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Meet the Superfans at the Barriers at Governors Ball

Governors Ball 2014

By Shriya Samavai

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Fandom in the music world has always been really fascinating to me. My friends and I often say that we are fans of fans: we enjoy observing maniacal devotees who are driven to hysteria thanks to their favorite musicians. Once a friend and I went to a Justin Bieber concert—less for his suave dance moves and more to witness the hoards of screaming and crying preteen girls and their mothers. Passionate fandom is a part of modern culture, and we wanted to experience it in all its perspirational glory en masse and firsthand.

This is not to say that as a teenager I didn't behave in a similar fashion: I too was an unashamed fangirl and continue to act that way from time to time. At 15 I met William Beckett, frontman of The Academy Is… at Warped Tour. I cried on the spot, word-vomited to him that I loved him and could die happy now that I had met him, and ran away with my face in my hands. I had only been listening to his music for a year or so prior, yet both him and his tunes had such an overwhelming impact on my hormonal teenage self.

If we look back through the sands of time, this sort of pop star hero worship started with Elvis and his salacious hip-swiveling appropriation of rhythm and blues to create underwear-moistening, incendiary rock ‘n’ roll. The birth of “The Teenager” coincided with Elvis’ rise—an army dedicated to venerating musicians, plastering their photos on bedroom walls, and dreaming of getting scribbled signatures on shoes. If you really love the music and the musicians you will tear up to their songs and ugly-cry at their shows. You will pay well above the asking price for sold-out tickets and camp out overnight to be in the front row at their concerts.

I’m not quite sure what it is that drives superfans to behave this way. Perhaps it’s as simple as music having an overpowering and inexplicable control over our emotions, which thereby influences our actions. But in the spirit of investigation and celebrating the special bond a person can have with an artist they’ve never met, I went to Governors Ball to talk to dedicated fans firsthand—the ones pressed up against the barriers at the front of the stages.

If I learned anything from this, it’s that not all superfans are created equal, and more often than not, the fan really reflects the musician. For instance fans at James Blake and Washed Out? Super chill—just like the musician's output. Talk to a fan at Interpol—a band famed for their intense music and sexually charged lyrics—and, well, I found one girl who, given the opportunity to take over Paul Banks' body for one day, would spend that day masturbating. 

CHANCE THE RAPPER

Name, age, location:
Zena, 19, DC.

How long have you been waiting here to see Chance?
Three hours.

What do you love so much about him? 
His energy, he is so charismatic when he raps.

If you could switch bodies with Chance for a day, what would you do? 
Crowdsurf!

Have you ever done anything crazy for a musician? 
Once I stood in the rain for five hours to see One Direction at a radio station, but I never even got to see them because they never came outside.


THE BLOODY BEETROOTS

Name, age, location: Nina, 29, Chicago.

How long have you been waiting here to see The Bloody Beetroots?
One and half hours.

What do you love so much about them?
I like Italian men.

If you could switch bodies with Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo for a day, what would you do?
Maybe play a show? Or normal things, like go to Starbucks or Target.

Have you ever done anything crazy for a musician?
I made Kanye cupcakes once, they had the album cover made out of fondant on them. Today is Kanye’s birthday! That’s why I’m wearing a Yeezus shirt.



DISCLOSURE

Name, age, location:
Bryce (23, left) from North Carolina, Jac-Louis (26) and Yolandi (25, right) from South Africa.

How long have you been waiting here to see Disclosure?
Yolandi: About two hours. We came during Classixx who played here before so we could be in the front for Disclosure. But we came here all the way from South Africa to see them.

Jac-Louis: We planned this a year ago!

What do you love so much about them?
Yolandi: Disclosure’s music makes me high without taking drugs. Disclosure is the drugs!

Jac-Louis: I made a short dance film with my friends back home to a Disclosure track. They make the best music.

If you could switch bodies with the Disclosure dudes for a day, what would you do?
Yolandi: I am not a musician so I don’t know how it feels to make music and be able to give everyone else these feelings. I would love to play a show and share the music with everyone in the crowd.

EARL SWEATSHIRT

Name, age: Matt, 16.

How long have you been waiting here to see Earl Sweatshirt?
Three hours.

What do you love so much about him?
I’ve been following him since the beginning, when he rapped under the name Sly Tendencies. I’m also an MF Doom fan and I like how Earl references him a lot, but it’s a more modern take.

Is Earl your favorite of the Odd Future crew? 
Earl is my favorite for rapping, but Tyler is my favorite overall because he’s introduced me to a lot of good music. He’s always posting links to good stuff.

If you could switch bodies with Earl for a day, what would you do? 
Hang out, skate, smoke, and freestyle with all the Odd Future dudes.

Name, age: Beverly, 21.

How long have you been waiting here to see Earl Sweatshirt? 
Three hours.

What do you love so much about him?
He’s got so much wisdom and charisma. He’s young, but he’s really knowledgeable about politics. He uses all this insider vernacular in his lyrics, I love it.

If you could switch bodies with Earl for a day, what would you do? 
Has he ever skydived? I’d go skydiving.

Have you ever done anything crazy for a musician?
Once I went to Delaware—yeah Delaware, it sucks there—and waited eight hours to see The xx.


JULIAN CASABLANCAS AND THE VOIDZ

Name, age, location: Yarden, 20, Israel.

How long have you been waiting here to see Julian Casablancas?
One and a half hours, but I came all the way from Israel to see him perform today and then again tomorrow with The Strokes.

What do you love so much about him?
HE’S A GENIUS.

If you had to decide between Strokes Julian and solo Julian, which would you choose?
I’d pick both! They’re too different to compare.

If you could switch bodies with Julian for a day, what would you do? 
Definitely play a show.

Name, age, location: Alyssa, 19, Texas.

How long have you been waiting here to see Julian Casablancas?
Eight hours, I’ve been here all day.

What do you love so much about him?
It’s beyond words; he’s everything.

If you could switch bodies with Julian for a day, what would you do?
Take a shower! And hang out with The Strokes for sure.

Have you ever done anything crazy for a musician?
My friend and I made custom Voidz denim jackets. And in March I met Julian at SXSW and had him write “Don’t be a coconut” on my arm, and then I got it tattooed.


Name, age, location: Ezra, 16, North Carolina.

How long have you been waiting here to see Julian Casablancas?
All day, and tomorrow I’m gonna get here at 6am so I can be front row for The Strokes, too.

What do you love so much about him?
He’s so different than a lot of other artists. He doesn’t just sing about what everyone else does. I like that he relates his music to politics.

If you had to decide between Strokes Julian and solo Julian, which would you choose?
They’re totally different, I can’t choose. The Voidz are pretty synth heavy, which I love, but The Strokes are classic.

If you could switch bodies with Julian for a day, what would you do?
Go to my house and see what he’d be doing in my body!



INTERPOL

Name, age, location: Efren, 26, Mexico.

How long have you been waiting here to see Interpol?
Five hours.

What do you love so much about them?
I’ve been a fan since I was in high school, that’s when I got obsessed with them. Interpol has really brought all of my friends together. The first time they came to Mexico was in 2005 but I didn’t get to see them. My heart was broken, I had to wait two more years to see them live. Paul Banks went to high school in Mexico. He speaks fluent Spanish and I like that connection.

Have you ever done anything crazy for a musician?
Once I jumped over the barricade at an Interpol concert and I got kicked out.

If Paul Banks asked you to lick his feet, would you do it?
Yes, of course! Anything!

If you could switch bodies with Paul for a day, what would you do?
Kiss his girlfriend.



Name, age, location:
Melissa, 19, Colorado.

How long have you been waiting here to see Interpol?
Eight hours, I’ve been here all day and I’m exhausted. I came from Colorado just for them!

What do you love so much about them? 
Their music is so emotional, I don’t even have words to describe it.

If Paul Banks asked you to lick his feet, would you do it? 
Duh!

If you could switch bodies with Paul for a day, what would you do? 
Oh this is awkward… masturbate.

VAMPIRE WEEKEND

Name, age, location: Ana, 29, Mexico.

How long have you been waiting here to see Vampire Weekend?
All day!

What do you love so much about them? 
Ezra’s guitar playing and his vocals are unique. His lyrics are simple, but they’re full of meaning. I also like how his singing voice and speaking voice are totally different.

How many times have you seen them perform?
I’ve seen them three times this year. I’m from Mexico but this year I flew to Austin, Houston, and now New York to see them!

If Ezra Koenig asked you to lick his feet, would you do it? 
No!

If you could switch bodies with Ezra for a day, what would you do?
Visit all his favorite places in New York.



SKRILLEX

Name, age, location: Elizabeth, 20, New York.

How long have you been waiting here to see Skrillex?
I’ve been waiting for Sonny my whole life.

What do you love so much about him? 
What DON’T I love?

If Skrillex asked you to lick his feet, would you do it? 
Ew, no, not his feet… but maybe something else.

If you could switch bodies with Skrillex for a day, what would you do?
Hang out with Diplo.

Have you ever done anything crazy for a musician?
Once I met Ezra Koenig and I told him I loved him.

Shriya Samavai might lick your feet if you follow her on Twitter: @shriekeliene.

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What Do New York's Prospective Governors Think of Governors Ball?

That Was It: On Seeing the Strokes for the First Time

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