Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Backstage at the Chicago/Doobie Brothers Concert

Ten years ago, my friend Suzanne and I were handed backstage passes at a Chicago/Doobie Brothers concert. It was purely coincidental that the guy had found us to give us the tickets. We had just moved from our spot on the lawn to the back of the amphitheater because people on blankets around us were complaining that we were blocking their view with our dancing. (Granted, it was a Doobie Brothers/Chicago concert. It wasn't like I expected a mosh pit. But, c'mon!)

The guy that gave them to us told us that he worked for the band and that it was his job to make sure that a certain amount of girls were backstage when the bands were done performing.

That should have been our first clue.

But we were young, barely twenty-one, and the thought of going backstage was an opportunity too irresistible to resist.

So after Chicago walked off stage and Suzanne and fought against the leaving crowds, we presented our passes to the security guards who let us through to a secret world of rock stars and magic.

Uh...right. Did I mention I was only twenty-one at the time and maybe a tad bit naive?

I'm not really sure what I expected. Maybe, I fantasized, that the bands would perform an acoustic set behind the scenes. Or maybe they would discuss music and their song writing processes.

What actually happened was, both bands (The Doobie Brothers and Chicago) sat around a table with each other, drinking beer, and ignoring everyone around them, even the girls that were falling over themselves (and out of their clothing) to get their attention.

Oh, and did I mention the grimy stage hands that cornered us like a pack of hungry lines? A paunchy man with a Scottish accent made no secret in bragging to Suzanne and I that he was also Brittany Spear's sound guy and he could get us her autograph. Another guy, a skinny weasel looking fellow, offered me a tour of Chicago's tour bus.

It was at that moment that I had my first telepathic experience. Suzanne looked into my eyes and I could hear the thought she projected my way. You know he just wants to give you a tour of his pants, right? 


Disappointed that our star encounter had been less than perfect, Suzanne and I left. I remember feeling deflated as we walked out to the car. Getting to meet a band backstage should have been a dream come true, but the reality had been the farthest thing from it.

We drove home in silence. After a few miles I flipped on the radio and the Doobie Brother's Black Water happened to be playing. Suzanne and I looked at each other, our surprise turned to grins and our grins turned to singing and laughing. It was then I realized that it didn't matter that the band didn't live up to my expectations because it wasn't the men themselves that made me happy - it was the music.

Recently, I've come to the same realization with writing.

When it comes to the business of publishing, I received a backstage pass - I got a book contract. But, little did I know, that when I passed into the VIP section, things wouldn't go like I'd planned. Just like meeting Chicago and the Doobie Brothers, I had lots of preconceived notions on exactly how things would work out. I'd thought that once I signed on the dotted line, things would get easier, I'd have it made in the shade.

And all that hard work and waiting that I did to get my publishing deal? Yeah, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I'll admit, having the reality of the situation crush my expectations had been a bit of a blow. I had that same deflated feeling, that crushing disappointment that I'd experienced leaving the concert. I had a hard time sitting down to get started on writing now that my blinders had been removed. A lot of pressure, pressure that hadn't been there before my book sale, settled on my shoulders. What if readers hate my book? What if they hate the sequel? What if I never write anything good ever again?

But then I got a story idea and I sat down in front of the computer and got to meet my new characters. I found myself falling inside of my mind, losing track of time, and having fun with words again - just like I had with KATANA. And that was when I realized something.

It doesn't matter what happens backstage. It doesn't matter if it meets or falls short of your expectations. Writing is what made me happy. And writing is still what makes me happy. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for my backstage pass and I've appreciated every minute and every lesson this experience has taught me. But I'm going to enjoy every minute of this show, even if it means having to move to the back so I can dance to the music.


  1. I'm am unfortunately from that industry that let you down 10 years ago. Having been in it for 20 years now I can say with great sadness that I took better care of it than it ever did me. I'm going back to my original passion in life which is writing. And with me getting such a late start in this career it is good to hear others tell their stories so the lure of the lights don't blind me a second time. Thank you for your insight.

  2. Excellent point, so true.

    And this is a little off topic of what you really mean, but I used to be a stagehand, and worked a lot of shows at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. I've eaten dinner in the same green room with a lot of acts, like Paul Simon, Everlast, Tenacious D, Henry Rollins, and others.

    Most rock stars are asses, but I was surprised by a few. Henry Rollins is brilliant, and one of the nicest guys I've ever met. I was like 23 then though, so I was probably naive too.

  3. Aw, I love this comparison.

    Also, I have a little story of my own. My uncle was diagnosed with cancer this past year. He had a bucket list of things to do before he died--visit the lake one more time, watch the movie GETTYSBURG, and go see Chicago.

    A few weeks ago, he did all of those things. Visited the lake for a week, spent the day watching the movie with his brother, and went to a Chicago concert. The day after completing all these things, he passed away.

    At least he got to see Chicago one last time. And now he's really gone backstage. I hope there aren't any creepy stagehands there.

  4. Cole, you're awesome. That is so, so, SO true. The "backstage" experience isn't what everyone thinks it is. But in the long run, it's not about the backstage, is it?