Last night, I did the unthinkable: I braved 5 o'clock Los Angeles traffic to drive down to the Orange County Fair, all in the name of Gavin Degraw.
I've been lucky enough to catch his shows more than a few times- on tour with Shania Twain, the Grammy's after party this year, the Greek Theatre last summer- and he consistently puts on one of the best shows in the music industry.
I could go on for hours about Gavin's bluesy vocals, his bright energy that bubbles over from the stage or the adorable way he dances to "Best I Ever Had." I might even mention his superhero capability of surviving a Southern California night on stage in a leather jacket. (Seriously, though- how?)
But the thing I find most worth mentioning from the evening was Gavin's behavior after the lights went down, when the crowd was steadily exiting the venue.
You know when artists are new, and they're still earning your affections? They offer meet and greets at the merch table after the show, they answer your tweets, they listen post-show to your stories about what their music means to you. They put in the time, because that's what it takes to build a fan base.
When artists hit it big, everything tends to change. Schedules and security are tighter, and the musician is being pulled in multiple directions.
Over the last few years, I've covered hundred of shows, ranging from stadium shows to intimate venues, but riddle me impressed- I witnessed something truly unique last night.
The last song of the encore, I Don't Want to Be, finished to uproarious applause. As Gavin took his final bow with his bandmates, I expected him to exit stage left immediately. I would be wrong.
Gavin did head stage left....but to begin a long line of signing autographs and taking selfies with fans that clamored to get near. And it wasn't just an artist snapping mindless photos- he was shaking hands, thanking them genuinely for coming to the show (eye contact and all!), asking about their lives and...wait for it...listening intently. He didn't rush anyone, he never gave the "save me" look to his manager, who would make up an excuse to hurry him off.
At one point, he just sat down on the edge of the stage and talked to the large group of fans gathered. It was all so casual- just Gavin Degraw, an artist who can sell out amphitheaters, hanging out. Fans openly shared stories of survival through his music, and he seemingly took it all to heart.
All in all, he took his time for about a half hour, and even when he had to leave, yelled out to the remaining fans, "I love you!"
And you know what? I believe him.
Just a week ago today, we lost Chester Bennington to suicide. And earlier this summer, we lost Chris Cornell. Kindness is exactly what this world needs right now, and last night, I witnessed the truest form of it. Not only did I leave moved by the music, but I left inspired by Gavin's actions.
So I guess what I'm getting at is....Gavin Degraw is not only a bad ass who doesn't pass out from wearing leather in July- he's also the nicest freakin' guy....probably ever.