True Stories: Backstage Pass

 I thought I was a fan; I didn't realize I was supposed to be a groupie.

by Rachel Friedman

"He's looking at us!" Becca shouted over the music.

"Who?" I mouthed.

"The bassist."

"You're crazy!" I screamed into her ear, my lips close to the four purple studs crawling up her left lobe. I took a deep drag of my Camel cigarette. Closed my eyes. Exhaled. I loved this band. I couldn't believe I was only two rows from the stage, close enough to see the lead guitarist's pointy incisors when he opened his mouth to sing.

When the show ended, a boxy security guard approached us. "You girls want to go backstage?"

"I told you," Becca said. We were led to an unmarked door. Becca marched boldly inside; I trailed behind her like a stray. Soon the band arrived: the lead singer, in jeans and a black t-shirt; the baby-faced drummer. The bassist, all voluminous hair and under-eye circles, headed straight for us.

"Hey." He introduced himself, like we were three ordinary people meeting at some lame high-school party. "Where are you ladies from?"

"Syracuse," we said in unison.

"Cool, cool." He popped the top off a beer, took a deep swig. I had so many questions: about his creative process, how they decide on set lists and who takes a solo when. I was a classical violist with secret fantasies of being in a band. But the bassist's name was being called.

"Gotta go," he said, looking disappointed. "Here." He took my hand, scrawled an address with a black marker. "If you guys ever need tickets to a show, just say the word."

"Cool," we said. And then he was gone.


Two months later, the band announced a nearby show. I composed several drafts to the bassist on lined notebook paper — my only other option was leftover monogrammed Bat Mitzvah stationary, which obviously wasn't going to work — finally settling on three brief sentences of pleasantries and then straight to the point. Did he possibly have two extra tickets to the show?

I wanted to show off the note to all my friends, but I knew keeping it a secret made me even more special.

The bassist wrote back, but not until after I'd missed the show. He sent a postcard, white with a psychedelic blue balloon floating up into space. He apologized for not getting me tickets in time. He asked me to write again ("It's nice to get letters"). I wanted to show off the note to all my friends, but I knew keeping it a secret made me even more special.

The postcards kept coming for more than a year, one every month or two. I spaced out my responses, trying to play it cool, but I could only force myself to wait a few days before responding. We discussed what we were reading, what we were listening to, where we'd traveled and where we wanted to go. I went to three of the band's shows, but didn't ask for tickets or tell the bassist I'd be there. I was more than some fan looking for free tickets. The bassist thought I was interesting. We were friends. I wanted more than anything to get out of my small town and into a world like his, with music and philosophy and no boys holding the beer funnel up for me as I knelt on the damp ground.


A few weeks before my seventeenth birthday, the band was scheduled to play a weekend show in a field near my town. It would be three days of drinking and smoking in the blazing August heat. It was the summer before senior year, when life would become an endless series of college applications and minor panic attacks. I didn't ask the bassist for tickets but I wrote and told him I'd be there. I wished him good luck. He responded with a promise of four backstage passes. The three guys I was going to the concert with couldn't believe our luck.

We went directly to the VIP area after claiming a camp site. We were so close to the stage it sounded like we were on it. I lay back in the grass, head in one of my friends' laps, eyes closed, letting the sun purify me. I was content, a feeling I'd found difficult to access lately, with my parents' recent divorce, not to mention academic and social pressures. I didn't notice someone blocking the sun until Brian nudged my shoulder, at which point I found myself blinking up at the bassist.

Commentarium (28 Comments)

Dec 06 11 - 11:42am

Apparently she, too, had the aura of election upon her.

Dec 06 11 - 12:13pm
Jordan Smith

Loved the writing. Very nice piece.

Dec 06 11 - 2:00pm

"...I did not see screwing and love as inextricably linked (... ) if you could have sex like a guy — that is, without falling in love with every boy between your legs..."

...because I have reasons...

Is it just me?

Dec 09 11 - 8:10am

it's not.

Dec 25 11 - 1:57am

I kind of have goosebumps.
Such a perfect line.

Dec 06 11 - 2:10pm

Anyone care to guess which band?

Dec 06 11 - 3:22pm

Was it the Four Tops?

Dec 06 11 - 4:05pm
mr. man


Dec 06 11 - 4:32pm

The Four Tenors

Dec 08 11 - 11:12am

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Dec 06 11 - 3:13pm

Haha I hung out with a popular band and the lead singer also gave me those strange "you're beautiful" lines, although via text later that night. I told him he looked like he could be my brother, & he responded with incest jokes and told me if I was his sister he would probably try to get dirty with me. Honestly, would that line appeal to anyone?

Dec 10 11 - 10:54pm

just wow

Dec 06 11 - 3:59pm

ewww, slimy
good job!

Dec 06 11 - 5:33pm

Why aren't Jewish girls like this where i come from?!

Dec 06 11 - 8:11pm

it seems like an awful lot of trouble to go to just to get laid. can't be that hard, he's a rock star.

Dec 06 11 - 10:50pm

It's super obvious what band it is. And ew.

Dec 07 11 - 6:05am

Really, which? I love the "...and I was the only one on watch."

Dec 06 11 - 11:29pm

I gotta guess Mike Gordon from Phish?

Dec 07 11 - 1:38am

phish sucks, jerrys dead, get a job, i said that right to gordon's face or was it page, anyway i know the guy who broke up the band in 04 because of backstage golden tickets, to bad it was not for good.

Dec 07 11 - 6:40pm

Wow after re-reading this, it sounds like it could have happened during a phish tour, everything except for the well-known duet with a female country singer?? Also rumy im sure you know "the guy" who "broke up the band" hahah

Dec 07 11 - 8:27pm

i do dick head hahahaha

Dec 08 11 - 12:14pm

Alison Krauss is a 'well known female country singer' who sang on the Phish song 'If I Could' off of the album Hoist released in 1994. The reference to a baby-faced drummer would be an appropriate description of Jon Fishman as well.

Dec 08 11 - 12:21pm

Oh my god it's all making too much sense. Wasn't Gordon in trouble for hanging out with an underage girl a while back? Someone should ask the writer if it was him, if only for the Nerve readership's edification.

Dec 07 11 - 12:59am

Felt like it ended abruptly.

Dec 13 11 - 3:02am

It did.

Dec 08 11 - 7:03pm


i didnt know Herman Cain was in a band!


Dec 09 11 - 11:43pm

As someone who travels with bands professionally... I have to say the awkward and rushed moves are just a reality when you move from town to town, night to night. It sometimes forces even gentlemen with good intentions to move a bit fast. If you don't it's bus call and another lonely bunk.

Dec 11 11 - 11:29am

Is it Boys like Girls because I think they do a duet with a country star