“Rule #1 Do NOT wear a band tee of the band you’re going to see”. That’s just desperate and tacky. I scoff condescendingly in my mind as I throw on my tank top that I purchased from the clothing company created by the clean vocalist, weathered vans that just happened to be signed twice by the same guitarist, and wristband flashing the band’s generic lyric “NO HONOR NO RESPECT”. I look in the mirror while getting ready attempting to enlighten my younger sister about proper show etiquette. “It’s important to not be one of those try hards, Ashley. You don’t want to show up and look like a slutty scene fan girl who’s desperate to get back stage and have her tits autographed” I explain matter of factly. Although I wouldn’t mind…..NO, no matter how sexy Andrew looks jumping up and down in unison with the bassist John during that sick breakdown swinging his guitar behind his back while I eye his neck tattoo and perfect cheekbones.… you can’t be one of those girls….anyway getting back to the lesson, I sighed knowing my sister would never be able to keep the same composure as me during her first concert. Grabbing a monster sized can of hairspray to lock my meticulously teased hair into place I hold up a black bandana, “yes or no?” I ask my sister.
A hazy mist of cigarette smoke and other “questionable” smells greet us as my mom drops us off in her mini van at the dilapidated venue. As my sister runs to catch us a place in line, I scan the crowd of people and smirk. Look at these pathetic gerbs. The gaggles of fan girls with lyrics sharpied onto their forearms, stupid signs with “I LUV U VIC!!!!!!” plastered with hearts and glitter, others snapping selfies to upload to MySpace later to prove that they were there. The extreme comb over bangs, coon tails, snake bites, and the occasional bro who you totally know will be a little too eager to rip his shirt off and charge into the first pit or push down a girl at the wall of death. I laugh at them all. I casually find my spot next to my sister and discuss the set list I had printed out the night before.
This hardcore show culture was the epitome my high school life. I don’t know if it was the residue of hairspray or cheap black dye had burned out crucial judgment brain cells. Looking back through my early show going days I shamefully acknowledge the amount of effort I put into my “look”. As I stood in line I would constantly make fun of and mock the other “try hard” show goers, completely ignoring the fact that I dyed the tips of my mullet black because the bassist of some mediocre Christian metalcore band had done it first. I spent countless hours mentally preparing myself and practicing my reactions to specific band members in the mirror just in case I met them. Speaking of which, the times I have met band members my experiences have ranged from being a composed, thoughtful, enthusiast of music to raging psychopath, photo-obsessed stalker. You can almost just see the fear materialize in the poor guy’s eyes as he thinks cautiously to himself that this 90 pound scene queen could probably rip his clothes faster than he could pose for this picture. At the time I had no shame in my actions. I completely ignored anyone I went to a show with and had only one ruthless motive, to get as close to the band as I possibly could. I would fight my way to the front of the crowd, punching or pushing down any other scene bitch that stood in my way. Once there I held my ground. I had no problem with getting physical with any girl or guy much larger than me to defend my perfect spot right and center. No matter how many crowd surfers pummeled me in the face with their decorated Chuck Taylors, I would press on screaming every word while thrusting my arms outward in hopes of catching a hand touch by the screamer or a bead of sweat from the clean vocalist to fall beautifully on my face.
Yes I was THAT girl. The one singing a bit too loudly, the one who once the band walks on stage shrieked tirelessly for them to marry me, and crying when the first note of my favorite song starts playing. You know the moment when you first lock eyes with your soul mate and a huge spot light shines on you and the love of your life, everyone else in the room disappears and it’s just you two looking helplessly into each other’s souls? No? Well this was my imaginary relationship with Craig Owens, front man of Chiodos during my first concert experience back in 9th grade. To say the least, I put Beliebers to shame. The minutes between sets seemed like hours to me, I would get anxious about the song the band would choose to open with, what if they didn’t open with the song on the set list? I wouldn’t be prepared. What side of the stage would my favorite band member be on? I need to know where to stand in the crowd. WAIT I THINK I SEE ANDREW ON THE BALCONY. We totally had a moment. He was looking right at me obviously. This is what was going on in my twisted 15 year old mind.
Now that I’m older and actually more aware of my correlation to individuals around me socially, I can take in a venue as a whole and analyze it with what is left of my dignity from 2008. I’m relieved that now I can throw my hair up into a messy bun and toss on a white V-neck and call a night for when I now prepare for a show. I can actually enjoy my time there without having to attempt to impress or show off my love of the particular band or bands that are performing. I recently went to a show at the Ottobar, the essence of a shitty Baltimore venue and stood contently in the corner enjoying the bands and the people at a safe distance. It’s as if a whole new world has opened to me now that I’m a 19-year-old show goer compared to the crazed 15-year-old Jen. I see the aloof, nonchalant, hip cats who look like they aren’t enjoying the anything even though they willingly chose to spend $25 on a ticket and not cases of Natty Boh and packs of American Spirits. The guy that really shouldn’t be making that 6th trip to the bar for an overpriced brew, the already drunk bitch who eats shit on some steps and spills her shitty beer on another intoxicated bitch causing the bouncer to intervene while extensions and beanies fly to the ground. The wide eyed first show, 11-year-old’s sporting an A Day To Remember band tee to prove that they’re hardcore but still like to understand what the singer is saying. I still see the slutty 16-year-olds who try and dress like they’re 26 so the drummer will notice them from the balcony and those eager bros who think it’s ok to hardcore dance on a 10-year-old because they’re friend dared them to go into a “real” mosh pit. When I walked into the club I was hyper aware of everything and everyone around me, the fact that everyone there is there to impress and prove who is more hip than the next person who walks in the door. I felt myself being silently judged as I made my way to the bathroom. Was my beanie too blue? My flannel too…flannel like? I was then extremely aware that shows were these stupid little pageants in our subculture to prove something to one another. We were obviously all there for the same reason, for the music or at least I was and have always been. Even in this space of common interest I felt alienated from everyone. Until the music starts.