My interviewing adventures started at about 2:15 P.M. when I walked up to the G.A. ticket wristband line, and I met Marta and Magela from Spain. I had arranged via the Backstreets ticket exchange board to buy my G.A. ticket from Marta. All I knew was she was coming from Spain.
When I got to the venue, she and her friend, Magela were already in line. This is the first time I saw them:
We connected immediately and I felt so lucky to have this ticket. More on these two and their dedication to Bruce below.
As we moved toward the door to get our wristbands, we also were talking to David and his daughter, Melissa. He was excited to be sharing the Bruce experience with her. This was Melissa’s first show. David is a doctor of pediatric oncology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So, going to see Bruce is one important way he gets to relax. That man needs it.
Thank you, David, for doing this important work. (And I’m sorry you didn’t get in the pit! Beginner’s blessed luck is what I call my experience.) Oh, and thanks for giving my iPhone a charge with your portable charger. I’m gonna get one of them and I’ll name it after you.
I had lunch with my new Spanish friends across the street from the venue in an upstairs open dining room. While a band blasted from the other side of the bar, we shouted questions and answers to each other. This is what I learned.
Marta’s first show was in 1992; Marta’s was 1988. They have traveled to the U.S. at least four times to see Bruce. The first time was with a Spanish Bruce fan club that still comes regularly and is how they met. Marta lives in Madrid and Magela lives in Barcelona. They tend to travel on their own now and they’ve seen Bruce all over Europe as well.
Nashville was Magela’s 70th show and Marta is close behind!
When I asked them why they keep coming back, why so many times, why so much money spent…they both smiled that knowing kind of smile, the one that has stories and a lot of love in it. Magela answered.
“Once you cross that line to travel to see Bruce—once you realize that you CAN—everything changes. You meet other people who are doing it too, and you see you are not crazy. And you don’t stop.”
Then they looked at me and me at them, and we started to laugh. We were all thinking: “Is this going to happen to ME?!”
By the time we finished eating, it was time to go back and line up for the ritual of the pit. The wristbands we were given earlier each have a unique number on them and we all lined up in approximate order, in separate lines for each increment of 100. We were numbers 364, 365 and 366. At about 5pm, the Bruce folks who manage this crazy scene bring out a big bucket with all the numbers and someone in the crowd picks one. That is the first number in the door and, depending on the venue, a certain number of ticket holders after that number get into the “pit,” which is the area RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE STAGE.
They said that 400 people could get into the pit and they number that was picked was…DOH! 667 (or something like that). And we were definitely NOT going to get into the pit. Damn. I was really sad for Marta and Magela, because they are only here for 3 shows and it was this special anniversary for Magela.
As we waited to be let into the arena after the pit winners went in (they still line you up and let you in according to the number on your wristband), I talked to some of the people around me.
Jason was inspiring.
At 23, this is his second show (I hope I got that right). His pastor, who is from New York, introduced him to Bruce and he saw him at the 2012 New Orleans Jazz Festival.
I asked Jason why he comes and he said, “For the joy of it.”
His favorite album? “Hard to say, but my gut instinct says Born to Run.”
“Because when Clarence starts playing the sax at the end of Thunder Road, that solo, if freedom had a sound, that would be it.”
Well said, young man.
Steve is from London and this was also HIS 70th show! He was first touched by Bruce in 1981 when he heard either Prove it All Night or Badlands on the radio. He can’t remember which one, but the Darkness album made him sit up and take notice.
He’s come to the U.S. 8 or 9 times to see Bruce. Why does he keep coming back?
“Because for one day, I’m normal. Everyone around me understands. And, for 3-4 hours, you don’t know what your gonna get.”
Loving life in the Mystery, my friend.
And then there were the foam brothers (and sister)…in their case, a picture (or two) is truly worth a thousand words.
Finally, there were my heroes. Rice and Alex. Even though Rice made it into the pit, his son, Alex, couldn’t get down early to get a wristband. Rice wasn’t going to go down there without Alex. When we found out about the unused pit-access wristband on his wrist, Marta grabbed him and started saying, “Oh my god, you have to give it to HER” and grabbed me too, and shouted at me, “You have to go in, you have to go in.”
He held out his wrist, she peeled it off, slapped it on me (a careful and scary operation) and pushed me off. With tears in my eyes (I kid you not), I found myself walking into the pit. I saw the show from about 7 “rows” back. Thank you, Rice and Alex, Marta and Magela. Thank you so much.