John Mayer and Germans

Tonight I’m going to a concert that includes John Mayer. This will be the second time I’ve seen John Mayer perform in person. Let me tell you the story of the first.

The year was 2002. I was studying in London. For fall break I’d bought a EuroRail pass and was hopping between European cities with my friends Ethan and Grant. We began in Berlin, where we stayed with a bunch of Dutch guys in a hostel called “The Clubhouse” because it was actually inside a nightclub. (Why? Why would anyone ever do that?)

Our next stop was Munich, and Ethan was more excited about this destination than any other. Not for its historical and cultural value. But because there was an American singer who would be playing in a bar there, and he was dying to see him.

I’d never heard of John Mayer. Room for Squares had been released just a few weeks earlier. But this was before things instantly went global, and since I hadn’t listened to American radio in months, I didn’t yet understand the magic of “Your Body Is a Wonderland.”

Tonight’s concert will be in Spectrum Arena, which holds 20,000 people. That night, there were about 40 of us in the room. We were in a grungy bar on a quiet street far away from Munich’s bustling tourist area. The “stage” was about a foot off the floor and we squeezed right in front of it. Mayer chatted with the crowd between songs, and when Germans would yell out songs for him to play, he obliged. (Mostly, I think, because when someone yells something at you in a German accent, it’s scary and you say yes.)

After the show, Mayer came out for a drink and we chatted with him and took photos with him. My photo with him was blurry—something I blamed on Ethan for some reason. And so that Christmas Ethan gave me a photoshopped non-blurry image of myself with John Mayer. I kept that framed photo on a shelf in my bedroom for years—as if we were so close that my pal Johnny might drop by for a cup of coffee any time.

After the show, on our way back to our hostel, we snuck onto the metro without paying the fare and ended up literally running away from a German guy in a uniform who was yelling “Halt!” and was definitely angry. Which is forever seared in my mind because it felt a little too close to something I’d seen in a WWII movie. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.

Tonight, I’m excited to see John Mayer again. This time, I’ll take an Uber—and pay for it. And I’ll sit in a company suite. And I’ll go home to room I’m not sharing with a bunch of people I don’t know. Which will all be great. But I’m betting that first show will still be my favorite.




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