Never Meet Your Idol? By Deneen Azzolino

Photo by Deneen Azzolino

I’ve always heard the saying “Never meet your idol. They might not be what you expect.” I always wondered what would happen if I did. Would they let me down and be total jerks, and crush my whole perception of them, or would they totally be all that I hoped and prayed they would be – totally awesome and genuinely nice guys?

A little back-story: I’ve always been into music. Growing up, my parents played all kinds of music – everything from rhythm and blues, jazz, classical, rock, metal, and you can even throw some opera in for good measure. I’ve listened to it all! My grandfather was a drummer in a band, so I guess it’s in my DNA. My love of music probably comes from him. I’ve just always have had to have music in my life. It’s helped me get through some tough times and some good times. You can usually tell what kind of mood I’m in by what I’m listening to at the time. I’ve even had my daughter yell at me, while I’m in the shower, listening to music, “Mom, get out of your Emo mood, and change your music!”

Music! It’s how I deal with life!!

When my son Matthew passed away at the age of twenty-nine from Hodgkins Lymphoma, I went into a deep hole. I didn’t think I would come out of it. If it wasn’t for my music, I honestly don’t think I would have.

My good friend, Misty, and I have gone to concerts together since our girls were in Girl Scouts together since the age of five. They are now in their twenties. I can’t even begin to count how many concerts we have seen. There are times when we don’t talk for months, but when there’s a concert we want to see, we know who to reach out to. When Matthew passed away, she was able to get her hands on some Matchbox Twenty tickets. Most friends bring you a casserole after a family member dies; my friend brings me to a concert! She knew that, out of all the bands we’ve seen, Matchbox was my all time favorite. We had seen them quite a few times before. This is what my soul needed. At the concert, they sang a song called “I Will,” and, in the song, they have a verse that goes:

“And if you go

Take a little piece of me

Hang it by the place you sleep

And dream of me

Don’t leave“

I started crying. This song hit me so hard, but it was exactly what I needed. It said everything I needed to hear, plus it brought back the dream I had about Matt and how, in the dream, he showed me where he was sleeping and that he was ok! After that concert, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me.

Around 2019, we’ll just say Pre-pandemic, Matchbox Twenty was going to be doing a tour in 2020 to go along with their name! They had to do it! With a name with Twenty in it, you would be foolish not to! So, we bought our tickets. We had good seats and were so excited, on top of it.

Then, the world shut down. They postponed their concerts, and were rescheduling all of them. They would end up rescheduled twice. I was heartbroken, but we kept the tickets and just kept waiting for the day!

Have ever been to a concert and been sitting way back, or even in the first balcony, and noticed those lucky people in the front or those people who get to go up on stage and chat with the band? I have always wanted to be one of those people! It has always been one of my life’s “Bucket List” items.

Misty and I were at another concert, and we started chatting about July 24, 2023 and how we couldn’t wait for the Matchbox concert, and how many long years it’s been! We happened to look at our Matchbox tickets, and online it stated that they were also coming to our local casino, and that VIP tickets were available. We thought, “Why not upgrade”! Instead of just going, we could get the VIP experience! The first time we looked, we thought, “Maybe, maybe not. It is a lot of money to do but….” Misty said that she would look, when she got home, and I agreed. The next morning, I was getting text messages, and those VIP tickets were no longer available at the venue at our location. My heart sank! Well, we still had our original tickets and they were not bad seats. She kept looking, and found some VIP tickets! It was at the casino, and it was quite a bit more than the first ones we had seen at the other venue, and show was on the day before our original tickets, but decided, “Let’s go for it”! We bought them! We figured that we could sell the others.

I honestly think I’m getting into a phase in my life where you have to believe in the philosophy of “Just go for it; you only live once!”

July 22, 2023 will be considered one of the best days of my life. Leading up to this day of the concert, people were telling me that you can’t speak to the guys in the band, or if you have the question-and-answer session as part of your package, you have to ask a question -nothing else. The only thing I wanted to tell them was how much the song “I Will” essentially saved me, how much it meant to me, and how it was like my dream. I know it may sound like a cliché to some, but it did affect me in those ways. It struck a chord deep down inside me and that’s all I wanted to tell them. So, a couple of nights before the concert, before I fell asleep, I laid there, trying to phrase the whole thing in the form of a question. I came up with “What was your inspiration for your song, I Will? I know how much it inspired me.” This is not what I really wanted, but it would have to do.

We had to arrive at the casino by 4:00 for the VIP check-in. I got as glammed up as I could oget. I was a nervous wreck. Never have I been so nervous! This was it. They ushered us in and gave us the low-down of how things go. Then, we all walked in for the sound check. On the website, it states, “Rob Thomas may or may not be there for sound check.” I walked in and Rob Thomas was standing there with the other members of the band, and they were doing the sound check! They did a few songs acoustically, and it was totally amazing. In my head, I seriously felt like one of those girls you see in the newsreels from the 60’s, screaming and crying for the Beatles! I was thinking to myself, “This is not happening, I’m one of those girls!” The other part of me was thinking, “You have to be cool, calm, and collected!” After a couple of songs were done, the people in charge of the VIP experience made us form a line, so they could start doing the picture part of the, as they call it, “The Experience” where you get your picture taken with the band. Because of Covid, they were still doing things the socially distance way. The band was up on the stage, sitting down and we stood by the barrier. Before they actually take the picture, the best part of the entire thing is you get to talk to them! You actually got to stand there and speak to them! I just looked at Misty and I said, “What do I say?” She said “Deneen, you have been waiting for this for how long? You know what you want to say!” Our turn soon came up,

They all said, “Hi! How are you guys doing?” Of course, I said “Great!” then I think I just went into auto-drive! I said, “I just want to tell you guys about how much your song, “I Will” means to me. After the death of my son, Matt, to Hodgkins Lymphoma, ten years ago, the song helped me so much to get through that agonizing time.” I told them how I started writing for my uncle’s website and how one of my stories was called, “Take a little piece of me with you” They all said how sorry they were and they all looked genuinely sorry. Not that fake, “Oh, I’m sorry look.” It was real! Then, Rob Thomas said that’s what his mother died of, too! Then, Kyle Cook said how those lyrics are great. They also asked us where we were from and how Misty and I knew each other. Honestly, it was really like talking to a person you have known forever. He was so easy to talk to; they all were. I wish we would have had more time to talk. They just seems so nice and seemed to want to know their fans more.

There was so much more I wanted to talk to them about. But, after about five minutes, we had to move on. We said our goodbyes and thank-yous. As I was walking away, I just could not believe what had just happened! I spoke with Matchbox Twenty and Rob Thomas! I finally got the chance to tell them how much their music means to me! The best thing was that they were not jerks! They genuinely care about their fans!

The rest of the concert was absolutely fantastic. We were in the second row, and it was the best experience I had ever had in my life. If ever I have a chance to do it again, I probably would. It’s a night that I will never forget.

One thing that came up, when I was talking to my mom about my experience, was how I really believe some entertainers appreciate their fans. Then, there are others who really forgot how they got to where they are. I believe that, deep in my heart, Matchbox Twenty and Rob Thomas will always continue to appreciate and care about their fans. I don’t think that will ever change.