portrait of an idol

In my mind’s eye, six-year-old me is still sitting in the back seat of my dad’s sun-baked, forest green 1998 Ford Windstar. Entranced, I watch as from his coat pocket he produces a shrink wrapped copy of Room For Squares — the first studio album released by John Mayer in 2001. With a smile still untouched by Hollywood hecklers and the heavy burden of fame, then 23-year-old Mayer appears at once enigmatic and blissfully naive, gazing out from behind the tiled cover.

From the moment the disc was loaded in that old stereo system, my childhood would forever be colored by that sound.

Fourteen years and six concerts later, I’m still reeling from the sublime sense of understanding that comes with discovering music that resonates on a profound level for the first time. Throughout all my phases and brief fascinations, my appreciation for Mr. Mayer has never faltered.

Over the next few years, I would log countless hours with him on my pink CD player, totally entranced by his knack for hauntingly hopeful pop melodies. I used to spend whole afternoons sprawled out on the little pink rug in my bedroom, which at the time was big enough to fit my entire body length but now looks closer in size to a welcome mat. I would close my eyes and try to decipher the meanings behind his witty lyrical turns of phrase, which awakened my love of poetry long before I ever decided to become a literature major.

By the time I was seven, I had been vocal enough about my enthusiasm to compel my parents to take me to see him live in concert. A deep, spiritual feeling of inner peace washed over me as soon as that man stepped on stage — a phenomenon that has remained consistent at every show since. There is something to be said for an artist who is able to bridge the musical gap between parents and their adolescent children. Never one to issue records with parental advisories, Mayer embodies what I have coined the road trip phenomenon — one I’ve often spoken about with friends, who remember him for being the only artist everyone in the family could agree to listen during long cross country drives.

I wholeheartedly accredit Room For Squares as having been essential to the development of my soul, both as a human being and an audiophile. Since its 2001 release the album has gone platinum, selling over one million units. In the sixteen years since, Mayer has worked earnestly to expand his musical wingspan to encompass not only the acoustic pop style that rocketed him to fame, but also the genre on which he built his foundation — the blues.

As a teenager, Mayer worshipped at the altar of musical idolatry in much the same way as many would go on to worship him. Convincing his dad to drive him down to the local record store, he would hunt the racks for the discs that would become his greatest inspirations. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Albert King sat beside our young hero in that twilight dimension in which their spirits lingered just behind the veil. Patiently, they rewinded track after track as Mayer played along into the wee hours of the morning. This is where the blues was reborn, in the small bedroom of a thirteen year old boy in suburban Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1991.

Flash forward to 2017, and Mayer’s standing in the musical world is quickly approaching legend status. Returning to the stage to perform solo after a four year hiatus, his 2017 world tour is well underway. With a devastating new album called The Search For Everything, Mayer explores the depths of love, loss, pain, and the complex process of moving on.

This is where my story comes full circle. Being a super fan, I am signed up to receive everything from Google Alerts to Tweet notifications to official tour email updates. Basically, every time the man exhales, I am notified. When the news came through earlier this year that he would soon release a new album and launch the US leg of the tour, I was ecstatic. As I read the fine print of the email, I caught a small detail that would change my life forever: a select number of VIP meet and greet tickets will be available at each venue of the North American tour. My heart practically jumped out of my chest. Pulse racing, I embarked on a single-minded mission — if there was any way I could make this happen, any way at all, I was going to do it.

Months later, on April 9th, 2017 at Boston’s TD Garden, my father and I followed the twenty-two other VIPs backstage, where we waited in front of a black curtain while security explained how the procedure would go. “No kisses, no piggy back rides, no funny business,” they told us firmly, with a knowing twinkle in their eyes. Tears elbowed their way to the edge as I realized the moment I had been dreaming of since I was seven years old was now only seconds away. I took a deep breath as they waved me through the curtain.

Flashback to July 12th, 2008…and here we have 11 year old me, standing in front of the John Mayer promotional BlackBerry truck before his concert at what is now the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts. IMG_1221Before…

IMG_1224

And after: Nine years later, same girl, same t-shirt, same idol. Some things never change.FullSizeRender (1)

John and I have been through a lot over the years, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve both “glo’d up” since 2008.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe how it feels to have your one actual, literal Wildest Dream come true. Mr. Mayer was absolutely lovely, gracious, kind (and extremely tall). If there is any artist that truly appreciates their fans, it’s him. All I can tell you is that the little girl standing in front of the BlackBerry truck in 2008 would positively die of happiness if she only knew what the future held.

So now, I’ve got some thank-you’s that need issuing.

First of all to my father, without whom I could not have accessed the beautiful music that shaped my childhood.

Next, I’d like to thank the scout from Aware Records who signed a young Mayer after his performance at Austin’s SXSW in 2000. You found him when we needed him most.

Lastly, to Mr. John C. Mayer — no combination of words will ever be able to express just how much you mean to me (and so many others), so we’ll just keep repeating this as long as we live:

THANK YOU.

 

Margeaux Sippell, Intern

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