I knew Shaun Fleming before I actually knew Shaun Fleming.
|Jim and Tim (or is it Tim and Jim?)|
|Shaun plants one on E.|
It wasn't until almost a year later that I was able to witness Diane Coffee live and in-person. In the tiny Kung Fu Necktie, a club located under the elevated subway in Philadelphia's revitalized Fishtown neighborhood, Shaun and his band Diane Coffee took the compact stage and gave the crowd a show that was jarring, electrifying and totally captivating. Shaun, his face streaked with glittery, 70s style rock & roll makeup, mugged for the crowd and delivered a multi-faceted performance in a multitude of styles and voices. He poured his soul into his every movement and exuded a joy that was palpable. It is a barometer of a show's success when you can see how much fun the band is having on stage. And Diane Coffee was having a whole lot of fun.
When the set was over, a very sweaty Shaun marched right over to my son and gave him a hug. My boy introduced me to Shaun. As he extended a hand, I gushed like a teenager, telling him what a big fan I was of the new album. He smiled. Then, surprisingly, a look of concern took over his face and he asked me, "Were we okay?" and he gestured towards the stage. "Oh my gosh!," I exclaimed, "You were incredible! How could you doubt your performance?" I was absolutely taken by his earnest and his self-doubt, considering what I had just witnessed. He thanked us for coming and then I got a hug, too.
In the weeks following that show, Shaun and I exchanged pleasantries via Twitter until I got to see the band again when they played the WXPN summer music festival. This time, in the festival atmosphere, he played to an audience unfamiliar with his band. Seeing the name "Diane Coffee," they may have been expecting a small girl in a peasant skirt with braided hair and and an oversize acoustic guitar. Instead they got the second coming of The Sweet (of "Ballroom Blitz" and "Fox on the Run" fame) in all their glam-rock glory. At one o'clock on a sunny Sunday afternoon, Shaun and his bandmates captivated the crowd and, as they say, blew them away. The set, which Shaun and his mates started in faux navy uniforms, quickly morphed, after a surprise costume change, into a full-on spectacle. Once again, after his set, Shaun was gracious and appreciative and just a regular guy.
E. and I got to see Diane Coffee just last week, as their cross-country tour brought them to Philadelphia for a weeknight show. Once again, the place was packed with anxious fans. Just before the band took the stage, my son snaked his way through the dense crowd to say "Hello" to Shaun, who he spotted standing at the side of the stage. When Shaun saw E., he threw his arms around him in, what we have come to know as his standard, warm greeting. Over the ambient crowd noise, I saw E. mouth "There's my Dad" to Shaun and point in my direction. A broad smile reached across Shaun's face and he waved wildly at me. We saw the first five or so songs of Diane Coffee's set (which were terrific), but, due to unforeseen circumstances, were unable to stay until the show's completion. The next day, I saw a tweet from Shaun, thanking his fan base for a wonderful, if lengthy, tour. I replied to Shaun and this was our exchange:
Not yet familiar with Shaun Fleming and Diane Coffee? Well, I can tell you this... he's a really nice guy.
And a good dog.