“Bitches ain’t shit!” an audience member yelled from the crowd at Ben Folds, sitting alone on the stage with his grand Steinway piano.
“I’ll play it, but I don’t want to sing the second verse. Maybe if I could get someone to come up here and sing it, I’ll do it,” Ben replied.
Everyone in the audience started jumping in the air, waving their hands to get picked.
Lisa yelled at me, “Robbie! Jump up and down to get his attention! You need to do this!”
I was too busy clenching my ass together to keep from shitting myself to jump. I gave a half-hearted wave, nearly passing out from the sudden boost of adrenaline. I was about ten feet from my favorite musician ever. I can’t even explain how fucking pumped I was when I read the headline of our Brown and White a few weeks ago, “Folds to headline Sundaze.” Since then I had created several elaborate imaginary scenarios involving me somehow performing on stage with Ben, and in turn us becoming best friends for life. But I never thought it would actually happen. The first part at least.
Lisa yelled in my ear, “I think he sent a guy to come find a volunteer around that side. Get over there!”
Unable to form words, I immediately took off for the side of the stage where there were several concert volunteers talking.
“Where’s the guy picking volunteers?” I exclaimed breathlessly at a group of people wearing the same color shirt, which I correctly assumed was a team of volunteers and not a very small gang.
“Um… I think they got someone,” one of the volunteers replied.
“What the shit!” I retorted politely. Seeing my friend Megan, the head of the productions committee at Lehigh, I exclaimed, “I want to do this! Who else did you get?”
Megan replied, “Umm, I think we’ve got this kid’s friend Andy…”
“No. No. Fuck him. I need to do this,” I shot back with a crazed look in my eyes.
“I’ll try! But we have to see,” Megan said, clearly not understanding the gravity of the situation.
A moment later a volunteer returned with said Andy.
“Here’s Andy. You want to do this Andy?” Megan asked.
“Ah… I don’t know if I know the words,” Andy said.
“Weird. BECAUSE I FUCKING DO,” I offered.
Megan turned to me, “Alright, Robbie. You’ve got it. How much do you love me right now?”
“YES. Goddamned right.”
I shoved my fingers down my ears and began rapidly reciting the lyrics to “Bitches Ain’t Shit” while Ben finished up “Tom and Mary.”
Before the show began, Ben’s bus was parked above the field where the concert was being held. All of the windows were blocked out and the sides were extended.
“Do you think he’s up there right now?” I asked Elijah and Lisa.
“Yeah probs,” Elijah replied nonchalantly.
“That’s insane. That is just too insane. Ben Folds. Right there. Wow. Think I can knock on the door and meet him?”
Before either of them could finish saying yes, I was casually speed walking towards the bus. Three guys were outside it smoking. Before I even reached them I blurted out my question,
“Think I can shake Ben Folds’ hand?”
“What?” one replied, turning towards me. I was probably still thirty feet away so I had to kind of break into a jog to reiterate.
“Umm… think I can shake Ben’s hand?”
“He’s not even here holmes. He doesn’t come until the show starts.”
“Shit… so what do you guys do?” I asked uncomfortably.
“I’m internal sound, this guy’s external, and he’s the tour manager,” one said, pointing out each of the three long haired men.
“That’s so fucking cool!” I replied with girlish enthusiasm.
I ended up conversing with the guys for about twenty minutes before I literally could think of nothing else to say that wasn’t creepy or somewhere along the lines of, “What deodorant does Ben use?” There was one notable comment from the conversation:
Robbie: “So you guys ever do any really shitty shows?”
External Sound Guy: “Yeah, sometimes we have to do some fuck-all colleges in the middle of a field.”
Robbie: “Ha! Ha! Zing!”
I walked away slightly defeated, with no fewer degrees of separation to Ben than when I started.
Ben finished up “Tom and Mary” and had moved on to “Jesusland.”
“Can I get some water or something?” I begged loudly to no one in particular.
The tour manager turned around, “Uh… oh you’re the guy we talked to before! Here, take one of Ben’s spares.”
He handed me the water bottle. I took it into my hands, staring at it like it was Jesus’ blood. I can’t fucking believe this.
I immediately downed half the water. It was warm. Note to self: Ben Folds drinks warm Aquafina.
The tour manager led me to the stairs behind the stage.
“You know the words?” he asked.
“Hell yeah,” I replied confidently, praying my years of preparation wouldn’t fail me at this crucial moment.
Then I heard Ben say, “Alright, I think we got someone. Let’s bring him up on stage.”
At that point a strange calm came over me. I was totally unable to comprehend that it was the Ben Folds I was about to meet and perform with. I walked up on the stage with uncharacteristic coolness, and Ben got up from behind the piano and walked towards me.
“Hey man. What’s your name?” he asked, I think.
“Robbie,” I replied confidently, but completely without confidence.
“Good to meet you,” he said, smiling and doing a little head nod, “I think they’ve got your mic there.”
I walked over, picked up the mic and looked over the crowd. Despite probably being one of Ben’s smallest shows, it felt like the most people I’d ever seen in one spot.
“Alright, you might know him, here’s Robbie and he’s going to do this song with me,” Ben said.
Because I was completely without feeling at this point, the video will be a better indicator of what happened. All I know is that I never wanted our conversation/banter to end.
There are a few things I’d like to mention about my performance. One, it looks like I’m drunk and Ben may have assumed that, but I wasn’t remotely. I was just kind of flipping out and it seems to be how I get when in front of a lot of people. (Ex. The Upright Citizens Brigade thought I was high.) Two, the mic freaking out in the beginning fucked me up. Three, I have a hard enough time remembering lyrics to my own songs, and given the circumstances, it is a goddamn miracle I remembered any of them. Other than that I felt like it rocked. Also, to clarify, here’s what I said to him while walking away.
Robbie: “Yo, I tweeted you a song I wrote called ‘Rathbone.’ Don’t know if you’ve heard about it.”
Ben: “Yeah, I’ll check it out.”
Robbie: “Nice. See you man.”
Ben: “What’s it called?”
What’s funny is that my original plan was to get him to play “Rathbone” one way or another, and I even went so far as to write out the chords and lyrics for him which I had in my back pocket. But the possibility of him saying something like, “This song is shit,” would have been too soul-crushing for me to handle.
Also, while performing, I got exactly five text messages:
Cara: “NO FUCKING WAY FUCK WE SEE YOU FUCKER FUUUUUCK AAHHH AWESOME FUCK”
Unknown: “I hate u”
Antoin: “Play a song”
The rest of the show was a blur. I know a shirtless man kissed me. Lisa offered to break up with me or shove me in front of a car because, “Nothing she could ever do would make me happier in life.” Several people gave me high fives and drunken hugs. And Ben definitely looked directly at me and smiled during his last song, “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces.” I fucking swear.
Later that night I refused to leave my room because I couldn’t handle any more emotional stimulation. I hopped on Twitter and sent out a message,
I sat down on my bed, unsure of what to do next. Two minutes later, I got a text message from Kelly.
“OMFG. ROBBIE. He just tweeted about you. I can’t even stand it!!!”
Hopping up, I checked my Twitter.
It was a pretty productive day overall.
List of things to do before I die:
- Write a book with no words.
- Perform with Ben Folds.
- Convince DOB to let me write a Cracked article.
- Be in a Jake and Amir skit.
- Invent poncho pants.
One last thing. Ben so stole this idea from me. We’re cool though. I once tried to take credit for writing “Philosophy.”