By Rita Ballou

(LSM July/Aug 2011/vol. 4 – Issue 4)

Before this whole “Rita” blog thing happened, I had VERY limited “backstage” experience. Most of my concert-going experiences have involved waiting in line, buying a ticket, paying all the stupid service and convenience fees, forking over $3.25 for a beer, and standing my ass up at the front of the stage for two hours before the opening band even starts. And obviously, I am not the only one. Want to know why people do this? IT IS BECAUSE WE LOVE MUSIC.

Does this make us “gherms”?

The first time I ever heard the word “gherm,” I was “backstage” at a show. Oh and trust me, I thought I was cool. While I was soaking up the coolness, I overheard one band member say to another: “Shit man, that dude out there was gherming all over me last time we played here.” I had to research “gherm” immediately because damn it, I wanted to know all the cool kid lingo.

Here is the Urban Dictionary definitions of gherm:

Someone who slavishly follows and sucks up to a celebrity. A fan to an excessive degree. A person not affiliated with the music industry but who has connections that can get them backstage concert access.

Oh, em, gee … they were basically talking about me. Ouch.

Well, here’s my take on it and I know some people “in the scene” will disagree. All those gherms out there are the reason the artists get to do what it is they love to do for a living. Can gherms be annoying? Completely. Do artists “owe” gherms anything? Not a damn thing. When we buy a ticket to see a show, that is exactly what we are owed: a show. There isn’t a thing printed on the ticket that states we will get “one-on-one time” with the band or even get to meet them. But should that opportunity actually present itself, and we super fans end up acting a little less than cool around our favorite artists, is that really such a bad thing? No. So long as nobody gets, you know, psycho, a little gherming isn’t going to hurt anybody.

Now, with all that said, don’t think that just because you are a loyal, devoted fan means you get a free pass to be an asshole. Sometimes the gherm forgets their place and loses all of their social skills — especially after a few adult beverages. There is such a thing as Proper Gherm Etiquette that all us gherms tend to forget from time to time. I did a little research and discovered some unwanted gherm behavior. Honestly, I am a tad embarrassed to admit I am somewhat guilty of almost all of these, but here are just a few things your favorite band might want you to remember next time you are around the “talent”:

— Knock, Knock
Do not knock on the bus door! That bus is pretty much the band’s home, so unless you would walk up to their front door, ring the door bell and ask them to come out and hang with you — don’t do it before, during, or after a show. (And this should really go without saying, but don’t even think about just letting yourself in should the door be unlocked.)

— Greedy Gherm
Don’t be a Hogzilla! If you have already gotten a pick, a drumstick, a picture and an autograph, don’t start bitching to the stage manager about why you can’t have the set list, too. A good gherm always shares and this includes the artist’s time. Just say hello, get a picture, get your shit signed and beat it because there are 20 more people in the line behind you that need a turn, too.

— The Throwback
If you are tacky enough to throw your panties, your bra or even your cowboy hat on stage, don’t expect to get it back. It is not the band’s job to babysit your drawers. Better yet, just don’t throw anything on stage.

— This Drinking Thing
If you buy the band a shot or ask them to drink a beer with you at 10 a.m., don’t get all bent out of shape if they don’t. Hell, they didn’t ask for the damn drink — you bought it.

— Social Network Stalking
There is absoluetly no reason to send a friend request to an artist’s Aunt Corrine on Facebook just to see their family Easter-egg hunt pictures from 2008. That is just creepy. Also, lay off the “follow me, follow me, follow me” requests on Twitter; if they wanted to follow you, they would.

— Request This
It is not your show! Everyone in the bar already knows you are the bachelorette because you are wearing a veil with glow-in-the-dark condoms on it, so there is no need for the band to stop their set and announce it. The same goes for birthdays and engagement proposals. It doesn’t matter that you have been supporting the band for years, stop with the ridiculous demands — the band does not want to sing “Brown Eyed Girl” and change the lyrics to green because that is the color of your eyes.

 — Phone Home
I know how tempting this can be, but try to not shove your phone in a band member’s face and ask them to talk to your friend, mom, dog, or third-grade teacher. The band does not want to talk to your pissed-off girlfriend because you went to the show with your boys and they don’t want to wish your cousin in Iowa a Happy Birthday.

All of the above rules apply to gherms of all stripes. If you’ve ever done any of that stuff … take a guilty bow, and welcome to the club. But what kind of gherm are you? Some of the more common specimens include the following:

— The Family Tree Gherm
This is the guy that proclaims to be related to the band in some way. He is usually the brother of the drummer’s wife’s sister’s aunt that married and divorced his uncle’s third cousin. It is funny how this guy has never shown up to any of the family reunions, but because he is “kin” he assumes him and his five friends should be able to get into any show for free.

— The Betty Crocker Gherm
Betty is usually a very sweet female and she means no harm. She likes to bake goodies for the band, like cakes, brownies and cookies. But even though she is a great cook and the band appreciates all her hard work, the food usually goes straight into the trash because no one is positive she doesn’t have 27 cats spraying all over her kitchen countertops.

— The Worm Gherm
Everyone knows this guy. He is the fella with all the connections, the money and maybe a lake house or a deer lease, and that is what helps him “worm” his way into the band’s inner circle. He has more money than he knows what to do with, but for some reason he is also the first one to call and ask to be placed on the guest list. He doesn’t really enjoy the music, he just gets off on being able to name drop to his golfing buddies down at his country club about all his famous rock star friends.

— Barbie Gherm
You have all seen Barbie and her gal pals. She is the unbelievably gorgeous girl that can be found standing on the side of the stage or on the bus after every show. No one really has a clue how she got there, but she is hot and has hot friends so she is great to have around. Well, she is fun until it becomes obvious she doesn’t even know the name of the band and just wants to post all of the inappropriate “after party” pictures on Facebook just to make her friends jealous. Any band will work.

— After Party Gherm
This is the guy that doesn’t want the party to end. He is usually found slurring in the lead singer’s face at the merch table when the bar is closing. He has to invite the band over to his house about six times because he’s been cooking brisket all day and has 3 kegs of beer. The band usually takes the directions to his house just to get him to leave, but never shows up.

— Roadie Wannabe Gherm
This kid is a helper. He isn’t employed by the band or the venue, but he is the first one to show up and get to work. He is a great kid but no one knows where he came from and because he was never hired, he can’t be fired. He is a hard worker and helps load in and load out equipment, has a sharpie or a flashlight on him at all times, but no one can ever seem to remember his name. He doesn’t seem to mind, though, and don’t feel too bad for the kid because he’ll probably end up being the band’s tour manager in six months.

So yeah, we gherms are an easy lot to snicker at. And a lot of times, we probably have it coming. But apart from a few of the exceptions noted above, most gherms are first and foremost fans, and artists need to respect that if they expect to be respected in turn. If you’re a musician, once you’ve passed the pass-the-tip-jar stage of your career, and especially once you’ve graduated to headliner status, gherms come with the territory of being a successful performing artist. If you can’t stand the adoration, go be a mailman or find a retail job. Nobody ever asks for a Home Depot Employee of the Month’s autograph. So while it’s fair to ask your gherms to be cool and observe certain rules of good behavior, try to be cool yourself. When you know there’s a line of people just hoping to get your autograph after a show, instead of rolling your eyes, count your lucky stars that people are excited enough about what you do to care about getting your name scribbled on their CDs, ticket stubs, guitars, hats or even boobs. It’s not like you’re Bradgelina, so unless you’ve seriously got a plane to catch, get your duff off that bus and come out and sign some shit, already. And don’t do it because you feel obligated or because you “owe” it to us gherms (as already stated, you don’t); do it because you know how much it means to us. Because you’re a good person at heart, and you remember what it’s like to be a fan yourself, right? Even if not … fake it. It really helps move that merch.

Here’s the thing artists need to remember about their fans, even some of the more annoying ones. Most of the people that buy your music and T-shirts and concert tickets probably worked all day at crappy jobs, then fought traffic coming to the show and stood in line in 107-degree heat, all just in the hope of maybe forgetting about their shitty not-rock-star-lives for 90 minutes by getting lost in your music. And rest assured that 98.9-percent of the time, most of the gherms that stick around after the show don’t want to come over to your house for Thanksgiving and carve your family turkey; we just want the opportunity to say thank you and tell you how much we appreciate the way your music helps us escape from reality, if only for an hour or two.

Now, I’m not saying that some gherms aren’t obnoxious jackasses, and I’m not saying that all artists aren’t appreciative of their fans. I’m also aware that performing can leave artists exhausted, and sometimes there might be other legitimate obligations to tend to that might make it hard to really hang and mingle with fans after a show. But even the smallest gesture can really make a difference — and not just towards making a fan’s night special. Signing a few things and posing for pictures is a surefire way to keep people spreading the good word about your music and returning to your shows, which in turn can go a long way towards keeping you rolling down the road in your big fancy tour bus. So chalk it up to just being part of the gig, and then we all can all go back to our normal lives. Because let’s be honest here: no matter how big the biggest band in this particular music scene may be, none of them are so famous that they are going to get mobbed or need personal security like Britney Spears the next time they go to Wal-Mart. I, for one, would never dare walk up to an artist at HEB, or pester them for an autograph if I saw them having dinner with their family at a restaurant. But at a concert? You bet your ass I will.