I honestly don’t remember the first time I heard Bruce Springsteen. Growing up as kid whose hippie parents’ favorite music included Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt and John Prine, Springsteen just sort of showed up in the background every now and then.
But I'll always remember the first time I heard “Nebraska” in its entirety. It’s a dark album with heavy themes that happen to fit a really dark period of my life when I first stumbled upon it at 20 years old.
As a college student dealing with a whole lot of life at a young age while struggling to pay bills with a full-time dead-end job at the mall and pursing a journalism degree at the University of Cincinnati, those tracks hit home. (But I’m not a serial killer, which is the subject of the first track titled “Nebraska.” Promise.)
I can’t count how many times I’ve had late-night conversations with friends and acquaintances over the years about my obsession with it. The only other album I’ve had that same degree of passion for is “The Last Waltz” by The Band, but that’s a whole other conversation.
“Nebraska” haunts you. It felt like I was discovering a secret.
For that reason Springsteen’s fans will go to great lengths to see him perform – let alone get the chance to meet him. All I had to do was scout out tickets online, but the intensity felt like I had entered a digital war zone.
At the strike of noon last Tuesday, the ticket link would be posted to the Joseph-Beth Booksellers Facebook page and I was ready with my mouse hovered over the refresh button on my web browser, credit cards out and ready to go.
Unfortunately, Springsteen has a dedicated fan base.
Within seconds I was able to get two tickets and when I went to check out, the event page crashed. The page kept reloading because of the heavy web traffic. I tried for about 30 minutes just pressing the refresh button over and over again until I saw those crushing words flash across the screen: “Sold out.”
As a music photographer, I know how hard it can be to get access like that, especially to Bruce Springsteen of all people. I looked at the comments on the Joseph-Beth Facebook page and I found that many others were in the same boat.
Everyone was expressing sheer heartbreak.
I think I may have cried at work.
I was begging the internet for help in finding a ticket, beginning my posts like every other one I saw on Facebook: “But he’s my favorite! You don’t understand!”
A few days later I received an email from an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years who saw my desperate plea. As luck would have it she happened to have an extra ticket (I owe you big time, Jen!). I didn’t tell anyone about it because I was afraid somehow it would jinx it from really happening.
I was about to meet Bruce Springsteen.
Then the big day arrived. I woke up early and had my best all-black outfit ready to go. I met my friend to pick up tickets early then we waited for a few hours until groups were called to lineup.
It was actually a really smooth process. Once we got wristbands all we had to do was wait for the man himself to arrive. I was actually commending myself for how composed and collected I was, given the fact that I was about to meet one of the most famous musicians in history.
When I saw him perform at U.S. Bank Arena a few years ago, despite being seated in the nosebleed section, I did not keep it cool. I was screaming and loudly singing along. He and his band performed for more than three hours. It’s a good thing I have patient friends.
Clearly, I’m a fan girl.
But when I saw Bruce arrive and wave to his more than 1,000 fans from atop the Joseph-Beth staircase as we lined up below, I felt those pesky butterflies begin to fly around my stomach.
“Oh, hello nerves!”
Before I knew it I was standing just a few feet away for my big photo-op with him.
A security person gently nudged me to inform me I was next, showing me where to stand. That’s when I noticed my the muscles in my body were freezing.
Right away I noticed we had the same outfit on so I knew it was going to go well. Black shirt, black pants, black leather jacket, black boots. (The couple who matches together stays together, right?)
I was told I could go next. Those three steps I took felt like a mile. I started to shake, but was trying to hide it the best I could.
Before I knew it I was standing right next to Springsteen.
“Hello," he said warmly. "Thanks for coming out.”
He put his arm around me to pose for a photo. I could no longer remember how to smile. Or talk.
When my turn was over I got my phone back from the employee who took the photos and realized it was my only chance to probably ever talk to him.
“Nebraska means everything to me!” I yelled like a crazy person.
He chuckled and said, “Thank you. Good to hear” in a calm, normal-person tone.
Then a security guard nudged me again. Time to get moving.
I had rehearsed a much more coherent dialogue where I would have told him how much his music means to me and has been the soundtrack of my life these past 12 years. From late-night dance parties and road trips across the country to painful breakups and losses.
I Ieft the venue with my signed copy of his new book and photos I could not wait to text my parents. I had to wait for my nerves to dissipate before starting my car and heading back to work.
With the adrenaline and excitement still running high, I put my Springsteen albums on shuffle and headed to work. Because when significant things happen in life, there’s nothing like disappearing into your favorite music.