Meeting Your Heroes

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to see my favorite musician in concert. I’m not much of a music fan, in the sense that I don’t go out of my way to discover new music or spend hours listening to entire albums. I really only listen to the same musicians and bands I listened to in high school, plus top 40 hits that I can jam along to in the car.

Andrew McMahon is one of those musicians I have loved since middle school. He has been the front man of two bands, Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, and has recently released two solo albums. Something Corporate, the earlier of McMahon’s first projects, is without a doubt my favorite band of all time. They boasted typical pop-punk tracks of the early 2000s, but McMahon added his own touch to every song with his insane piano skills (“Hurricane” and “21 and Invincible” are my favorites). And the slower songs were definitely full of lyrics that I would scribble on notebook covers in high school and pretend that I was all deep and philosophical (I recommend “The Astronaut” and  “Down” to anybody who loves a good power ballad). McMahon’s newer music isn’t filled with the pop-punk angst that I know and love. Since releasing his two albums with Something Corporate and his first album with Jack’s Mannequin, McMahon has been diagnosed with and recovered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, founded a non-profit charity called the Dear Jack Foundation that raises money for young adults and adolescents with cancer, released a documentary called Dear Jack about his personal fight against cancer, gotten married, and had a daughter. Of course, he is not the same nerdy little rock star who first made his way into my headphones the early 2000s. But I still love his music, his voice, and his piano riffs, and I always will.

At the concert, I stood only a few feet away from the man who has influenced me so much over the course of so many years. At one point, I was mere inches away from touching his hand, and I completely fangirled about it.

Concerts are a strange concept. The entire purpose of a concert is to be reminded that this voice that you have been listening to belongs to an actual person. As I was singing along to his songs along with thousands of other people, I could not shake that thought from my mind: “Oh my G-d, he’s real. Andrew McMahon is real. I am looking at him right now. This is not some sort of illusion.” But this feeling isn’t just limited to concerts. Throughout that entire day, I was constantly reminded of when I met John Green freshman year. As I, with shaking hands, handed Green my book to sign, all I could think of was how I was actually speaking face-to-face with somebody I had only interacted with through a computer screen or through his fictional stories.

I have felt that same feeling when I attend sports games. I have amazing opportunities to watch some of my favorite teams play live. I always love to watch the players interact in the dugouts or on the sidelines when I go to games; their silly banter reminds me that these are real people playing these games, not simply pixels on my TV screen.

We often get these images in our heads of celebrities or of people we admire that they are more than human. But concerts or live sports games serve to shatter that illusion and present actual people in front of us. I for one enjoy having this illusion shattered, and I prefer to see my favorite artists, writers, and athletes as people just like me. I feel closer to them somehow.


Image Credit: Feature, Jessica Berger