Archived Story

Stories of missed opportunities and jaywalking

Published 1:53pm Thursday, September 15, 2011

TV On The Radio jaywalks.

I learned this circling the blocks around downtown Minneapolis Aug. 30 night, when I saw three members of the band walking down the street a few hours before they played the first of two nights at First Ave.

While at a stoplight at Ninth Street, I saw three men walking through the don’t walk sign. I quickly recognized Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of TV on the Radio, carrying a shopping bag and wearing his typical dark-rimmed glasses and a brown cap. Guitarist David Sitek walked on his right and their trombonist walked on his left.

I — like many concert-goers — have always secretly dreamed of running into the band before the show.

The three crossed Ninth Street, despite the steady don’t walk sign. I paused a few feet into the road and searched my pockets for something to autograph. Finding just my cell phone and concert tickets, I backed toward the curb and tried not to stare as the three approached.

Maybe it was the uneasy feeling of being in a busy downtown street. Maybe it was the steady don’t walk orange or the rain misting on my glasses. Maybe it was the horn player’s oddly loose, button up gold shirt, and his resemblance to a photo of Christ. Quite honestly, it may have been that I have no idea how to pronounce the name Tunde Adebimpe.

No matter the reason, I let the three pass in silence and then waited a few moments before following from more than half a block away. As they walked back toward First Ave., I took a few Big Foot quality cell phone pictures of the band before they slipped in a side door of the club.

Then it hit me — that “you idiot” feeling. Inches away, and I only watched them. It was painful. It was the moment of the movie where the audience moans in pity.

No autograph, no greeting — silence is not always golden.

Now, it’s not like I’ve never encountered famous people. I’ve interviewed U.S. Senators. I recently talked with Twins Hall of Famer Tony Oliva outside Target Field. Earlier this year, I knuckle-bumped The Doors co-founder Ray Manzarek, and I didn’t miss a beat when he talked about Michele Bachmann and “Mafia Wives.”

Inside First Ave., the self-deprecation escalated during the pre-show bustle, turning from “you idiot” to “you imbecile.” I hardly remember a note played by the openers.

In hindsight, I should have requested a song, gotten an autograph or — at least — said hello. But hindsight is an impeccable 20-20.

After moments of painful regret, I told myself I wasn’t leaving with completely empty handed.

Music lovers, in a sense, are story collectors. Everyone has a song that instantly summons memories of a moment or place from the past. Others can remember the first time they heard a song or picked a favorite Beatle.

This made for a great — though embarrassing — music story.

When Adebimpe walked on the stage, he looked the same as when we passed each other in silence.

He addressed the crowd before the band opened their 100-minute set with a brooding “Halfway Home,” the song I would have requested if I’d had the smarts to speak up.

It was a small moment of consolation before the energetic and loud show numbed my bruised pride (and my hearing).

I still wish I’d have at least said hi.

Other listens

“9th and Hennepin,” off the Tom Waits album “Rain Dogs”

After my unfortunate non-encounter with TV On The Radio, I realized I passed the three members of TV On the Radio at the intersection of Ninth Street South and Hennepin Ave., a spot held in Minneapolis music lore. It’s believed to be the co-inspiration (along with New York City) for the song “9th and Hennepin” by Tom Waits.

The song is one of the most well-known songs off one of his most well-known albums by Waits. His husky, gravely voice is a good fit as the weather singer in the 1970s. He still has a few suprises up his sleeve.

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