I woke up to about a dozen separate messages across Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and my email account, all with the exact same subject: Muse are coming to Pittsburgh. I live in Japan now, but my hometown is the City of Bridges, and every single one of those messages contained some form of this question: “You’re going to come back for this, right?!”
Muse are the only band that I’d get this sort of barrage of notifications. None of my acquaintances would be notifying me if Franz Ferdinand or Sigur Rós or The Black Keys were playing Pittsburgh. There’s a pretty good reason for that. Nearly everybody I know, from family to friends to co-workers to the kids I teach, knows that Muse are my favorite band. (And that probably goes for MEB readers, too; basically every article I’ve written has mentioned them in some form or another.)
In the past, I’ve been pretty unabashed about the fact that I love the trio from Teignmouth. In college, I had more than one person refer to me as “the chick who loves Muse.” When the band won a Grammy for The Resistance in 2011, one of my professors actually congratulated me on it. As in, “I heard Muse won a Grammy! Congratulations, you must be so proud!” (For the record, though, that album never should have won. It’s so bad that most fans like to pretend it doesn’t exist.)
Admittedly, I have done some crazy things for Muse. I’ve slept in airports and stayed up until 3 a.m. to get tickets. In September 2010, I flew to England for a weekend to catch one of their stadium shows. My first tattoo was based on the artwork for my favorite album. Since November 2009, I’ve seen them six times (soon to be seven after their Summer Sonic appearance in August) in four countries on three continents. It’s understandable why people would assume that I’d make the trip to see my favorite band play in my hometown. Understandable…
…but no, it’s not happening, and for several reasons:
a.) It’s 7,000 miles away.
b.) I don’t feel like ponying up at least $1400 for transportation costs.
c.) I am more than my favorite band.
That last reason is the biggest reason for me, the one that had me shaking my head approximately twenty seconds after reading the first email with “MUSE” as the subject line. I get that I’ve made it pretty easy for the people who know me to automatically connect me with the band, but I feel like I need to clarify…my music tastes and I are a whole lot more than Muse. My iPod has more than just the one artist. I have been to concerts for other bands. My other tattoos have nothing to do with them. Promise.
I’m not the only person to whom I’ve seen this happen. Once you make your love known, it becomes part of the way other people perceive you, whether you like it or not.
One of my college professors has an obsession with a certain quartet of Irish rockers that’s spanned over 20 years. She’s taught classes on the connections and impact that their music and society have had on each other. The mileage she’s traveled for their concerts makes mine look like a five-minute waltz down to the corner convenience store and back.
I know girls who have baked cakes for John Mayer’s birthday and seen him more than a dozen times in concert. Some friends treated the release of Taylor Swift’s Red like a national holiday. One acquaintance sees Kenny Chesney in concert every year, like clockwork. (Once, after footage of a concert in Pittsburgh was shown on TV, she excitedly pointed out, “You see that flash in the stands?! That’s the one that my camera makes! It has to be mine!”) A former co-worker puts more planning into seeing The Dave Matthews Band every year than he does for his wife’s birthday.
It’s funny how we begin to associate people with their favorite bands. So deeply do some musical loves – and okay, if we’re being honest, obsessions – go that sometimes we can’t help but assign it as a predominant personality characteristic. In a lot of people’s eyes, Muse isn’t just a band that gets me whooping like a giddy teenager when I see them in concert; they’re part of me. They’ve shaped me. My former professor isn’t just a casual fan of U2; that band has had a major impact on her.
Usually, it’s not such a huge deal when other people know about this level of musical love. There’s nothing wrong with it, that’s for sure. But sometimes people mistake that love for the slavish sort, and that’s when I start to fidget uncomfortably.
Case in point: people assumed I’d be jetting more than 7,000 miles for a Muse concert. That’s not the first time something like that’s happened, either. When I told people I was going to England to see them, people were surprised, but not at all disbelieving. “Oh, you would” was a popular response. Whenever I told people that I was designing my second tattoo, a friend remarked, “So, which album artwork are you using for this one?”
The thing that irks me the most, though, is when people assume that I can’t (or won’t) criticize my favorite band. I’m unapologetic in the fact that I think Muse’s last two albums have been, to put it lightly, total misfires. To be more frank, I think they’re pretty dreadful with very few bright spots. And their live shows, though visual spectacles, suffer from stale setlists. When I’ve vocalized those critiques, though, you’d think I’d threatened a puppy. The usual response is something like “…but I thought that you love Muse. Like, you really, really love them?” It’s as if they assume I’m blind to anything bad Muse could do.
Just the mere fact we place a band as our favorite doesn’t mean that we can’t recognize their faults. They might be our top-scrobbled on last.fm, they might feature into our tattoos, we might go to seemingly crazy lengths for them, but they’re not our end-all, be-all. We’re more than our favorite bands.