It was the summer of 2006 and I was in Chicago. Months earlier I had purchased tickets for Gustavo Cerati's solo tour "Ahi Vamos." He was coming to the House of Blues and I was besides myself. Since discovering his music in February of 1996 I had been captivated. His chords were from another planet, his lyrics way above my head (and still are) and his voice was timeless...a pure tenor with incredible range and the ability to inhibit every melody.
I showed up, got in line and walked into the venue. It was packed and the show had already started. The main floor was jammed with bodies...not an inch to move. I asked a security guard where I could go to be closer to the stage. She said: "Follow me" and with a flashlight she cleared a path for me and delivered me dead center in the throng. "La Excepción" was shaking the building and I was in heaven.
For the next hour and change Gustavo Cerati and his top notch band tore through the entire album and threw in a bunch of classic solo compositions from Amor Amarillo and Bocanada. I felt that I was in the presence of a master musician. I could not believe I was hearing "Avenida Alcorta" in person...a song that I had listened to hundreds of time on a cassette that I had purchased in Buenos Aires. That cassette, along with Eros Ramazzotti's "Donde Hay Música" traveled with me across the Southern Continent and I had every song memorized in my heart and brain.
After the show I was walking out of the House of Blues venue and I saw a man standing by the entrance of the hotel. I asked him if he was with Gustavo and he calmly replied that indeed he was. I explained to him that I was interested in talking with Gustavo about possibly producing some of my music, a plan that I had just become aware of myself. The man looked at me and said: "Sure thing, come with me." He brought me up into a room and said: "Just wait here, Gustavo will arrive shortly."
I sat down at a round table in a massive room and introduced myself to the three other people that were there. We made small talk as people began to fill the room. Soon about 50 people had filled the room with conversation and post show excitement.
I was now standing in the main part of the room and I looked up as my musical idol, Gustavo Adrian Cerati, walked into the room as if he himself were a guest. He then proceeded to greet every single person in the room. I felt my stomach sink to my shoes as I realized he was going to introduce himself to me. I panicked...palms sweaty...throat dry...was I starting to lose my voice. Thankfully no, but I would soon discover that my ability to speak Spanish evaporated into the ether.
I was talking to a very cool guy from Monterrey, Mexico and I very politely told him that in no uncertain terms he needed to introduce me to Gustavo. "But Jeff, he is saying hello to everyone, he will greet you." I explained that I was in no condition to meet my hero and that I needed his support...that this musician had had an incredible influence on my decision to become a musician myself. "No problem Jeff, I will do my best." God bless that man.
As Gustavo shook the hand of the woman to my left my new friend gave the most royal and professional introduction that for a second I wondered who he was talking about. I wondered if this man was an emcee on television because it was the most graceful way I had ever been presented to someone else. Gustavo looked at me, shook my hand and nodded his head. I then tried to speak but I couldn't remember one lick of Spanish. Not even "Hola." I'm serious. Was I having a stroke? Would I ever speak again? I shook his hand and nodded back at him in return.
He then continued to greet everyone else in the room and my new friend asked me: "Jeff, what happened?" I explained that I had no idea.
I gathered myself and began chatting with the band who looked as if they had stepped out of the 1970's with cool hair cuts and vintage clothing. They were all top notch session musicians and were very sympathetic as I told them what happened. The bass player suggested that I put my CD in the stereo system so that Gustavo would possibly hear it. His manager gave me his e-mail and told me to reach out to him in Buenos Aires. I marveled at how cordial and helpful everyone was being to me. I declined to put my CD in the player because I was too self-conscious about the quality of the mix. Could I let Gustavo hear a shi**y mix of my music...NO! I am also sad to say that the notepad with the manager's email ended up in the wash and was obliterated. I lost my breath when that happened. But that's for another time...let me finish this story.
As I stood talking with the band a great deal of their swagger wore off on me and I regrouped. My brain seemed to be working again and I built up my courage to speak to Gustavo again. My plan was to summon all the moxie I had and post up by the door, eventually he would have to leave and I would be standing right there and I would give Gustavo my elevator pitch and tell him how he changed my musical life and opened my brain to so many different musical possibilities.
Gustavo was very concerned with the A/C in the room and was fiddling with it. For a while. I stood my ground by the door and all of a sudden he was walking towards me. "Gustavo!" I said, perhaps a little too loudly. "Es un placer....conocertetepuedohacerunapreguntaquierograbarunacancioncontigohablamos?" Gustavo turned and said: "I'm so sorry I can't talk right now, I've got to go." I stood there, beet red I'm sure, as I realized I had blown my chance. I probably appeared just like some other raving fan, which I was.
I returned to the band, who continued to be sympathetic and gave them a copy of my CD. I stayed for a while longer but then left because I was sure that Gustavo was not going to be coming back.
As I look back on this moment I am happy I got to meet him for a brief moment. I figure the best way I can thank him is to put out the best music possible. 8 short years after I met him, he passed away, playing one last concert before falling into a four year coma. I will always remember how cordial he was to all of us, especially a raving gringo fan and how he took time to meet everyone after playing an incredible show. I will also never forget how kind his band and management crew were to me. It was truly an unforgettable night getting to shake the hand of a musical genius.
I continue to explore and understand his music and it is a part of my daily life.
Gracias totales Gustavo.