My three seconds with RUSH

I had a “once in a lifetime” moment this week: I met Rush.

I met them during a backstage “meet and greet” about an hour before the start of their show at the United Center.

Meet and greets are (usually) small, organized gatherings where fans (almost always contest winners and people who “know somebody”) meet famous people. As a rule, they’re awkward, rushed affairs which allow fans to have a few minutes of interaction with their heroes and then get one or two treasured items signed.

These events aren’t like meeting the band at a corner bar–meet and greet environments are controlled,
usually shoehorned into a vacant dressing room. Security, record, and management personnel are always on hand to keep things moving along, and to keep the fans from being creepy. It’s like going on a blind date where the girl’s parents are sitting at the next table over as you eat dinner.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended a few meet and greets in my career, though Rush was the first one I’d been to in over six years. The best meet and greets are those where the band tries to engage with its fans and is humble enough to accept the effusive praise they receive. The members of Metallica, for instance, go out of their way to make every visitor feel special, even the more casual fans in the room.

Based on Rush’s “everyman,” wholesome persona, I expected a friendly, congenial, environment. And without a
doubt, I came ready to meet my favorite band: I brought a digital camera and a vinyl copy of 2112 to have the band sign in silver ink.

When I arrived at the venue, I was issued this document:

The information on the sheet is the same for every market, save the exception of the specific night’s precise location and time, which are written in bold.

After reading the instructions, it was clear that my short-term goal of owning a matted and framed autographed Rush album would never be realized.

While I’m on the topic: 2112 is a legendary album–in general, as well as in the Rush discography. It’s not solely because of the music, either: the cover artwork is iconic. The “star” image and “2112” logo have an indelible place in rock history.

As indelible as the front cover is, the back cover photo is 1970s awfulness. Since childhood, I’ve had to forgive the band for their kimonos and Alex Lifeson’s split camel toe. Related: ouch.

Back to the meet and greet: as we waited backstage to meet the band, a representative for Rush addressed the room and reinforced the details spelled out on the instruction sheet. As he explained, violating any of the rules would result in things getting real ugly, real fast. “Geddy (Lee) and Alex (Lifeson) will come in and stand in front of a backdrop,” he said. “At that point, we’ll invite you and the group you came with to take a picture with the guys. Once your picture’s taken, you’ll need to leave the room.”

Rush has a photographer who shoots the meet and greets and later posts the images online. There’s your keepsake souvenir, boys and girls–go to Rush.com tomorrow to hunt for yours.

When my friend and I were summoned, we shook hands with Alex and Geddy. I said “nice to meet you” to them both, and then my friend and I moved into place for our photo opportunity. In an instant, the picture was taken and we were shown the door.

I want to be emphatically clear about this next point: I was truly fortunate to have had the meet and greet opportunity in the first place, and to have exchanged handshakes with the band. As much as I try to remind myself of that, though, I can’t help but feel hollow about the experience. Alex and Geddy didn’t say a single word back to me.

This begs the question: why does Rush even agree to meet and greets at all? It can’t be fun for them: they get whisked into a room where they stand like mannequins in front of a gathering of strangers who they never once talk to. Then they force smiles for a series of identical wham-bam photos. Once the photo opps are over, they get escorted back to the security and anonymity of their dressing room. Not once does the band get to share in the joy or exuberance the fans are feeling. If I were in a band, meet and greets like that would leave me totally jaded (or would at least
encourage me to write a song like “Limelight”).

I have no heart to lie.

I can’t pretend a stranger

Is a long-awaited friend.

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