Nadia Elharadly: Fanatic Fantasies can come true

This past week I realized without a shadow of a doubt that I am a fangirl.  It’s not any individual or group that triggers that buried aspect of my personality; it’s just one band, and that band is Soundgarden.  I’ve loved this band since I was barely a teenager.  If you asked my teenaged self what I wanted more than anything in the world, I would have said a tie between two things:  to see Soundgarden play the music I loved so much live and, and maybe, JUST maybe, to actually meet the band in person.  And thanks to a series of planned miracles, last week I got to do not one, but both of those things.

If you’ve never had that feeling of euphoria from meeting that larger than life person (or group of people) that you’ve put on a pedestal since your youth, you may as well stop reading now because this column is just going to read “gush gush gush gush gush gush gush” for the next several hundred words.  For the rest of you who “get it” (I know you’re out there) keep reading because I’m going to share with you what turned out to be the best day of my music fanatic life, and why that event meant so very much to me.

Last week I wrote in my birthday wish list that through the work of my dear friend Mark, I had in my possession two extremely sought after tickets to the Soundgarden show taking place at the Phoenix Concert theatre right here in Toronto.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to be going to see my favourite band live, especially in such a small venue.  Being in such a small space with these idols of mine would make my birthday week complete.  So when I heard that there was a chance to be in an even smaller space with this iconic band, I knew I had to run with it.  I’d been advised that the band was going to be doing an intimate and interactive session at the 102.1 the Edge studios.  A good friend and fellow music lover happened to work for the station’s parent corporation, Corus, and graciously offered to at least get me into the building, and with any luck, get me and fellow insane fangirl Emy into the session if he could swing it.  So down we went to Corus Quay, Emy and I, to meet our friend Bobby Singh who literally held the magic key (card) to our teenage dream destinies.  And truly, if it wasn’t for Bobby’s employment related access and his cool headed ability to think and speak, we would have remained wide eyed and speechless, and most importantly, in the hall way the entire time the interview and fan meet and greet took place.  Hell, I was so out of my mind with anticipation that upon seeing a tall, bearded man walk through the hallway just one glass doorway away from me, exclaimed “What is George Lucas doing here?”  To which a much more clear headed and clear eyed Bobby replied “That’s not George Lucas, that’s Ben Shepherd, and THAT’S SOUNDGARDEN.”

(Bobby with the boys – photo from Edge.ca)

That’s when it began – the giggles, the smiles, the shakes, and the overall giddiness of the insanity of the whole experience.  Again, Bobby held things together while Emy and I couldn’t, chatting with the people walking freely in and out of the studio, finally getting the ear of Ross Winters, Edge program director.  One look at Emy and me, with our wide eyes and huge, hopeful smiles, proved how fanatical we truly were.  A firm handshake and extremely logical explanations from Bobby ended up being our ticket in.  And there we were, in the same room as Soundgarden.  And there they were; drummer Matt Cameron, as fit, quiet and stoic as ever.  Ben Shepherd, the quiet, sometimes surly, always sarcastic bassist, heavier set and bearded, unlike the photographs I pored over in my youth.  Kim Thayil, the band intellectual, looking almost exactly the same were it not for the grey in his beard and hair.  And who could forget Chris Cornell; just as gorgeous as ever, a frontman for the ages, and the first crush I can ever remember having.  That crush is just as strong today as it was when I was younger; I realized this fact when I found it nearly easy to say hello, and venture a few words to the other members, but to Cornell all I could do was put out my hand for him to shake, smile shyly and quickly avert my eyes.

Did I say handshake? That’s right.  Not only did we get to sit in the tiny Edge Studio, watching Soundgarden get interviewed, but we got to meet them, shake their hands and have our photo taken.  It was probably one of the most surreal moments of my life (except for the times when I wished I was conducting the interview instead of listening to Dave Bookman do it – typical music journalist).  How I managed to marginally hold it together in front of the band is still beyond me.  I stood, I smiled, I posed, I even spoke a few words to each of them (except Cornell as previously mentioned).  Emy and I even managed to ask Kim Thayil if they’d ever played my very favourite song (“Tighter and Tighter” from Down on the Upside) live.  He seemed at least mildly impressed that we mentioned the song, and even humoured me by saying that they’d like to but they had to focus on the new material.   The second that moment ended, I went into a state of shock.  “I just had a conversation with Kim Thayil, about MUSIC.”  That was probably the longest interaction I was able to have with them.

The second the men of Soundgarden were out of ear and eye-shot, the shakes returned, and the tears came.  I’d completely reverted back to that younger self of mine, a time when, despite the teenage angst, the world still held such wonder and mystery.  I couldn’t believe that I’d met these people that I’d held in such high regard for so long.  It wasn’t just that I was happy in that moment, but I was happy for my younger self.  I knew she would have been so incredibly happy, and I was happy that I could make that happen for her, and for myself.  I know there are many people out there who wouldn’t understand meeting why meeting Soundgarden thrilled me so very much.  To anyone else these four men were just four men.  To some they could be seen as the amazing musicians that they are.  But to me, they were not only people I’d looked up to my entire life, but these men, this band, represented so very much more to me.

Over the past few days, my overindulgence in my Soundgarden fanaticism has garnered me what I think was far more than my fair share of sideways glances, eye rolls and “what is wrong with you” statements from many people in my life.  I can hear and see what they’re thinking; “what’s the big deal? It’s just a band.”  But to me, Soundgarden is not just a band, and it never has been.  Soundgarden represents the first music I ever really, truly loved.  There is nothing more raw, true and even sweet than a teen or preteen kid hearing that first piece of music that truly speaks to them, right into their soul.  And that’s what Soundgarden did for me.

When I was a teenager I was shy, I was dorky, and like most other teenagers, I was lost.  Finding music in the nineties was my way of finding, not quite myself, but a part of myself.  It helped me feel cooler, and it gave me something to do with my over active mind.  But it wasn’t just any music that gave me that feeling.  From the age of eight or nine I was experimenting with my musical taste.  My mother exposed me to music videos in the eighties, my father to the Beatles, Edith Piaf and many different Egyptian singers.  I still remember buying my first cassette tape ever as a kid: Bryan Adams Waking up the Neighbours.  None of those types of music really triggered as intense of a reaction as that first time I heard the title track from Soundgarden’s Superunknown album.  I was 13 years old, and from the second that heavy, intense yet melodic sound I knew I would never be the same, and I never was.  I’d found something to be passionate, even obsessive about for the first time in my young life, and I threw myself into that obsession wholeheartedly.  I can’t tell you the amount of times I holed myself in my bedroom in my parents’ house with the latest Soundgarden album I could get my hands on playing on my boom box, my eyes devouring every image and word on the CD insert and my ears discerning and dissecting every sound, word and note coming from the speakers.  I bought every CD I could get my hands on, even the most obscure compilations to make sure I had everything that Soundgarden had ever created.  I bought every magazine that mentioned any of the members’ names.  I analysed lyrics, tried to interpret the meaning behind the words that meant so much to me, and tried to learn everything I could about the music to try to understand the people who created it.  It comforted me; it gave me a sense of purpose.  It was more than a hobby, more than an intellectual pursuit – it was a passion.  Back then, music meant everything to me.  And when I thought of music, the first thing I thought about was Soundgarden.

So what I want everyone reading this to understand is simple; my love of Soundgarden truly boils down to my overall love of music.  If it wasn’t for my discovery at 13 years old, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today at 32 years old.  Because I learned to love Soundgarden as intensely as I did, I learned to love music as much as I do.  I learned to seek out new and unknown music.  I learned to open my mind to all sorts of types of music.  And most of all, I learned that I could write about music, and share that love with other people.  That’s right, if I had never heard “Superunknown” on the radio nearly two decades ago, I wouldn’t have ever written my blog, or for the Examiner.  I would never have met Bob and I wouldn’t be writing this column right now.  I wouldn’t have met any of the wonderful friends I’ve met along this adventure of mine.  And I would never have had this smile on my face.

So thank you so much to my dear friend Emy, for sharing my music fanatical moment and engaging in our shared insanity.  And a huge HUGE thank you to the wonderful and talented Mr. Bobby Singh for schmoozing us into that Edge meet and greet.  Thank you for indulging Emy and I in our shakey handed, teary eyed fangirl experience, and capturing every swooning, smiling and hysterically laughing moment.  And most of all, thank you for smiling and laughing right along with us.  Only a true music fanatic can understand what we were feeling at the time, and not only did you understand it, but you supported it every step of the way.

Another teenage dream come true, thanks to good luck, good timing and great friends.

Until next time,

Xo

N

Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

2 Responses to “Nadia Elharadly: Fanatic Fantasies can come true”

  1. We raise our fangirl flag in Celebration of this event!!!

  2. […] any of you read my column on meeting Soundgarden, you’ll know that I had the best fan experience of my life this year.  I won’t go back into […]

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