There's nothing quite as invigorating as waking up in a room full of snacks and drinks, having someone walk in and say “20 more minutes, Mr. Stump” and having to figure out what the hell is going on. At first you assume you're dreaming and your brain follows that dream logic where it just accepts everything that's happening around you and rolls with it. I glanced around the room and the size of the green room told me this was a large capacity venue indeed. My head was playing catch up, taking in the room before breaking down what had I just been told. He called me Mr. Stump. I was starting to put the pieces in my head.
I walked outside and saw that Joe, Pete and Andy were already in the wings, waiting for the stage manager to give us the OK to get on stage. There was no denying it, I had been transported into the body of Patrick Stump, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Fall Out Boy.
Upon realising this, I did not have an existential meltdown. That came later. I was still in dream logic mode so I immediately accepted that this had happened and my mind went straight to the pertinent question.
Why Fall Out Boy?
Of all the bands, why did it have to be this one? And if it had to be this one, why couldn't this have happened like 10 years ago when they were still kind of good? Why now, right as they started touring that terrible new album? I did feel a little bit better was when I saw the set list and saw that they were mainly playing their old shit anyway. I silently thanked the angsty teenager inside me that listened to Fall Out Boy on repeat and learned how to play all their songs. The first concert was definitely spotty. Anything they released after 2008, I couldn't play. So while I endowed their old classics with a fresh energy the likes of which neither my bandmates nor the audience had seen before, my rendition of songs like Young and Menace were...well they weren't renditions at all, I mainly just stood there. When Pete asked me what the hell is going on, I panicked and yelled at him that he was playing the song wrong. I figured my only way out of this was to play the rock star diva card and it didn't take long for the audience boos to start overshadowing the concert.
After the dreamlike experience that was playing to a sold out stadium crowd somewhere in the middle of America, reality began to set in and I realised that this was no dream. I was now a founding member of Fall Out Boy.
I spared a moment to wonder if Patrick Stump woke up in my body. If he had, I figured he was probably finding the act of working at a McDonalds to be a far less exciting experience than fronting a best-selling rock band.
This ruminating was interrupted when my bandmates stormed into the green room along with our band and tour manager. They really laid it into me and they had a point. I did single-handedly ruin the concert by not knowing a significant portion of our song catalogue.
Eventually a silence settled. It was my turn to speak.
I opened my mouth and shut it again. What the hell could I say? After all, it didn't only matter what I said but how I said it. If I opened my mouth and started speaking like me instead of like Patrick...it would actually be fine? It's not like they would suspect what happened. So I decided to be honest:
“I can't remember how to play or sing any of our songs past Folie a Deux.”
Maybe not completely honest, they didn't need to know why. They looked confused. I told them that for some reason, when I was woken up before the concert, I just couldn't remember how any of our most recent material went. It was one of the most awkward conversations of my life. But it seemed to do it. I realised that I was speaking to strangers, but they were looking at a close friend, who they trusted and knew for years. Anything I did that was out of the ordinary, they would rationalise in their heads because...well what else can you do?
It's hard being dropped into someone's life without knowing anything about them. It's like trying to start watching a really densely plotted TV show in the middle of its fourth season. But it can be done. You just need to make everything you say very vague and non-committal for the first couple of months. You'll get a few weird looks but eventually you start to make sense of what's around you. You start to realise what things you can say and do that other people find weird and which they find normal. It doesn't take long to start re-writing your personality to conform to what's around you? Some people could never get past it, the ones who know you intimately. It didn't take long for my marriage with Elisa to fall apart for example. It's a bit shit because she'll never really figure out how it all went wrong and I somehow felt that trying to explain it to her wouldn't help.
I knew everything was going to be fine when I got a call from Andy, tentatively talking about getting a new album together. I remember, when he started talking about it, I thought “Really? That's it? You actually think I'm him?” Made me think that Patrick probably had a similar moment in my old body. Do we know each other so little that our friends could be replaced by totally different people and nobody would notice? Or maybe we're just all very interchangeable. Or maybe our personalities are so malleable that they're basically meaningless.
In any case, the record we ended up putting together was poorly received by critics and fans alike and basically led to the dissolution of the band. Sorry, Patrick.