I Am Not Afraid of You & I Will Shake Your Hand: How to Meet Your Favorite Band of All Time

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Photo by Monty Suwannukul

Meeting your favorite anyone of all time can be a daunting process. Here are ten easy tips to have you face-to-face with those immortals who soundtrack your days:

1. Decide on your favorite.
Before you meet them, you must know who they are. After listening to countless bands in your twenty odd years on Earth, you’ve come to the conclusion that this one unit of three people and their artistic output is your favorite in an infinite amount of units and outputs. Perhaps there was a shortlist, perhaps Jewel made it (totally fine), but after much soul seeking and navel contemplation, you arrive at say, Yo la Tengo.

2. Make your declaration.
The world must know and you must tell them. Send this epiphany to those you love or even those who would appreciate you for figuring it out. Email or text or snail mail. They will be happy you made such a big deal decision. By putting it in ink you make it especially indelible, you make it real.

3. Don’t just read the Wikipedia.
Listen to everything they’ve recorded. If you’ve done it once, do it again. Just be careful not to devour, but to experience each album with intent. Be sure you know the band is from Hoboken and that they consist of Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley (husband & wife team!) and James McNew. Find out where they are playing next in your town. They are performing an in-store at Amoeba Records in the Haight District of San Francisco followed by a meet-and-greet record signing. How perfect! It’s time you meet Yo la Tengo to inform them of their All Time status, among other things.

4. Prepare your statement.
Know what you are going to say. Decide to thank them and tell them they are your Favorite Band of All Time and what a difference they have made in your life. How they helped your drive through the Mojave Desert the year after you graduated college and how you won’t forget that it’s because of them you weren’t alone. And how you listened to only them when you were on major painkillers for a broken back. And how you’re considering naming your future child Madeline, after one of their most sublime songs. And when you have friends around, you put on I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One. And when your heart hurts, you put on Painful. And when you retire in an old farmhouse in upstate New York, you vow to put on Fade.


5. Dress for their heyday.
Don’t over think it. You’re not that young anymore. Throw on a plain tee shirt or one of a relating band, Cat Power or Slowdive, and be done. Do not wear a Yo la Tengo shirt by any means. Forget what your parents say. It’s an unspoken rule. Jeans and a light flannel maybe to finish the look. Their heyday was arguably the 90s. Dress for that.

6. Eat a well-balanced meal.
The show is in the late afternoon. Have some brunch beforehand, eggs, sausage, toast, and fruit. Be sure all parts of your body are moving the way they should be moving. Bring a friend with you for support. This will also potentially lessen your creep factor.

7. Be there before the masses.
Arrive an hour or so early and secure a pretty sweet spot up near the stage, as close as you can get. The crowd is a mixed one, everyone from teenagers discovering the band for the first time to adults who’ve known the wonder all along. Ira, Georgia, and James walk on stage toward their respective instruments and begin promptly. They throw some niceties out at the crowd and begin. Immediately sense their veteran comfort with each other. Think about how if they needed a fourth member, like someone on keys or whatever, you could probably do it.

8. Rock out.
Dance in your personal space and dance loudly. Spin around maybe once or twice. Nod your head on beat as though your saying yes to them and yes to all they do. In six songs, the band plays hard, so much so your friend fashions earplugs out of Kleenex from her purse. But there are two floating songs that validate their All Time status in your eyes. Soft numbers, Ira and Georgia’s whispers, ambrosial sounds. Listen closely. The milky rhythms will calm your nerves and release the right hormones to prepare you for what’s to come.

9. Feel honored.
Imagine they are playing for you and only you. When it’s over, the emcee of the show gives directions to the audience on how to line up for the record signing and points at your head: “This will start with you. You’re number one. Everyone lines up behind you,” he says. It’s unbelievable, for sure. Be glad you arrived early. After about a minute, the band returns and sits at a table, Sharpies in hand. This is it. Your big day has come. You are the first person in a line of maybe 200. Step up the stairs slowly and approach the three of them.

10. Say hi.
And then say nothing. Nothing about a farmhouse or your future child or the Mojave Desert. Nothing about your broken spine or your heart or your heartbreaks. Just shake each of their hands, genuinely. And walk away, back out onto the street, and head for home.