You want to know why Tori Amos fans are unlike the fans of other musicians? Because I am in London, in the apartment of a man I’ve never met, watching soap operas (well, UK versions of shows like Gossip Girl and The Lying Game, shows I rarely admit to liking, though knowing their names and admitting I don’t often admit to liking these shows outs me as a closet Gossip Girl and The Lying Game fan) eating chili and drinking gin and tonic. When I say I don’t know him, I mean I don’t know him except as a name preceded by an @. Twitter brought him into my orbit, and when I e-mailed to say I was thinking about coming to the UK to see six Tori Amos concerts, and when he offered me a couch in his apartment located outside of London, I considered no other answer but yes.
You want to know why I, a 34-year-old man, will follow Tori Amos around the world? Mostly because I enjoy her music, but also because my 18-year-old self who discovered Under the Pink in an aisle at Target in Ocala, Florida, would never have considered traveling the world to watch Tori perform songs, let alone travel to homes of men he (me, in this case) had never met.
You want to know why Tori Amos fans are Tori Amos fans? Because we can sit and talk about songs, and not just songs released commercially but songs performed live, sometimes only once, and we can talk about these songs not just in terms of their being performed live but in terms of cities and years. “Thoughts,” a B-side, was last performed in Akron, Ohio in 1998 (I’m fairly sure, and without Google to confirm my memory) and this song is short, maybe two minutes, and in a couple of days, when I see her at a meet-and-greet, I’m going to ask Tori Amos to play this song because I have not heard this song performed live.
Three tattoos, the man in whose apartment I am staying while I am in London, says to me, while we’re eating chili and drinking gin-and-tonic. Three tattoos on my body are inspired by lyrics in Tori songs, and his saying that three of his tattoos are inspired by lyrics in Tori songs inspires me to consider finding a tattoo parlor and getting a Tori lyric inked somewhere on my body (my back, which is the last uninked part of my body where I would consider getting inked) while I am in London (or Glasgow, or Belfast, or Dublin, or Manchester, or Paris, where I am going just to go and not for a show, because Tori played Paris a month ago, and if you give me a minute, I recite the setlist and whether or not an illegal bootleg is available on one of the several sites where you can find Tori Amos bootlegs, sometimes within hours of her finishing a show).
We’re equal parts fan and fanatic, Tori fans who travel around the world to congregate in places where Tori is. Paris in 2009. Anaheim in 2007. New York in 2009, in the middle of a snowstorm. But I’m on that DVD, or that version of me is on that DVD, clapping.
We swap stories of Tori introductions and the songs we chase and the rare Tori-oddities we keep in our collection, and we eat chili and drink gin and we roll cigarettes and watch British soap operas and we borrow laptops and we check e-mail using WiFi on trains connecting cities, and we sleep on borrowed blankets and in airports and on trains, and we use the occasional day between shows to catch up on sleep and visit laundromats and rarely do we take in the parts of cities that people normally take in when visiting cities where Tori Amos performs.
We’re kind of crazy, aren’t we, and I think because we’re kind of crazy and because we can admit we’re kind of crazy and because we can unabashedly admit we’re kind of crazy is why Tori Amos fans are unlike the fans of other musicians. We know Tori’s husband, because he’s her sound engineer and he’s at her shows and, at the end of the show, he’s the one you can ask to get a setlist, if you don’t want to fight over the setlists taped to the stage. And we know the songs that should have been on one album but appeared on alternate albums.
And we refer to these songs as girls, because Tori refers to these songs as girls, and we keep track of which songs are played in which cities during a tour, and we wonder, is this show — our show — the show when song X will appear, and whether the decision to fly to London, and stay with a stranger, and eat chili and drink gin and watch UK soap operas is merely a preamble to the night that will go down in Tori Amos history as the night when she finally played “Datura,” which she did, in part, a few nights ago, a video of which was posted to YouTube within an hour of the show ending because Tori Amos fans are Tori Amos fans, crazy or not.