December 1, 2011

Week 50 - Are You In A Fan's Life?

Are You in Their Life?

One of my favorite bands of all time is KISS. I got my first KISS album, Dynasty, in 1978. I’m not quite sure what would compel my parents to buy a 5 year-old a KISS album, but I’m glad they did. I spent the next 10-15 years trying to play air-bass like Gene Simmons. I’ve bought more records, then tapes, then CDs from KISS than any other band. Of course, they have a bigger discography than just about any band I know of as well. I never had a chance to see them live until the first reunion tour in 1996. All original members. I’ve since seen them three more times and got to photograph them once.
I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I own hats, shirts, jerseys, a clock, figurines, stickers, a terrible Towel… and probably a bunch of other Steelers items. The last time they won a Superbowl, it was on my birthday. I’ve been following them my entire adult career. I’ve even got a jersey that says “CLAES” on the back. It all started with a winter hat with a pom-pom on the top that I was given when I was about 6.

Why am I telling you this? It’s not because I really want you to know me better (although Christmas IS coming up). It’s because I want you to be aware that fans are real people who somehow associate something you do with a memory or feeling or way of life. Don’t get me wrong… your music is important. It’s got to be good. BUT touching someone’s life in a profound way is how you gain solid life-long fans.

Sometimes you have some control over gaining fans by your actions.

This last month was Movember. It’s where men make a commitment to donate their face to men’s health issues by growing an ironic mustache. I’ve been taking part in Movember’s Team Austin for the last 2 years. This year, there was an event called ScandeMOnium, a high-tech scavenger hunt that culminated in a concert. All 4 of the bands who played donated their time. I personally asked Shawn Nelson ( and john Arthur martinez ( to play, and they did. I have been a fan of both of them before this, but by donating their time to support a cause I believe in, thy have solidified a fan for life.

THAT, my friends, is how you do it. Volunteer to play for charity events. Support your fellow musicians and their families by caring about them. Support YOUR music scene by going to shows. Be prepared to play anywhere and anytime. Take over a parking lot of a major show (Full Service did this and it net them a spot opening for 311).

Sometimes you are just an unwitting piece of someone’s life, like the Steelers and KISS is for me. Nobody within either one of the organizations made me a fan… but they have both kept me as a fan by continually representing themselves as I hoped. Sure… KISS is 40 years old as a band and they have changed out a few players, but they give the fans just what they want. Every night they go out there are they are the best KISS they can be. They are a rock show. Comic book characters come to life. KISS is songs that define young-adulthood and an image that defined a 1970s childhood. It doesn’t matter how old they get… the make-up means we never have to see the wrinkle. They are icons.

But, you know what? It was the music that got me into KISS. Everything else made me a fan, but their music was solid. I still think that 1992’s KISS Revenge was a great album. I think it suffered from aging musician perception. Then they put their make-up on again and forgot the previous 15 years of music. It’s probably best they donned the make-up again, but I’d love to hear Demon Gene do “Domino” is full make-up.

See what happens when I start talking KISS? Anyhow, Back to the point. Bands come and go, but if you can somehow become important in a person’s memory and life, you will be immortal.

So think about it. Are you on someone’s CD player/iPod, or are you in their life?

Five musicians / bands that have been important in my life through music and experiences.
Jodie and I w/ the Derailers 10/6/2001
The Derailers – They played my wedding reception. Well.. they played where my wife and I went after our wedding reception. We were married in San Marcos, Texas, had a reception in Seguin, and honeymooned in Gruene. We happened upon Gruene Hall on our wedding night and The Derailers were playing the Gruene Wine and Music Festival. We danced.. and had an amazing time. They played “There Goes The Bride” and we took off.

Monte Montgomery – His “Girl Like You” is my wife and I’s wedding song. He was the concert we went to on our first “date.” I’ve had the honor to chat him up a few times and the even bigger honor of seeing him in concert quite a few times. To this day, my favorite concert photo I’ve ever taken is him at Gruene Hall in 1998.

John Prine – A roommate I had and I were channel surfing one day and came across his “Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody” and thought it was great. To this day, when I hear that song, I’m taken back to that dingy apartment and those days. When I went to college, and a buddy there handed me Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings and I was hooked.

KISS – I was born in 1973. I grew up on KISS. They merchandised their way into my heart. The music remained awesome, their live show is still spectacular… and I think I gushed enough above to just leave it at that. I’m still hoping someday Gene will give me a battle-axe bass. I guess my “key track” from KISS would be “I Was Made For Loving You,” which is a HORRIBLE song, but it’s the one I used to act out while playing it on our record player when I was a kiddo.

Los Lobos – Every time I listen to Los Lobos I think of Laredo. I think of growing up, all of the interesting turns that took. Probably my key track to reminisce is “One Time, One Night”

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