On September 7 I attended my first Bruce Springsteen concert. Three weeks later I met “The Boss.” Well, to be accurate, I did see Bruce perform with The E Street Band when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame two years ago. I was there with my cousin, mainly to see KISS and Hall & Oates be inducted, but seeing Bruce rock out, along with several other rock icons, made for an entertaining evening full of music. Nevertheless, the Bruce Springsteen concert I attended three weeks ago was my first time seeing a full-length performance by New Jersey’s favorite son, and it was awesome. It was also the longest U.S. concert he’s ever performed. But enough of that. Let me tell you about Bruce’s event at the Free Library of Philadelphia promoting his new autobiography: Born to Run.
This event was billed as a meet and greet, not a book signing. In other words, the big selling point of this event was that you could shake Bruce’s hand, say a few words to him and pose for a photo with “The Boss.” To me, this was an exciting proposition. The way I see it, you can buy an autographed book on eBay if you want it badly enough, but you can’t buy a photograph of yourself with Bruce Springsteen online. Therefore, this event, which cost only $33 to attend, was worth way more than they were charging. Unfortunately, tickets for the event sold out in six minutes when they went on sale. I had tickets in my cart but the site crashed and when I refreshed the page it said: “This event is sold out.” Thankfully, I spoke with several people at the library who straightened things out and provided me with a ticket to attend the event.
The meet and greet was scheduled to take place from 12 to 2 p.m., but Bruce showed up 90 minutes early for a similar event in Freehold earlier in the week, so I knew to arrive early to ensure I wouldn’t miss out on meeting him. I figured 10 a.m. was early enough. I was wrong. By that time there were already hundreds of fans in line. So many that the line wrapped around the block. By the time the doors opened and people started to file in, there were 1,200 Bruce Springsteen fans waiting to meet their idol. And many of us were clutching umbrellas, trying to make sure the constant drizzle didn’t ruin our hair or outfits. Who wants to look like a drowned rat in their photo with Bruce Springsteen? Not me.
While waiting in line I met and spoke with several fans, many of whom had seen Bruce live numerous times. It was great hearing their stories and speculating with them about what to expect from this meet and greet. As I inched my way closer to the door, I pulled out my ticket and got my camera ready. After crossing the threshold of the library, I was greeted by an employee who scanned my ticket and I was given a wristband. A table filled with autographed copies of Bruce’s book was right in front of me and I was handed one as I passed by. Everyone turned to the left and was led down a hallway to a wing of the library that was closed off specifically for this event.
I entered the room and peered to my right where I saw Bruce in front of a step-and-repeat banner emblazoned with the library’s logo. An employee took my umbrella, bag and jacket and another took my camera. I instructed her to press and hold the button until the camera flashed. I find that since we’re all so used to using smartphones many people no longer know how to use a traditional camera, so I wanted to make sure she understand how it worked. After all, they were only going to take one photo of me with Bruce, so it better be a good one. I was told to stand on a black marker, right next to the person about to meet Bruce. After a few seconds I approached “The Boss,” shook his hand and said, “Bruce, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He said, “Thanks, it’s great to meet you too!” I put my arm around him and we faced the photographer who snapped the photo. I turned to him and shook his hand saying, “Thanks, Bruce. I really appreciate it. Have a great day!” He replied, “Thanks, you too!” I was then ushered out of the building, along with all of the other fans who had just met him. As I expected, it was incredibly fast. But I got to meet and interact with an American icon, get my photo taken with him and leave with an autographed copy of his autobiography. It doesn’t get much better than that.
by Michael Cavacini
What Bruce Did… Just for Me!
As a concert reviewer and photographer, this past summer, I had an opportunity to cover a show by one of my favorite bands from the 1960s — The Buckinghams — a group who topped the charts in 1967 with one of my favorite tunes when I was a kid, “Kind of a Drag.”
The show took place at The Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ, and The Buckinghams shared the bill with another one of my favorite groups from that era, The Grass Roots.
After conducting a backstage interview with Grass Roots’ bass player, Mark Dawson, he was kind enough to introduce me to founding member and current lead singer of The Buckinghams, Carl Giammarese.
Carl turned out to be one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.
He told me stories about how The Buckinghams’ use of horns in their music influenced another group from his hometown to become a horn band. That group, The Big Thing, went on to rename themselves after their native city, Chicago, and to have great success with hits like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Saturday in the Park,” and many more.
Carl also talked about appearing on TV in the ’60s with The Buckinghams on shows like The Ed Sullivan Show where they performed their ‘67 hit, “Susan.” He also said they appeared on The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour, where a set decorator mistakenly thought the group was British and dressed the set with a backdrop featuring multiple Union Jacks and, at break time, even had a meal of fish and chips prepared for the five lads from America’s “Windy City.”
One last thing Carl told me was that for all of the times he and the band have performed in New Jersey, he’d always hoped that — at least once in his lifetime — New Jersey rock legend Bruce Springsteen would show up at one of their concerts and join them rockin’ out on stage. And, further, since The Buckinghams were performing this evening in Ocean Grove — just a stone’s throw away from the town Bruce put on the map, Asbury Park, NJ — he thought this would be the perfect night for it to finally happen.
The show that evening was incredible — even without the appearance of Bruce — but I tucked away that piece of information and saved it for possible use some other day.
Fast forward to mid-September.
I get a message from my photographer friend, Kevin, who tells me that he has just gotten a ticket to meet Bruce Springsteen on Sept. 27 between the hours of noon and 4 p.m. at Bruce’s book signing appearance at the Barnes & Noble store in Freehold, NJ. There, he will get to purchase a pre-signed copy of Bruce’s new autobiography, Born to Run, and will also get a chance to say “hi” and have his photo taken with The Boss.
Oh, and Kevin also tells me that he got me a ticket, too!
The first thing I think is: “Wow! Thanks!”
The next thing I think is: “Wow! My brother is a HUGE Bruce fan! I can get him a signed copy of Born to Run!”
And the next thing I think is: “Wow! Carl and The Buckinghams are going to be playing their next NJ concert in November! Maybe somehow I can invite Bruce to attend!”
So the day before the big meet-and-greet event, I come up with…
THE PLAN is to personally give Bruce a gift of a package of greeting cards featuring photographs I’ve taken, which either have titles of Bruce songs or which feature images of concert artists I’ve photographed recently who are associated with Bruce songs.
As such, in my package of cards, I include an image of a car I found on Highway 9 which I call “Born to Run,” a picture of a jaguar I humorously titled “Kitty’s Back,” and a black and white photo of a barn owl I named “Spirit in the Night,” in addition to a photo of singer Darlene Love, whose latest album features a version of Bruce’s song, “Night Closing In.”
Lastly, I cleverly add a greeting card which features a photo of Carl and his band performing “Kind of a Drag” which is attached to a little note I added that says, “Bruce…You are invited to join Carl Giammarese and The Buckinghams to sing ‘Kind of a Drag’ — or any other song you’d like — at their upcoming New Jersey concert on November 17 at BergenPAC in Englewood, NJ.”
With my secret plan complete, the next day, I set off to meet Bruce.
Arriving at the parking lot behind the Barnes & Noble in Freehold at 12 p.m. sharp, I see Kevin, the man who gave me my ticket — walking towards me — and, boy, does he look happy!
Evidently, because it looked like rain, Mr. Springsteen was kind enough to show up an hour and a half early to the event — as a result, even though the clock has just struck 12, Kevin is already on his way home with his signed copy of Born to Run and his cool photograph featuring himself and THE BOSS!
“So how was it?” I inquire.
“It was great!” Kevin says smiling. “You’re gonna have a blast!”
Soon I find myself at the first security checkpoint where I’m required to present my ticket. After doing so, a guard lets me in and guides me to a security table where my little point-and-shoot camera is visibly checked and approved for entry.
My heart sinks, however, when I’m told I must “surrender” my gift for Bruce — my little bag of notecards with the ingeniously-added Buckinghams card and its attached invitation — as no items are to be given to Mr. Springsteen inside the building at the meet-and-greet event today.
Rather, I am permitted to write Bruce a personal note which will be attached to my gift, so I start writing:
“Hi Bruce… I cover concert events in NJ and I recently caught up with Carl Giammarese and The Buckinghams who would LOVE to have you attend their next NJ concert…”
The kind security agent carefully tapes the note to my gift and then places it into an enormous box filled with other presents to be delivered to The Boss following today’s event.
Next, I am directed to the fairly long line of folks who are waiting to A) purchase their signed copies of Born to Run and then B) take their turns to meet Bruce and have their photos taken with him.
In line, I meet some really interesting people!
In front of me is a fellow who says he’s from Asbury Park by way of Milan, Italy. He’s here to get a photo of himself with The Boss to send to his family back home.
I meet a man whose wife has packed him a nice meal in his NY Giants lunchbox. He tells me that he and members of his family have recently attended four Springsteen concerts and he just couldn’t pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and thank Bruce for so many years of great music.
In the line directly on the other side of the fence, I chat with a jovial man who tells me that earlier in the week, he noticed that a free ticket like the one my buddy Kevin gave me for this event was selling on eBay for as much as $2,000!
And behind me in line is a young woman named Tracey, who ditched work today so she could meet her musical idol. Tracey tells me that she and her husband have seen Bruce in concert eight times this season. She’s here today without her hubby, however, because he forgot he had a dentist appointment, and she was not willing to risk missing out on this experience in the event that he happened to arrive late.
After about an hour, the line begins to move!
From the parking lot, we are brought straightaway to the entrance of the Barnes & Noble building where we each show our magic tickets and, in return, are given a purple wristband which allows us access into the store.
Once inside, we are directed to the cashier’s area where we pay for our book purchases and receive a receipt which we will surrender later — after our meet-and-greet with Bruce — to get our pre-signed copies of Born to Run.
Throughout the store, the line of guests meanders through the various book sections. As we move, we are given explicit instructions:
“Turn your flash on your camera to OFF.”
“Do NOT take any photos of Mr. Springsteen yourself.”
“You are not to give Mr. Springsteen gifts of any kind. This must be arranged through security.”
(“Yeah, I know.”)
Finally, after making a left turn by a display of books featuring Beatle Paul McCartney, I get my first glimpse of… BRUCE!
“He looks like Bruce!” I think to myself!
“Yes, he definitely looks like Bruce.”
“He looks super fit.”
“And cool… can’t forget cool!”
As I get closer to the cordoned-off meet-and-greet area, a security agent takes my camera bag, and I’m directed to give my little point-and-shoot to one of several photographers taking pictures of the guests as they join Bruce on the stage for 15–20 seconds, say a quick “hi,” and turn to face the cameras.
But as — one by one — the people in line in front of me take their turns, it occurs to me that many of them aren’t saying anything at all to Bruce!
Is it because they’re shy?
Or could it be because there’s really so little time for conversation?
Or, maybe, is it because they’d rather spend their precious seconds of Bruce Time smiling for the camera in hopes of getting a great picture of themselves with The Boss?
“Step on up to the stage behind these nice folks,” I’m told.
“Move up closer,” one security agent tells me at precisely the same time another tells me to “Back away.”
Not sure exactly what to do, I simply smile and do nothing.
Apparently, I’m fine.
I’m now the NEXT PERSON in the world to meet Bruce Springsteen!
And as I think about the headiness — the gravity — the significance — of this proclamation, I realize that, somehow, it’s now MY TURN to meet Bruce Springsteen!
Bruce looks me directly in the eye, warmly shakes my hand, and puts his arm on my back as we turn to have our photo taken.
But — being the man on the mission I’m on — I decide to say as quickly as I can, while trying to simultaneously smile for the camera:
“Bruce! It’s so good to meet you! Please see security for the gift I brought you today. It includes an invitation from Carl Giammarese of The Buckinghams for you to join the group at their next New Jersey concert on November 17 at BergenPAC in Englewood, NJ…”
And in the instant the camera shutter flies… I find myself wondering precisely what Bruce’s reaction to my query will be…
Will he say or do nothing, demonstrating that, perhaps, he hasn’t even heard or comprehended what I’ve just asked him? I mean… it is now nearly 1:45 p.m. and he’s been taking pictures with folks — one after another after another — for nearly three and a quarter hours! He’s probably already — to coin a phrase from his song, “Dancing In the Dark” — “just tired and bored” from this experience — one which, I’m told, when completed, will last for at least five and a half hours on his part, longer than even his recent world-record-breaking four-hour and-four-minute long concert in Philadelphia!
Or… will he be angry for my possibly interrupting this well-synchronized dance of a photo session which has been so carefully devised and executed for 2,000 of his admiring fans?
Or… will he simply say, “Hey, I’m Bruce Springsteen. I’m busy that night”?
But what he actually does startles me!
Because what Bruce Springsteen does is:
HE SINGS RIGHT INTO MY EAR!!!!!
(Yes, he does!)
He SINGS to me!
“I’m the only one in the world who Bruce Springsteen is singing to right now!” I think to myself!
And just what does he sing to me, you wonder?
Is it his brilliant song — one of the greatest records of all time, in my opinion — not to mention the title of his new autobiography — “Born to Run”?
Could it be, perhaps, one of my all-time favorite Bruce tunes — “Hungry Heart”?
For little old me…
… straight into my ear…
The first few bars of The Buckingham’s 1967 #1 hit song:
“Kind of a Drag!”
(Not what I was expecting would happen when I got up today!)
So surprised by Bruce’s reaction to my invitation, I start to crack up the split-second my photo is being taken!
Later, after I’m escorted off the stage, given my camera bag and camera, and asked to make my way over to pick up my pre-signed copy of Born to Run, I think to myself: “I could care less if I look doofy in my photo because BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SANG A SONG TO ME!”
And before I even leave the store, I take a quick glance at the photo on my camera display and, indeed, I am now the proud owner of a doofy picture of me with Bruce Springsteen as my enduring memento of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After leaving the premises, I stop at a local diner for a cup of coffee and think about my magical moment with The Boss.
I also happily look at my doofy picture on my camera display and smile.
“Definitely worth the song,” I think to myself.
But then, accidentally, my finger touches the review button on the back of my little point-and-shoot, and to my surprise, there’s another photo — a very nice one — of me and Bruce Springsteen.
“Wow, thanks, Barnes & Noble!” I think out loud. “You really did a great job today!”
And no matter what happens — if Bruce does or does not attend The Buckinghams’ concert on November 17 at BergenPAC in Englewood, NJ, to sing “Kind of a Drag” or any other song of his choice — I can still hold my head up high and say I did my part in inviting him.
And I can also have a memory that will last forever of what Bruce did…just for me.
For more on Bruce Springsteen and his autobiography, Born to Run, please go to brucespringsteen.net. For information on Carl Giammarese and The Buckinghams, see thebuckinghams.com. Lastly, for details regarding the upcoming Buckinghams’ concert at BergenPAC in Englewood, NJ, also starring Herman’s Hermits featuring Peter Noone, be sure to check out bergenpac.org.
by Spotlight Central