I met Nat at one of the many lobbies of the EDSA Shangri-La. She had, on her purse, a bunch of Philippine postcards and a rolled-up sheet of cartolina, and that’s apart from her bag, which, I assume, has the usual stuff a girl brings.
“First question I’ll ask,” I told her as I sat awkwardly on the armrest of the sofa she was in, “do you have a Sharpie?”
She pulled out a marker. Not a Sharpie per se, but it will do. “I bought this just yesterday,” she said.
Three years ago, Nat joined two contests offering a chance to meet and greet the Killers. One was from the concert organizers, while the other was from Tim Yap. “I joined both, so if I don’t win one, I still have the chance to win the other,” she told me. She ended up winning both, but upon touching down in Manila – she’s based in Cebu – she learned that the band had cancelled the concert, due to the death of vocalist Brandon Flowers’ mother.
Now she’s in Manila again, hoping for a chance to meet the Killers, who finally returned to Manila for what turned out to be a jam-packed concert last Thursday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Dismayed that, as the organizers tweeted her, there won’t be any meet and greets, nor even a press conference, she and a bunch of other fans – they call themselves Victims – decided to act on sheer speculation and stealthily camp out at the EDSA Shang, thinking it’s where the band will stay. It is, after all, a hotel close to the venue.
“It’s my first time doing this,” she said. “And probably the last time!”
Suddenly I got a little awkward, because this is something I’ve done before, sort of. Not entirely intentionally. Before Dia Frampton’s rush-order gig last January, I arrived at the Hard Rock Café a full nine hours before the event, acting on word that the first fifty fans who show up will get to meet the singer. That apparently didn’t happen, but I ended up meeting Dia as she arrived at the venue for a soundcheck. I didn’t get to watch the soundcheck – it would’ve be awesome from a blogger’s perspective – but I got a “moment” with Dia, and knowing fans, it’s something you’d really want to get your hands on.
Being a “next level fan” isn’t something I’m alien to, of course. I don’t do it a lot because I don’t go to a lot of concerts. When Keane went to Manila I didn’t even join the meet and greet contest, and they’re one of my absolute favorite bands. But I’ve seen fans of certain artists mobilize their resources to get close. They don’t mean to be creepy, of course, but most likely they’ll have flight details and hotel information and maybe, maybe, have figured out all the hotel’s back doors and passageways, all because they know folks from the inside. And you don’t have to be part of a fan group to know these things; just check Twitter whenever a One Direction tour happens. Or, locally, when K-pop artists stage concerts.
“At least you’re not a Directioner,” I told Nat. “You’re not booked here, aren’t you?”
Nat’s been a fan of the Killers since they first broke out with the release of Hot Fuss in 2004. “I’ve been listening to them
since I was 9 for the past nine years,” she said, and I assume she means this was even before the band made it big. “They always try to keep the Las Vegas element in their music,” she explained, as I attempted to make conversation about the group’s albums, calling Day & Age their “weird phase”, although I always liked the horn sections in there. She was also talking about an alternate version of one of their music videos, and I’m sure if she was referring to this one.
The least I offered was the little I know about the EDSA Shang, because I spent a good week there doing events, telling her where the back doors could be. She was, unfortunately, alone at the time – the other Victims with her had to step out for work – and her little idea of having several people keep watch over several points didn’t really happen. We ended up moving to the main lobby.
Admittedly I was daydreaming a bit then. What if we ended up meeting the Killers at the hotel? She, the fan, and me, the blogger who just wanted a story? Oh, I’d have friends to tease about it. Just like the Dia Frampton story, I wouldn’t live it down, at least for a few days. Now, from a blogger’s perspective, that would be very, very, very awesome.
She looked at her Twitter feed and panicked. “They’re in Manila already!” she said. A few tweets more, trying to find more details. “They’ve been here since five!”
I told her that traffic in Manila can be terrible at that time, so if they are indeed going to the EDSA Shang, there should be an hour and a half between getting off the plane and arriving at the hotel. “Unless,” I told her, “you’re in the wrong hotel and they’re checking in at the other Shang,” referring to the more expensive Makati Shangri-La.
“I hope so,” she said. “Nobody welcomed them at the airport.”
It was already half past six, and if my estimates are correct, they should be coming at the EDSA Shang any moment by then. That’s when I left Nat. I shook her hand, wished her luck, and made her promise to send me updates. “At the very least,” I said, “you have a very good spot during the concert itself.”
As it turns out, she was at the wrong hotel. She was at the wrong Shang. She and the other Victims went there – I assume she went by taxi, but she asked me if I could bring them there, which shouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that I’m already home – and waited at the lobby and, I think, even went floor by floor to find the band, to no avail. But on Thursday night, three years after winning an invalidated meet-and-greet pass, she finally had a photo with Brandon Flowers. She’s making it her Facebook profile photo, she tweeted. “Prolly never changing it to anything else, ever.” [NB]