There was a time in my life when I became genuinely sad that I would probably never get to meet Shirley Manson.
I believe I was having my quarter-life crisis, thinking about all the time I had spent worshiping someone, being influenced by someone, and how I would never get a chance to see that person in the flesh and explain just how they made me feel.
I have been a fan of Garbage since I was 13 years old. When I first saw the video for “Vow” on MuchMusic, something inside me just… became.
I can’t explain that feeling, but I know, if you are a fan of music, you too have that band or singer that just did something to you the first time you heard them. Garbage was that band for me. Their style was like nothing I’d heard before. It was as much grunge as it was pop. It was so slick sounding but also chaotic and clunky. It was the perfect music for a 13 year old girl who felt like she was on the cusp of who knows what. It was also the perfect music for someone that has never felt like she’s ever truly fit into one of the boxes life likes to assign you too. I’m not punk enough to be punk. Not cool enough to be one of the cool kids. I didn’t fit in then and I don’t truly fit in now.
At 13, I just knew that Garbage would be the soundtrack to my life, Shirley Manson my idol.
My devotion to the band knew no bounds. I had pictures of them taped up in my room and in my locker at school. I saved up my allowance to buy the albums and even special ordered many of the B-sides. You have to remember, this was 1995. There was no iTunes. There was no file sharing. Through junior high and high school I had a massive backpack that was very seldom filled with school work. It was almost exclusively filled with cumbersome CDs and I don’t think I ever left the house without at least one Garbage album.
Growing up in Winnipeg in the 90s basically meant that very few bands that were big, but not too big, played in town.As a teen I certainly didn’t have the means to travel to see them.
Garbage was a band that I was obsessed with, and in that era definitely got a lot of airplay on radio and MuchMusic, but still, I didn’t know many people that got into to band beyond that exposure.
In so many ways, Garbage was mine and mine alone.
Garbage came to Winnipeg for the first time in 2005, but they came without Butch Vig (I believe his mother died and he was not playing that portion of the tour). I was about 12 rows back on the floor of the Burton Cummings theatre with my sister Melanie, the only other person that like Garbage almost as much as me that I knew. It was a surreal experience finally getting to see the band play. They ran through a lengthy set list, did an encore, and when that was done, took requests from the crowd. Shirley Manson asked what we wanted to hear and I screamed “SUPERVIXEN” as loud as I could.
She heard me. They played it.
Flash forward 10 more years to October 2015. Garbage is on tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of that first album, the one that changed my life. Given that I am now a 33 year old woman, it was much easier for me to book a plane ticket, hotel and secure a ticket to the only Canadian date in Toronto. I am out of my mind excited for this.
Somehow, about two weeks before the show, it crosses my mind to investigate whether or not the band is doing any sort of meet and greet. Sure enough, they are. I look over the different packages and there is a bundle where, among other things, you get a meet and greet with the band, a photo with the band, a three song sound check AND a Q and A. This package is quite pricey, but I’m willing to pay anything for the chance.
Or am I?
Now I’m overthinking. Should I really spend more than $300 to possibly cry all over Shirley Manson like the absolute loser I am? What happens if the band doesn’t like me, or what if they are all in shitty moods?
Really, there is no shortage of people who can tell you about how meeting their idol turned out to be a huge disappointment. To us, our idols are superhuman. In life, the are just human. They are in no way, larger than life in the way we have built them up to be.
What if Shirley Manson doesn’t like me?
Flashback to the early 2000s when Shirley Manson is actively blogging on the Garbage website. She wrote a piece about meeting basketball player Tim Duncan, about how she adores him but she never wants to meet him, only admire him from afar, because she’s afraid what she has made of him in her mind will disappoint her in real life.
Shirley Manson’s own words are now working against me. Goddammit.
I posted the link to the meet and greet on my Facebook and asked my friends if I was a lunatic for thinking of spending all that money to possibly cry all over my hero. Not one person told me not to do it.
I’m not normally one to trust the opinions of large groups of people, but I decided to pull that trigger. I bought the meet and greet. No turning back now.
The day of the show, I am in my hotel room in Toronto, staring at a blank card I had purchased for the sole purpose of writing a letter to Shirley, Duke, Butch and Steve. I stressed about this all day until it was time to go to the venue for the meet and greet. Not a single word had come out of me by the time it was time to leave.
This is the only regret I have.
I arrived at the venue for 3:30, as instructed by Adventures in Wonderland, the company that provided the meet and greet service. I am the 11th person in line. I know this because they number the wrist bands we are given. In total, there were probably more than 20 but less than 30 of us.
Once they lined us up and took us into the venue, we were told we would do the meet and greet plus the photo first, then go to the soundcheck, and then we would do the Q and A. We were lined up in a hallway, sort of in a U shape. I was standing against a metal gate at the end of the hall. I got to chatting with some of the people in line, including a lovely girl named Charlotte. None of us know what we are going to say, and we’re all concerned we will look like monsters in the photos.
I’m still leaning against this gate when I realize, I am looking down the hall where the band will be entering the meet and greet room. Sure enough, Duke walks right past me. We say hello. Then Steve walks by and we say hello as well.
And then there’s Shirley Manson, two feet away from me, followed closely by Butch. I also manage to say hi to them and somehow, I don’t puke. This calms me for about two minutes.
Then the line starts moving. The idea is you get to chat with the band a bit and you get to take the picture. I still have no idea what I am going to say and am starting to think this may have been a really dumb idea.
My new friend Charlotte is ahead of me and she goes in. I don’t hear what they are saying because the blood is just rushing in my ears. This is the moment I thought would never come. I am going to meet Garbage. I am going to speak directly to Shirley Manson.
I am not going to cry or throw up.
I am called into the room and now it’s really happening and wow, these rock gods haven’t really aged much in 20 years. Shirley is taller than I thought. It seems like the entire band is actually the same size. We say hi, I shake all their hands, we introduce ourselves. We pose for the photo. 13 year old Lindsey is begging 33 year old Lindsey to keep her shit together.
This is where it goes Lindsey-style awkward.
After the photo is taken, we are saying our goodbyes. Up til now I am still mainly at a loss for words, but I manage to ask Shirley for a hug and she is happy to give it to me.
Then I say to the band, my heroes, “thank you for giving me 20 years of something I can’t even explain to you. Thank you.”
Shirley fucking Manson looks at me and says “You don’t look old enough to have been listening to us for 20 years.”
“Oh. Uhh.. Well, I’m 33, so…” is all I can muster.
Now the entire band is audibly surprised by this and Shirley says to me “what is your secret?”
Now at this point I should be elated that I am trading beauty secrets with one of the most beautiful women on earth, but what actually happens is I am, for some reason, sort of moonwalking away from this conversation, all the while proclaiming “sunscreen!” as the answer to life’s problems. I don’t know why I am doing this but Butch Vig can plainly see I am starting to unglue a bit. He steps towards me and puts his hands on my shoulders and says “it’s ok, you’re lovely.” and he gives me a massive hug.
In hindsight, Butch Vig probably saved me from tripping over something and really making an ass of myself. A hero indeed.
After saying goodbye to the band I was told to walk down the same hall the band had entered from and go to the stage area. I would say this is about 100 feet. In that 100 feet I managed to have a big ugly cry AND pull myself together in time to join the other superfans.
The soundcheck is insane. We were supposed to get three songs and we got four. For the meet and greet, the band comes down off the stage and just chats with us on the floor for aout 15 minutes. At this point it really feels like we, the band and the superfans are all friends, that’s how incredibly and gracious Garbage is.
After all of that, there is still a face melting, two hour show to take in. It is positively everything I imagined it would be. There’s no describing how great the band sounded, how those songs took me to places I couldn’t truly fathom.
I never did write the damn card like I wanted to because I couldn’t find words. Even now, I don’t know what I could ever truly write that would reflect what Shirley, Steve, Duke and Butch have unknowingly given me for 20 years.
I hope my thank you and sunscreen advice was enough. It was the best I could do.