Monday, April 04, 2005

Wherever You Will Go?

Wherever You Will Go?

Tomorrow night I'm going to see Griffin do a gig in Ilkley. It's just under four months since I saw him and Nik has blogged in a very eloquent way about some of the things she feels about this gig and Griffin. And never one to pass up on the opportunity for either intertextuality or blatent theft of ideas I think I need to have my say.

Current circumstances mean that the gig probably has a slightly different perspective for me than other people. It is, after all, one of my revision markers. It's the day when I know I won't be spending eight hours revising whatever snippet of literature that has been picked out by the coloured pen that day. I've got my notes on the romantics and nature to finish between now and then, but as of 2.00 tomorrow afternoon, I am officially declared free for the next 24 hours. Which is a liberating feeling. So for me the gig does have some cache in its own right and consequently I do feel a little excited when I chance to think about it. But that, really, has nothing to do with Griffin. I could potentially be going to see a band in my local pub, or be going out for dinner or, let's face it since I'm starting to get cabin-fever, popping down the street for a pint of milk and it might garner similar thoughts and dimensions.

Or would it?

That, I think, is the question I need to answer, not least because of the huge ramifications which the answer might have. There was a time when I could honestly utter the half-joking "I once went two weeks without seeing Griffin" phrase. There was a time when Griffin was tripping over us and we were tripping over him. And during that time I would probably have wet myself had someone told me that I'd get to see Griffin play a proper gig. But that's not quite the feeling now.

And I can precisely pin-point the reason for my own-disquiet. I think that in retrospect it was a huge mistake for the Griffin machine to officially ask for fans to help with the promo of the initial Middlesbrough and York gigs last year. Up until that point we'd all done numerous bits of publicity for Griffin, some gently prodded towards by the record company, others off of our own back. When it was like this Griffin owed us nothing, it was something we did because we believed in him. Actually asking changed everything. For the first time it created some sort of bond, something that had to be acknowledged. Fliering is a shitty job, I know I've done it for numerous plays and I've organised it for numerous plays. When you ask people to do this for free you're basically asking people to get freezing cold, have people look at them like they're insane and probably hugely embarrass themselves. What is more, you've usually got to pay more than the minimum wage for people to do this properly. So when enthusiastic people agree to do it for free the least you can do is to be very, very nice to them. And when getting people to agree to flier there was definite niceness. I believe Griffin even remembered how to spell my name. Afterwards, however, has left a very nasty taste in my mouth. Thank you goes a long way, and it was a thank you that didn't even need to come from Griffin. I think this feeling has only be increased by the fact that the only information we get about Griffin now is when there is something for us to buy. And I would be lying if that doesn't sting, or the fact that we only had it confirmed that he'd been to the Kremlin in a newspapers interview didn't hurt slightly.

The point with Griffin was that for so long, we were part of the journey too. If it was Griffin's story then we'd get our footnote in it. It was undoubtedly what made it so compelling. We're no longer part of the story now. And if I feel sorry and guilty for some of the things that I think that Griffin's fanbase has brought to his door, and I really really do, then I think Griffin, after the fan promotion at the very least, has to hold his hands up to what he's brought to our door too. Fans are a two way thing.

When I saw Griffin at Boro Town Hall last year, I was so intensely proud of him my entire being felt like it could break. All I could hear in my head was him, a year earlier, uttering with total astonishment 'You know the words!' at us in the middle of Bring It On. And when at York Opera House, two days later, prior to 'Wherever You Will Go' he dedicated it to 'the army of fans who have followed me everywhere' I don't think that I could have been any happier, I broke again. And if I look back then the year had been full of such moments, when selfish as it may be, Griffin's talked to us, teased us, jokingly defended us. If I'm honest, I've had numerous intensely special moments, that other fans haven't had. Even now there's still the odd in-joke flying around. But then being a fan is not a self-less act. In The Four Right Chords, the play I'm writing at the moment, one of the characters says, rather cynically, "They all want something. Especially the ones who say they don't". And in its basest form maybe that is true. But to switch it around, Griffin wants something too, something which the fans are the ones to give. So the parasitic relationship isn't a one-way street.

Having said all this, how do I feel? I think the thing is if for the last fews months I've felt like we're no longer part of the story, then it doesn't cancel out all of the time that we were. It doesn't stop me listening to Griffin. It doesn't stop me buying those gig tickets. It doesn't stop me getting excited about the possibility of a second album. I celebrate the anniversaries. I smile at the memories. I still believe in him. I'm still proud of him for everything he's come through. I think when I wrote the open letter to him last month, I revealed how I feel when I put aside my own discomfort. And, I know from experience, that tomorrow night he'll do something that will make me smile. Can I ask for more? As an active promotional fan, probably yes. As an inactive gig going record buying fan, no. And the decision as to where I am on that score maybe ultimately doesn't lie with me any more. Maybe it never really did.

Given there's no real conclusion here, how do I end? Maybe in Griffin's words, back on the first night I ever met him:
"If you come to a gig and I don't see you, it's not because I don't want to. I just...didn't see you".
At the time we laughed with him, and were touched enough to begin the whole damn journey. And I'm still on the journey, even if it seems like we're at a stage where that earlier statement is up for question. So I know that ultimately, I am excited about tomorrow night and I still get excited about Griffin. Possibly that's all the answer I'll ever need.

NB: For numerous reasons this was a very difficult blog to post, not least because I'm aware that Griffin fans who I'm not aware of read this. All I can say is this is entirely honest, and I think maybe now, more than ever, we need to be honest.


Penny said...

I think you're right. That's about all I can say, really. This is the closest Griffin has played to my house since Leeds HMV and I'm not going. Partly due to financial constraints (I chose to go and see Patrick Wolf instead, I could only afford one or the other), partly the odd way you had to order tickets (what casual punter would bother?), but also...yes...Griffin fatigue. I don't want to go to a gig with no atmosphere, no new songs, cover versions and a room of cliques to whom I will never really belong (I was only ever on the fringes...) where one group bitches about another group/individual, gets hideously drunk and takes a thousand photos. (I've been guilty of a couple of these before, but my time for that has long since passed).

Perhaps if he got another deal, an organised national tour with proper promoters, turned up on telly as a proper star and the distance was fully restored - I'd go to a gig. For now, it's a halfway house that makes me feel uncomfortable.

cat said...

I've been using the term Griffin Fatigue too.

I agree with much of comment, especially the final paragraph, Penny. I think I understand your other points too, but I don't think the cliques as you term them (and it's not a phrase I would use - but then, I wouldn't, would I?) are something within Griffin's control, nor should they be.

For the record; I was not hideously drunk, and did not take a single photograph - I may have bitched a bit though.