Soon after I published “THE GOOD GROUPIE’S TEN COMMANDMENTS” in 2008, I started getting emails from groupies seeking my advice on how to handle certain situations with their bands. A few months ago, after Luke O’Neil interviewed and quoted me for his article on groupies in the Alternative Press, I started getting a few more emails.
One thing became readily apparent to me as I read these emails—groupies don’t necessarily have a lot of places to turn when they need advice. They can’t confide in their fellow groupies because of potential jealousy/backstabbing issues, and they can’t talk to their non-groupie friends because the non-groupies just don’t get it.
I responded to these emails as best I could, and the feedback I received from these groupies on my feedback has been positive. I’ve gotten enough of these emails to think that perhaps my column here on the Muse’s Muse could morph into an advice column of sorts.
With that in mind, I am presenting the first of what will hopefully be many installments of “Backstage With the Band-Aids”—a place where Band-Aids/Good Groupies/Die-Hards/whatever you want to call yourselves can come for an objective opinion when you’re too wrapped up in a situation with your Artists to step back and see it clearly. I’m going with the term “Band-Aids” for the moment, but that could change. Back in 2008 I referred to us as “Good Groupies” because I didn’t have another term for it, but 1) I now think the term is a little too prissy, and 2) the term “groupie” still carries a sleazy connotation that I don’t want to imply here. Hopefully the people associated with “Almost Famous” won’t try to sue me for copyright infringement. (And if you are connected to the film, there’s no need to threaten me with legal action. Just ask me nicely & I’ll cease and desist.) So go ahead and call yourselves whatever term you want. And if you can think of something better, I’m open to suggestions.
DISCLAIMER: None of the people who wrote to me knew when they did so that I might be using their stories in a future column (for the most part, neither did I), so I have changed names and fudged with details in order to protect the authors’ identities. Before writing this piece I contacted all the people who wrote to me and asked for permission to use their stories here. The emails I use are from people who either responded yes or who didn’t respond to my request at all. None of the people who wrote to me identified their bands/artists by name, so I have no way of knowing who they’re talking about. And neither do you. Also, be advised from this point forward that if you do contact me I may use your email in a future column. And no, I won’t publish your email address or any identifying details that might “out” you. I have no interest in screwing up anyone’s life with these columns, I’m just looking to share your stories because no matter what issue you have with an Artist, chances are you’re not the only one with that issue.
Although the email below was not the first one I’d received, it’s absolutely the most serious one I’ve received so far. It’s from a 16-year-old Band-Aid whom we’ll call “Emerald”:
I know it sounds kinda immature to most people, but i would consider myself a groupie. Me and my best friend have known this band for a very long time and we’ve gotten very close, they call us their Band Aids and even gave us nick names and actually call us by them. We’ve been to every single one of their shows, sometimes against my mom’s wishes or knowledge. We party with them and we hang out like normal people. I feel that there’s a problem beginning and I have no idea where to go to get an answer.
Our friends’ band is going on tour this summer, and we were invited to go along. But we can’t just leave. We know they are going to be big and they’re our friends. I owe them a lot also, because they saved my life (literally). They love it when we’re there, and they’re really kinda sad we’re not going, but my friend and I need to go. I don’t know whether to go or not. I just feel stuck. I’d hate to just leave my mom and family for 2 weeks. But this trip means everything to me. I’ve been saving up for a year now. I have enough money, I’m just scared. What should I do? There’s so much about this band that reached me on a personal level--not just their music but their personality, but I’m not sure if I’m being dramatic about it, I mean, I’m only 16. But I can see me hanging out with them for a long time. I’ve never wanted something so badly in my life.
Emerald, I'm very glad that you wrote to me. And I can certainly understand how much your friend's band means to you. When you find music that "speaks" to you, hearing it can almost be like a religious experience. It's quite addictive, and that's why there are so many of us "band-aids" out there who support the groups we follow. So I totally get where you're coming from.
However, I also have some very serious concerns about you and your friend taking this trip across the country. And you're absolutely right that you can't just up and leave without telling anyone. Doing so could get you, possibly your friend, and possibly the band into some major legal trouble.
You said that sometimes you've gone to concerts without Mom's knowledge/permission. You might be able to sneak away for an evening and come up with a story to cover up what you were really doing. But you're not going to be able to disappear for 2 weeks and explain it away. Because you are 16 and legally a minor, the minute Mom figures out you're gone she could call the police and have an Amber alert put out for you. You don't say how old your friend is, but if she's under 18 her parents could do the same thing. You would then have every cop along the tour route patrolling the highways looking for you.
That alone is good enough reason not to do this. There *may* be others. I say *may* because you haven't given me enough information for me to be certain. Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I'm not assuming anything one way or the other about you or the band or what you've been doing. I'm just trying to cover the bases.
You said that you and your friend have hung out & partied with the band a lot and that you feel close to them. If any of this partying involves alcohol/drugs, I don't think you need me to tell you that this is illegal. If you take off on the tour and Mom gets the cops involved, the cops are going to have to look into your involvement with the band. And if you have done any of that stuff, not only could *you* get in trouble, but the *band* could get in trouble for supplying stuff to minors. If you care about this band, do you really want to put them in that position?
Also...you haven't said whether you or your friend are romantically/sexually involved with anyone in the band. And again, I'm not assuming anything one way or the other. But if you are, the age of legal consent varies from state to state. You don't say what state you & the band are from, so I can't say for certain whether you're "legal". And you haven't said how old the guys in the band are, either. But if they're over 18, and you're under the age of legal consent in your state, and they're having any kind of sexual contact with you, they're breaking the law. If you are under the age of consent, then it's illegal for them to mess around with you, REGARDLESS of whether you're ok with it. From a legal standpoint, being under the age of consent means that your consent doesn't matter. I know, that's bullshit, but this is how the law works. If you Google "legal age of consent", you can find out how old you have to be in your state to be "legal". If you disappear for 2 weeks and Mom gets the cops involved, and *IF* you've done anything sexual with these guys, that's going to come out when the cops start asking questions. And depending on what exactly it is you've done with them, they could be charged with anything from corruption of minors to statutory rape. In most circumstances, being convicted of those charges means jail time. Again, do you want this to happen to your friends in the band? Even if you haven't done anything romantic/sexual with any of these guys, the cops are going to ask. Do you want these guys to have to be interrogated by the cops like this?
You also say that you and your friend were invited by the band to join them on this tour. Do these guys *know* you're only 16? If they do, I can't imagine any responsible adult inviting teenagers to join them on tour without parental consent. If that's what they did, then they're not being responsible adults. And if they're not responsible adults, these are not people you want to be hanging with. I don't care how awesome their music is. BTW, before I started typing my response to you I looked up the legal age of consent in the state where the tour is headed. It's 18. So if you are romantically/sexually involved with anyone here and you do something while you're there, whoever you do it with is breaking the law.
Finally...there's another way that this trip could cause serious legal trouble for the band. Again, you haven't said anything about alcohol/drugs/sex, and I'm not assuming anything one way or the other. But if these guys invited you to come on tour, and you engage in any of that stuff while you're there, then basically what they've done is brought a couple of minors across state lines for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity. Now the band would be facing FEDERAL criminal charges. Not. Good.
Now...even if you're not doing any of that illegal stuff with the band, you're not breaking any laws, you're just a loyal band-aid who really wants to follow the band, it's still not a good idea. Not just for the Amber alert thing, but...you say that you've saved up money for the trip. Have you factored in any emergencies? What if your car breaks down or you get a flat tire or God forbid you're in an accident? At 16 I can't imagine you have a credit card at your disposal in case of emergencies. The thought of a couple of teenage girls stranded on an unfamiliar highway in the middle of the night would understandably put the fear of God into the heart of any parent. It scares ME to think about it--and I'm not even a parent! How are you going to reserve a hotel room without a credit card? You weren't planning on sleeping in the same room with the band members, right?
So what to do? You want to support your band REALLY badly, and it's killing you to think that they're going to be going off on this amazing trip and you can't be there to enjoy it and support them. Well, unless you're ridiculously wealthy, it's nearly impossible for any groupie to go to EVERY show. I can't even do that--and I'm a grown-up with a job!
If this band is serious about making it big, then they've got to be on Facebook or Twitter or something. And you're on Facebook/Twitter/whatever, right? This means that you can still follow your band's great adventure even if you can't physically be there. And maybe...if you're close enough with the band that you know where they're playing and/or what hotel they're staying at, maybe you could use this money you've saved for the trip to send them a "care package" while they're on the road. If you know the band the way you say they do, then you'll know what kind of things they might like to have. And it would be a great way to show them that you're thinking of them.
I know of one band-aid who likes to buy gift cards for her band--like, to Wal-Mart & places like that where the guys can get stuff they need while they're on the road. Maybe you could do something like that.
The bottom line here is that even though it sucks to have to miss a really big tour, there will be other shows. The fact that you miss a few of them doesn't make you any less loyal to the band. It's not worth the risk. And at least it will give you something to ask the band about the next time you do see them.
PS--If the guys in the band don't know how old you are, you need to tell them. NOW.
FOLLOW-UP: After I emailed this response to Emerald she got back to me. She assured me that there wasn’t any sexual activity going on between anybody, and that they had in fact agreed not to mess around because it would screw up their friendships. She also indicated that she wasn’t messing around with chemicals. She further clarified that the band members were between 17-18 years old. So this wasn’t a case of some pedophiles looking to take advantage of underage girls, it was a bunch of teenagers contemplating a joyride. Finally, she decided to follow my advice and not go on the trip.