There are very few bands I’d truly do anything for, but Counting Crows are one of them. After all, they’ve done enough for me.
Counting Crows were the reason I met my ex-wife, and were the reason I got through the subsequent divorce when a mutual admiration for the music of Adam Duritz and his chums proved not enough to sustain a successful marriage.
Duritz and his wonderful lyrics were there to get me through bouts of depression, and to keep me focused and inspired through the kind of struggles that I suppose many people face at some point in their lives. When things were good, it was the music performed by his band mates that made them even better, that made the sun shine a little brighter, and that generally worked their magic in soothing my soul in times of stress.
So yeah, it’s fair to say Counting Crows have become a pretty important part of my life over the last several years, and whenever they’re playing live in the UK, buying a ticket is something that just has to be done.
I’ve seen the band live a bunch of times, most notably in 2009, when the aforementioned ex-wife and I traveled 215+ miles to see them at T in the Park festival in Scotland.
We’d already been to a Counting Crows gig earlier that year in Manchester, though whilst that show was essentially a birthday present for yours truly, it was the T in the Park gig that stands out in my mind the most, and not just for the epic journey we made for the sake of seeing our shared favourite band.
I remember it for being a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon, I remember being right there on the front row, and most of all, I remember poor Adam with his foot in plaster.
Whatever he’d done to wind up in said plaster, it didn’t stop him tearing about the stage with usual passion, roaring through some of the band’s most well-loved song in a show as good as any I’ve been fortunate enough to see them perform.
I’m scrolling through Facebook, and catch a post from the band’s official page announcing a tour in support of their new album, Somewhere Under Wonderland. I’ve been enjoying that particular album already, and besides, it’s Counting Crows, so buying a ticket is a no brainer.
Navigating to Ticketmaster to check out prices, I suddenly become even more excited than I usually do when I know I’m about to book a ticket for my favourite band: Counting Crows VIP Meet-and-Greet tickets, whilst not exactly cheap, were something I could absolutely afford if I just saved up for a few weeks.
So save up I did.
I don’t tell many people this, but hidden among my personal stuff, I have what I call The Life List. It’s basically the same thing as a bucket list, except without the morbid reminder that I’ll one day snuff it. Close to the top of that list are three simple words:
Meet Adam Duritz
With that list firmly in mind, I saved up, I booked the meet-and-greet ticket, and then I squealed like a 13 year-old girl who finds she’s got herself a date with One Direction.
This was it. I was going to shake the hand of the man who’s music had gotten me through the best and worst of times, the man who I wasn’t entirely convinced hadn’t been stalking me my whole life and writing songs about exactly what I did and how I felt. Life was good. Life was awesome.
And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.
I’ve had this dodgy knee ever since I was a kid, and after 15 years or so of frequent dislocations and much pain, the kind folk at the hospital finally opted to do something about it by subjecting me to knee reconstruction surgery.
At first, I didn’t worry too much. Surgery was set for September 9th, my date with Counting Crows wasn’t until early November. That gave me a full two months to recover properly, and according to the surgeon, I wouldn’t even really need that long.
Oh how wrong he was.
The first few days after surgery were some of the worst I’ve ever experienced. The first few weeks weren’t much better either. I could barely walk, I was terrified of falling, my mental health took a tumble towards the brink of despair, and I was convinced I’d never recover.
At my first follow-up with the surgeon’s office, I was told that if I didn’t get my ass in gear and work hard, they’d have to put me under again and do even more surgery.
So I tried. Really tried. I bust my ass, I put myself through all kinds of pain, but no matter what I did, I just couldn’t get this damn knee to recover the way it was supposed to.
Then I remembered Mr. Duritz, hobbling around on that stage in Scotland with his foot in plaster, going all out to entertain me and my fellow ‘Crows fans despite whatever pain he was going through. If Adam could put his injury aside to give himself completely to his fans, then I could get my ass in gear and work this knee to the point that travelling to Manchester just to shake his hand and say ‘thank you.’
And I did, more or less. With that thought firm in my mind, I worked harder, I gritted my teeth through the pain, I pushed and I lifted and I exercised over and over. I did whatever I had to do to be physically fit enough to meet the Counting Crows, but it wasn’t enough.
I made a lot of progress in short time, but with the gig two weeks away, I knew I wasn’t going to be strong enough to be able to take myself to Manchester. In a bit of a panic, I shot off an email to Rockandrolltshirts.com, promoters of this whole VIP. I explained how important Counting Crows were for me, and how bummed I was that I might not be able to get there solo as planned.
Literally just a few hours later, I received an email back from a wonderful woman named Lori, who offered me some help: I could take along a friend who -though they understandably wouldn’t be able to take part in the meet-and-greet- would be able to give me some support in getting around.
Phew, I was saved!
When the day came, it turned out that the buddy I’d roped into helping me out couldn’t make it. There was nothing for it, I’d have to go it alone.
Day of the gig
Up to this point, me and my crutches had gone no further than the shop at the end of my road. Now, for the first time since surgery, and still in a lot of pain, I was going to take myself to Manchester.
The day came. I got a taxi into town, a bus ride into the city, and a second taxi up to the venue. By the time I got there, I was already in all kinds of pain. The short distance I’d had to walk between busses and taxis had taken their toll, and I arrived at the Manchester Apollo hurting something fierce.
Still, I’d made it this far now. I was getting closer. All I had to do was wait…and wait…
Minutes seemed to drag on like hours as I waited with my fellow VIPs outside the venue, first to collect our VIP passes, and then to be welcomed into the venue to catch the last few songs of Counting Crows’ soundcheck.
By the time I got close enough to watch them in all their pre-show glory, I could barely stand, let alone walk, but I’d made it to the proverbial promised land, and that was all that mattered.
Singing along to their soundcheck, swept up in songs I’d heard a thousand times before yet which never failed to completly captivate me, the pain -if only for a short while- didn’t seem so bad.
Then it was time to form a line for a photograph with the band. I knew all along that I’d only have but the briefest of moments with them, though despite everything, I was still intent on making the most of it.
I’d planned on shaking each of their hands, of saying thank you to each of them, of saying something, anything, to let this group of men know how much their art meant to me.
Instead, by the time I’d hobbled over and parked myself between Jim and Adam, the pain in my knee, along with being admittedly a little startruck, left me temporarily dumb.
I was flustered and sore, and not feeling altogether to great. Then it happened. Adam Duritz, the man whose words have meant more to me than those of anybody else, stuck his hand out and introduced himself.
“Hi,” he said with a bright, sincere smile. “I’m Adam.”
This was it, I thought. Say something. Say anything. Anything.
“Hi Adam, I’m Chris. Thank you.”
That was it. That was all I could muster. A quick photo later, and it was all over, though not before Immy told me to ‘Enjoy the show later.’
‘Oh, I will,’ I lied, knowing full well that I was now hurting so bad that the only thing for it was to get my exhausted, aching body home.
The journey home turned out to be even worse than the journey there, but even then, I knew it was worth it. I’d met my hero, I’d been up close and personal with the one band I’d truly do anything for, and though it hadn’t quite gone how I’d imagined, I had at least managed to utter those two little words, thank you.
OK, so it wasn’t quite the kind of thanks I would have liked to have delivered. The way nerves and pain took hold of me that day, you’d be forgiven I was saying thank you for saying hi, rather than, you know, thanks for being such a big part of my life.
But now, with my knee almost back at 100%, I’m sure I’ll get another chance to say all that some day down the line.
Nor did I ever really say a proper thank you to Lori at Rockandrolltshirts.com. She didn’t have to reply to me at all, let alone do what she could to make sure I could get to the show, even if I did end up going there by myself after all.
So I’m saying it now, and after this, I’m going to put Somewhere Under Wonderland on and get on with some more knee rehabbing. After all, Counting Crows have been there through everything else in my life, why not this?