just a bunch of rough ideas that mean nothing until I get home and write the complete review. But what I experienced (something I now call a “notepad-peeker moment” NPM) at Lollapalooza in 2006 helped me to be less protective of what I was writing down.

While Wilco was playing and instead of writing down actual words I was skechting what I saw on stage using the sketches as visual cues to write the review later. Well, unknowingly, the sketches caught the eye of a fan (who happened to share my name) and as he was peeking at my notepad I, as usual, moved it slightly so he couldn’t see it and he said “oh, sorry” and once I realized that he wanted to make a comment about what he saw I my notepad I turned to him and he asked what I was doing and I told him the usual, “I’m covering the festival.”

“Oh,cool.” he said and proceeded to tell me that he had traveled from Missouri and really enjoyed my sketches and that they had managed to somehow bring him back to reality as he had taken some drugs while at the festival and had gotten separated from his friends.

That’s situation has been by far the most transparent a fan has been when it comes to conversing during a show. And in 2007 I had some other memorable encounters with fans who are curious and bold enough to ask me what I’m writing down and who I’m writing for and then we usually follows is a really great conversation about music or why they came to the show or what they love about live music. This type of interaction is something I’m still a little weird and uncomfortable about for myriad reasons but I always end up loving the part of connecting with a fellow fan in a live setting since a lot of music writing is done in solitary confinement away from other humans (expect maybe my wife who usually taking pictures). In any case, writing about the live concert experience is like none other and presents a unique opportunity to have a random conversation with people I might not otherwise cross paths with.

Here’s a short list of some of 2007’s best notepad-peeker moments.

Jamie T at Schubas in Chicago: After patting me on the back and congratulating me for covering a such great show, a loyal Jamie T fan fills me in on his favorite experiences of seeing the Clash at the Aragon and then skips over the Puddle to talk about his days growing up in Manchester during the Pre-Joy Division days. It worked so I ended up using our conversation in the review.

The Clientle at Subterranean in Chicago: a fan who I eventually found out was a barber and had recently moved to Chicago to be with a girlfriend but had just broken up with her tells me how he loves local independent music and how sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury and other fiction authors impact his music listening and are currently inspiring him to write his own short stories.

Moe.down festival in Turin, NY: while at our campsite a Frisbee lands on my lap as I’m jotting down notes from the Roots set the night before. The Frisbee owner is a Syracuse student who’s a little high and drunk. He sits down with me and tells me all about his internship at a local news station and how he loves coming to moe.down because he always wanted to go to Bonnaroo buts it’s to far away and moe.down is a nice and closer alternative.

Whether planned or not, it’s these types of interactions that add flesh to writing concert reviews and it makes the live experience all the more memorable and sometimes makes the review easier to write.

I can’t wait to see what 2008 has in store when it comes to this type of stuff and I hope to see you at a show and rap about why what’s going on onstage moves you so much.

I’d be interested to know some of your favorite moments when you interacted with a fellow fan or noticed a reviewer scribbling down notes. Drop me a comment or an email with your favorite 2007 moments.

Up next is a look at rock n roll artists who started bands after seeing their favorite bands perform live.

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