There’s no good way to talk about Valentine’s Day. If you complain about it, you’re cliché. If you say you don’t care about it, you’re cliché and a pompous jerk. If you like it, I hate you because that means you aren’t alone like I am. So naturally, I never know how to approach Valentine’s Day by myself. Luckily, this year was different.
When I was 10 years old, my dad gave me a CD by modern jazz trio The Bad Plus. I listened to it every morning as I made my bed and got dressed for middle school. They quickly became my favorite band, and my gateway into jazz. When I was told that The Bad Plus would be performing at Amherst College, I was understandably thrilled. Then I found out some even better news: they were playing on Valentine’s Day. I would have the perfect excuse not to give a damn what anyone else was doing that stupid night.
The day before the concert, my frequent friend and occasional enemy Farah Haidari (an employee of the concert office and a contributing editor for The Indicator) told me that I was the only person to reserve a companionless ticket to the concert. Fine, I thought. I go to jazz concerts alone all the time. What do I care if it’s Valentine’s Day?
The boring part of this story is that the concert was great. Of course it was. They’re fabulous musicians, though I happen to be exceedingly biased because they’re my favorite band. I left Buckley Recital Hall delighted and aesthetically satisfied. I hopped on my bike, headed back to Hitchcock, poured myself a Bloody Mary, and prepared for a night of Netflix in my underwear.
Before I could take a sip of my drink, I got a call from Farah. She had spoken with The Bad Plus. Apparently they wanted whiskey, so Farah had recommended Amherst Coffee, and they were gracious enough to invite her and anyone else to join them. She knew what a pathetic fanboy I was, and I’m sure she knew I was probably alone in my underwear at the time, so she took pity and invited me. Needless to say, I was thrilled and promptly put my pants back on.
We arrived only to find the drummer, bassist, and their videographer already sitting and having a good time with a couple of other Amherst students. I ordered some iced coffee and took a seat next to the bassist Reid Anderson, my favorite musician of the trio. I introduced myself as a big fan and tried to engage him in conversation. I found myself oddly at a loss for words. I started with a few a questions about his music, which he answered in a satisfying and concrete manner, but then what could I say?
Conversation was slow, stilted and awkward. I looked over to the head of the table, where Dave the drummer was laughing and sharing gig stories with the other Amherst students. The first thought that came to mind was that it wasn’t fair. I’m the big fan. I’m the one that has all their CDs. They should be laughing and having a good time with me. Eventually, Reid asked Farah and me what we were studying. He became interested when I mentioned I was taking a philosophy of music class; finally some common ground, I thought. I discussed my own opinions on intentionalism in music, which he vehemently opposed. I politely defended my logic and outlined my argument. He disregarded it.
Okay, I thought. That’s fine. At this point, Farah had had enough uncomfortable discussion and decided to leave. I probed Reid about his listening habits. I was sure we could find something to discuss there. Eventually, he went as far as to say that he doesn’t like jazz. He explained that you couldn’t be a “fan” of jazz in the same way that you could be a “fan” of Radiohead. I attempted to respond with counterexamples. He disregarded them.
Reid got up to get another glass of wine. His current glass was still half full. He went over to the bar, chugged what he had, and took his time returning to the table. I didn’t understand. A part of me had always believed, maybe subconsciously, that we would be best friends if we ever got a chance to meet. Yet here we were, bored, disagreeing, and drinking to avoid the awkwardness. I looked over to the other side of the table only to see more laughter over corny jokes. After Reid returned, he and the videographer tried to convince me that you can’t really learn anything at college.
They said they were going to head to The Lord Jeff for cocktails, but I politely made my exit. As I left, Reid shook my hand and said what I imagine was the only good thing he could think of to say to me: “You, uh, seem to be really engaged with the music.”
So that was that. I had met my idol, and we didn’t like each other. As much as I tried to stay enthusiastic with the situation, it was hard not to be disappointed. Despite my passion about his music, I was unable to even conduct a comfortable conversation with someone I look up to.
The next day, I told my parents about the strange evening, and my mom was able to frame Reid in a light that made sense: he’s 42 years old, unmarried, and talking to some 20 year-old pisspot on Valentine’s Day. He was stuck in Amherst, Massachusetts, and instead of hitting on cute college girls, he was discussing aesthetics with an overeager jazz-nut hyped up on iced coffee.
Regardless of how he really felt, I feel comfortable with the encounter. It’s not like I’m going to stop listening to The Bad Plus. Sure, we’re not best friends like I had dreamed, but I’d rather know what kind of people they are than stay in ignorance, even if the truth hurts. Maybe we met on a bad night, or maybe we are just incompatible. That being said, if I ever have a fan that’s half as excited as I was, I hope that I could be enthusiastic for one second and indulge the damn kid, even if it is Valentine’s Day.