Meeting Damon Albarn, A Detailed Account (7.12.08)
Earlier this week, I reviewed Damon Albarn & the Honest Jon's Revue, but I didn't really have a chance to talk about meeting Damon after the show. The meeting was pretty brief in the grand scheme of things and I didn't get do anything spectacular like snagging an interview. But the whole process of waiting around for Damon to exit the building ended up being kind of fun and since this was really my first time making such an effort to meet a musician I admire, I thought I'd write up an account of that night.
I'm a pop culture fanatic and a music devotee — I go to plenty of concerts, I've gone to book readings and other events where I've been able to get an autograph and a photo with the occasional celebrity. That being said, I've never tried to follow a strategy for meeting a famous person I admire. But last Saturday, I — especially thanks my friend Shubha who said it was definitely worth a shot — decided that it might not hurt to try meeting Damon Albarn.
I've been a fan of Albarn's, dating back to his days with Blur, for a few years. Since I was still pretty young when the band was releasing the likes of Parklife and even their self-titled fifth album (famous for that "Woohoo" song, "Song 2"), I didn't really start listening to them until I was in high school. Unfortunately, this was towards the end of the band's heyday — they did an unofficial final tour as a three-piece group during my senior year of high school, but I never had a chance to see them. So I've tried to make up for that by attending other concerts featuring Damon Albarn. I saw him perform as part of The Good, The Bad, and The Queen last year and this year, I decided to attend the Revue even though I knew he wouldn't be the center of attention. It's rare to see Damon in concert and being that I was lucky enough to see him two years in a row, I decided that it was time to push my luck further and try meeting him just this once.
After the show was over last Saturday, Shubha and I left the building as soon as we could and found ourselves near a stage exit at the side of the building. There were very few people milling around and I got a little nervous that security would get rid of us, but that never happened. As we stood there, a tiny crowd began to form. A man was standing by himself, clutching a copy of Blur's 13 and there were a few small groups of friends around. My friend and I decided that we would stick around for another hour or so since the show had let out fairly early.
Some of the other musicians who had performed that night began coming out the doors. At one point, one of them gave Shubha and me the thumbs up sign. Shortly after that, another came over to us and shook our hands. "Ça va bien?" he asked a couple of times, motioning to the building. We responded in the slightly broken French of our high school years: "Oui, bien! Très bien!" He was a really sweet guy, enthusiastic and genuinely happy to see we had enjoyed ourselves. As more musicians came out, our little gathering became more lively. Some of the musicians put on an impromptu concert, right there on the sidewalk, and a few passers-by stopped to watch. There was a festive feeling in the air and at this point, we all started getting a little chattier with each other.
Shubha and I befriended a woman named Liz, who was there with her husband — he spent the whole time making fun of her, but he was also the one who had bought the tickets to the show and was the very person who took photos for her when Damon finally came outside. They were a fun pair and we had lots of fun talking to them. At one point, we philosophized about why Damon sings the iconic "Woohoo!" in "Song 2" as "Wahoo!" in his live performances, and we also talked a little bit about his assorted side projects.
There was another fun character, a British man not much older than Shubha and me, named James. He had met Liz through the Blur forums, so he was hanging around quite a bit. James turned out to be quite shameless in his determination to meet Damon — he actually went inside the building a number of times, asking people if they knew whether or not Damon was still around. At one point he left the area, but the rest of us stuck around and when we finally ascertained that Damon was definitely in the building, James returned. It was a bit after 11 p.m. now, an hour since the show had been over. But armed with the knowledge that our idol was in the building, we were newly energized, joking around about guitarist Simon Tong who always seems to be asleep while playing his instrument. And this is where our luck finally changed.
Just moments after we were discussing him, Simon Tong himself came out of the building and though a bunch of us called out his name, he just slunk away after raising his head and smiling briefly in response. Seconds after that, a few more musicians — including Damon Albarn — came out. And we were ready.
I remember crying out his name as he came out and then as I found him standing right in front of me, I asked him if he could please sign my playbill. He was happy to oblige, signing it "With Love, Damon, XXX," and because I'm not so experienced at hunting down my favorite musicians, I didn't really know what to say. So I finally just told him that it had been a great show and he was very gracious about it, saying, "I'm glad you enjoyed it!" At this time, more people were trying to get things signed and after Shubha got her playbill signed, she dragged me over so we could get our photo with him. Posing for a photo with Damon ended up being a slight challenge as someone else had started telling him a joke of sorts and he was too busy laughing his head off. But he managed to stay conscious of the fact that a camera was nearby and he looked up just in time to laugh at the camera for our picture.
Our crowd was relatively mild and nothing like the sort of chaos that Damon might recall from his Blur days. But it was still a lot of fun meeting him and watching him interact with other fans as well. The previously-mentioned James approached Damon and asked him if he could pretend playing his melodica/melody horn — James intended to stand in the background, rolling his eyes, in order to get some fun photos out of it. And Damon was more than happy to oblige — in fact, he began playing the horn, experimenting with a couple of melodies, while we all stood around gawking.
After a few minutes had passed, Damon finally began saying that he really needed to go, so once he finished up with the autographs and a few more photos, we all backed off so that he could leave. But there was still a sense of excitement in the air and as some of us exchanged email addresses, we were all talking about how charming Damon had been. Even James, who had seemed a bit "cool for school," admitted that he was shaking a little and that he could never play his melody horn again.
Though I don't know how often I'll be doing things like this in order to meet other artists I admire, I know one thing's for certain — Operation: Meet Damon Albarn was definitely a complete success.
Rad Perspectives is an outlet for Radhika, a young journalist and graduate student, to do a little fun writing on the side. Posts typically focus on pop culture, music, travel, and miscellaneous observations.