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Fans wait for hours to meet rock band

(ran NS S editions of TAMPA BAY & STATE)

David Cauffman made sure he was first in line to see the band he says he has followed for 13 years. He got to the Blockbuster Music store about 6 a.m.

But nine hours later when Cauffman walked up on a mini-stage to get autographs from the members of Queensryche, all he could say to them was, "Hello."

"It's like you're speechless," said Cauffman, 26, of Palm Harbor.

Plenty of fans were not as tongue-tied Tuesday as they met the rock band Queensryche at the store at 2539 Countryside Blvd. They asked for hugs and photos with the band members who were to play Tuesday night in Tampa.

Jeff Everson, 19, and his roommate, Jon Wilson, 20, of Oldsmar were second in line. They arrived about 10:45 a.m.

Everson, who has Queensryche's symbol tattooed on his upper right arm, said he heard about their appearance a week and a half ago.

Wilson said his roommate "about freaked out," when he heard Queensryche was coming. Everson said he had to come to Blockbuster Music: "This was like mecca."

While their videos played on three screens behind them, Queensryche's lead singer, Geoff Tate, and the other members busily penned their John Hancocks, smiled for photos with their fans and took compliments.

"You have a great voice, dude," one enamored fan told Tate as the singer signed his name. "Thanks," Tate replied.

"It's nice meeting the fans," Tate saidto a reporter. "They allow us to do what we do."

Scott Rockenfield, the band's drummer, said he recognized some of the fans in the line snaking around Blockbuster's CD aisles from a Queensryche concert in Orlando several days ago.

"(We) have a lot of repeat offenders," Rockenfield said with a smile, his sunglasses hiding his eyes despite the fact he signed autographs indoors.

Rick Moore, 30, made the trip from Lakeland to see the band and strike a deal. Moore presented the band with three scrapbooks of band news clippings, each about the size of a phone book.

Said Moore, who has visions of getting a choice piece of band memorabilia: "Maybe we can exchange."

Fans spilled out of the store in a line more than 100 people long. Police put the total crowd at about 800.

Craig Matthews stood across from the crowd inside the store. Matthews, 21, of Tampa, said one of his dreams was to meet Queensryche. Tuesday, it seemed he hardly believed he had.

Said wide-eyed Matthews, "I felt like I was actually meeting the gods."

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