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Interesting article about Tori fans from the St. Petersburg Times
May 4, 2003

Updated Mon, May 05, 2003 - 4:50am ET

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The name of the article is Rocker Road Girls and it talks how some fans see Tori as much as possible during her tours. I enjoyed reading it!

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Rocker Road Girls

It's a new version of female bonding: following your favorite chick band on tour with a sisterhood of equally devoted fans.

Times Pop Music Critic

Last year I met a girl named Lisa at a Tori Amos concert. She had flown to the Tampa Bay area, where she grew up and where her family still lives, from her home in Alpine, Calif., to catch Amos' show at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Lisa Ridlon, 29, is a huge fan of Amos. Over eggs at the Village Inn after the show, Lisa told me she had seen the singer-pianist in concert 32 times.

"And I hope to catch at least six more in April," she said.

I thought Lisa was nuts.

Why would anyone see any performer 32 times? Why would anyone fly across the country to see a concert? Lisa told me that she's been following Amos since 1994, when she got her first car while living in Phoenix. She drove to three gigs that year. She also got something else that year that would further open up the road: credit cards.

Credit cards gave Lisa the means to charge flights to concerts in Massachusetts, Nevada, several in Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, New York, North Carolina. Name a state, Lisa has seen a Tori Amos show there.

Lisa told me she takes time off work when Amos is on tour - last year she missed seven days of work - and that her employers know about her concert schedule. She said she pays hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in ticket prices, airfare and hotel costs each time Amos hits the road to promote an album.

That same weekend a good friend of mine dragged me to another Amos concert in Melbourne. She drove - her car is a convertible and the weather was great - and she paid for my ticket and a swanky hotel room on the beach, so I figured, why not?

Lisa Ridlon was at that concert with her mom. Lisa and my friend, another big-time Amos freak, were comparing notes about the many Tori Amos shows they had seen. I talked to several more women at the concert and most had been to handfuls of Amos shows, putting in lots of drive time and, like Lisa, frequent-flier miles. The fans seemed to have their own special community.

"Normally, I go to shows alone and I do my own thing," Lisa told me, "but seeing the same people at the shows makes it easier to be social and to try to save a few bucks on hotels."

Yes, Lisa says, fans chip in and crash together at the Days Inn.

Nutty. Nutballs. Nuts, I thought as I listened to them go over set lists from different cities, discussing Amos' stage patter, giving the details about the different crowds.

It reminded me of the hippie kids I knew in college who followed the Grateful Dead, living out of Volkswagen microbuses and eating grilled-cheese sandwiches made on portable grills.

Except Lisa and my friend have good jobs, careers. And they shower.

Has Lisa ever met Amos, I wondered?

You bet. And Amos, Lisa told me, is well aware of the loyal fans who follow her. She knows many of them by name.

"She (Amos) still does meet-and-greets with the fans at almost every show," Lisa said. "When she talks to you, she wants to hear what you have to say. She's looking right into your eyes. . . . It's all about you. It's so personal and intense and something I don't think you get with many performers. She draws you in and you want to buy a Winnebago and follow her around the country."

I had seen this sort of enthusiasm among young women at Ani DiFranco concerts I've gone to review. They, too, have a passion for catching DiFranco live, and think it's perfectly reasonable to travel around the country catching as many dates of DiFranco's tours as they can.

Obviously, I thought, these chicks get something special from the shows. I heard many of them say watching their favorite female artists perform made them "feel alive."

Lisa explained the attraction.

"It's the empowerment we get by seeing strong, talented women up onstage who have meaningful things to say."

It reminded me of how I . . .

Mentally, I stopped dead in my tracks.

Whoa, boy.

It reminded me of how I feel at Sleater-Kinney shows.

Oh, my god, I thought. I'm one of these nutty girls.

In 2000 I got a live taste of the critically acclaimed all-chick band Sleater-Kinney when I flew to Olympia, Wash., to cover a women's music festival. I was familiar with the band before the trip, as a casual fan. The live show, however, thrilled me so much I couldn't wait to see the band again. It had such an impact on me that two months later, several friends of mine from cities across the nation flew to New York to see the band. We crashed at one girl's apartment for a weekend that included two S-K gigs at the Bowery Ballroom. The next month I coordinated a weekend trip to San Francisco to visit friends with two S-K gigs at the Great American Music Hall.

Sleater-Kinney shows, like Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco concerts, are filled with female fans who routinely follow the band around on tour. They hit the road like Jack - make that Jill - Kerouacs. Many simply toss a weekend's worth of clothes, maybe some toothpaste and tampons, into a backpack and drive from city to city catching gigs, feeling "alive."

Once upon a time, a spirited young woman followed a touring band only if she were accompanying her boyfriend. It was a rare young lady who followed Bruce Springsteen all over the continent without a guy by her side. For the same reasons that Jack Kerouac's On The Road would not have been written by a woman in the 1950s, a girl did not pack up and hit the open road to follow rockers. It was unsafe, for one thing.

What kind of mother would allow her daughter to travel to see a rock 'n' roll band?

What decent young woman would put career or school on pause to catch a string of concerts?

Concerts themselves have never been the most female-friendly environments. For decades, the scene was pretty much guys on the stage and guys up front. It takes a fearless chick to snake her way to the front of the crowd. Once there, good luck, sister, if you can hold your own in the mosh pit.

That began changing in the mid 1990s with Lilith Fair, the annual women's music festival that featured female performers and throngs of female fans in an environment that felt safe. The "touring" vibe of the festival may have been the inspiration for young women to load the minibus and hit the road, following the fest like Deadheads following Jerry Garcia and the gang. Except this time, it was all girls, girls, girls.

Carla DeSantis is editor of the feisty Seattle-based Rockrgrl, a magazine dedicated to women in rock. DeSantis, 45, recognizes the trend of women following female bands. She's thrilled about it.

DeSantis thinks that many factors contribute to girls finally hitting the road on their own, and it involves more than just the music. For one thing, DeSantis says, technology has made us feel safer.

"Because of the Internet," says DeSantis, "the world has really shrunk and places that once seemed exotic - like the other side of the country - are only an e-mail away in real time now. It's simple to purchase tickets in another city, and simpler still to meet other rabid fans that you can meet on your favorite band's Web site and even travel with."

And, help, DeSantis adds, is only a phone call away.

"Women are no longer as frightened about being accosted on a lonely highway because they can now call for help on a cell phone," DeSantis says. "This has helped to make women feel much safer traveling at all hours of the day and night."

A musician herself, DeSantis says she understands why certain female bands such as Amos and Sleater-Kinney inspire such passion in their fans. It takes performers with strong feminist messages, performers who energize young women, to tempt them to get to as many live performances as possible. DeSantis, the mother of a 15-year-old boy, says if she had a daughter she would allow her to travel to a concert, depending on who the performer was.

"If my daughter wanted to travel to see any of these bands," she says, "I would never have a problem with that. But if she were following Britney Spears around, I would be a lot less supportive."

One thing DeSantis hopes for is that young women who travel to all these concerts may be inspired to create their own art.

"I'd hope that following bands like this around is a precursor to these women starting their own bands," says DeSantis. "When I was a kid, I didn't even feel entitled to play the guitar, let alone follow a band. I got the message loud and clear that playing rock was male terrain - keep out, no girls allowed. It's great to see so many more women adding their voice to the soundscape."

Providence, R.I. FEB. 14, 2003

I'm spending Valentine's Day with my sweetie. We've flown to see a friend in Providence and to see Sleater-Kinney. Well, Sweetie's never seen Sleater-Kinney, but is being a good sport about the fact that this is my sixth show, next weekend in Cleveland will be my seventh, and No. 8 comes when the band opens for Pearl Jam in Tampa. Ahh, home sweet home. Won't have to travel for that one.

In the line outside Lupo's, fans are shivering. It's the coldest weekend of the year and the Northeast is bracing for a blizzard. It's below 10 degrees and I can't feel my feet.

All of us are hovering over cups of coffee, killing time by getting to know each other, pulling our hats over our ears, wrapping scarves over our wet noses.

This Florida girl is C-O-L-D, I tell my new friends in line.

Yep, I'm from Florida, I say. Everyone starts discussing where they live, how far they've traveled to see S-K. How many shows they've seen on this tour.

Mikey Lythcott, a 23-year-old from Providence, says tonight will be his 27th show. He's seen the band in Toronto, Detroit, New York . . . he lists countless cities. Lythcott is a huge S-K fan; he's even filmed many of the gigs he's seen and made it into a documentary, Sleater-Kinney Ate My Homework: Road Trip 2000. Lythcott travels mostly with girls, he tells me, and sees the familiar faces in every city.

Beth Pollari and her pal Julie Haslam are in line behind me. They're from Claremont, N.H. Pollari, 22, borrowed her dad's big Chevy pickup and drove the three hours with Haslam, 22, to have what they call a "girl's night," seeing their favorite band for the millionth time.

Pollari, a substitute middle school teacher, took the day off work. She and Haslam bought the tickets weeks in advance. Haslam mentions that seeing lots of Sleater-Kinney gigs isn't exactly tough on the purse. A good point. The price of tonight's Sleater-Kinney show: $12.

Both women list the reasons they love the band and it sounds familiar: great music, terrific live shows, feminist politics, disregard for mainstream values and silly fashions, passion, energy and drive.

Haslam mentions that she's a drummer. A good one. But, she says, nowhere near as good as powerhouse Janet Weiss, the woman who pounds the skins for S-K.

"The fact that I can't play her beats," Haslam says, "now that impresses me."

"Nothing would stop us from seeing Sleater-Kinney," Pollari says. "Not the drive, not this weather. Not boyfriends."


Oh yeah, they've got 'em. And they left poor James and Chris back in New Hampshire.

You left your boyfriends on Valentine's Day? I'm incredulous.

The girls giggle.

"We ditched 'em," Pollari says.

Haslam defends herself, laughing. "I left my boyfriend a six-pack of Beck's and a little cactus flower with a pink ribbon around it," she says. "With a little note that said, "Honey, I love you and I'm gonna have a great time tonight!' "

- To contact Gina Vivinetto, e-mail

Posted by: Mikewhy

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