I've been to a fair share of shows in my lifetime, but I do recall, quite clearly a time in my adolescence when I was deemed "too young" to be allowed to go into THE CITY to a concert or show, and I was left hysterical and dramatic begging for absolution, but, to no avail.
Not so long ago, I received a cryptic Facebook message from my 15-year-old cousin Chloe, she was writing to ask about the safety of the neighborhood around "The Fillmore at Irving Plaza". I could've laughed out loud at the absurdity of this question- "All of NYC is pretty safe now, Union Square is crawling with cops now... why are you asking?". I could sense the hesitation, then she tells me, "There's a concert going on there and I REALLY REALLY want to go, but mom thinks it won't be safe..." I can feel the question forming over the internet, but I know she won't want to inconvenience me, so I ask it for her, "Do need me to chaperone?"... You know where the story goes from there I assume. Why did I do this? I certainly didn't know the bands she was so desperate to see. My spidey senses were tingling with the warning of teenaged angst that I know longer knew or understood as an adult (FINALLY), but something came over me as I read her words. I could give her the opportunity I never had. I could be the cool cousin who gave her the chance that her mother would've refused her- OH IF ONLY I HAD HAD SOMEONE LIKE ME when I was her age! YES! I'll do it-I thought- It's a mitzvah, a good thing I am doing for her, and her 2 friends... I have to get out of work and lose some money? Oh, O...K... "So, what are the names of the bands?" I ask... "Oh, The Devil Wears Prada and A Day To Remember... and there are 2 opening acts... Emarosa and Miss May I". It was as if she was speaking Greek to me. I decide to do a little homework to prepare, and promptly head to Myspace to find check the bands out.
The names alone imply the sound... or so I thought. I mean, one band referencing a female oriented fashionista book and the other sounding like sentimental nostalgia + the fragile and girly frame of my 15 year old cousin Chloe? These'll be pop bands perhaps with some cutie boy crooner singing about heartache. I won't enjoy it but, sure, I can handle it. I find the page for the Devil Wears Prada... the music is buffering... when, I hear the familiar riff of angry metal, the boom of the bass drum, "OH!" I exclaim to myself... "Metal? Really? Wow, I wasn't expecting metal- but uhhh cool!". It's a moment later when the shredded barks and incoherent vocals kick in, that I get one of the rudest awakenings of 2009. "OH GOD... it's- it's METALCORE? I'm going to chaperone a METALCORE show??". That's right. Your humble narrator is escorting 3 teenagers to a METALCORE show. If you've ever been to Hot Topic you've heard METALCORE. Know that music that plays so loudly you can't hear yourself sort through the overpriced "unique punk-like" merch? Yeah, that's METALCORE. Chloe, my cute adorable Chloe, is listening to metalcore. She still looks like an angel to me, a cherub, but now, it dawns on me, that she is adolescent, and I am her shepherd and protector.
A month flies by and it's already the day of the show. I leave my office promptly at 2 to meet my cousins in Penn Station- her mother and father have ridden the train in with them- safety first, always adult supervision! (This is when I realize, I am SO glad I'm an unescorted adult). We have a pleasant lunch/dinner of my picking which, luckily everybody enjoyed, we left around 4:45 and off to wait in the LINE that had no doubt already formed outside the club! Yes... indeed it had, and then we wait.
We wait some more. Doors were supposed to be at 5:30... yeahhhhhh.... not happening. 6:30? O...K.
I'm already under the weather, and exhausted, but I don't complain- much. We get in and when I see the amount of equipment piled up against the side of the rear wall I know this is going to be one hell of an ordeal. I stake out an area for ourselves. There are metal barricades set up on the far right side of the concert hall near the equipment. As a salty concert vet- I figure this is the best place to experience the show yet hold your own ground with a physical assault only happening from one side of your body as opposed to all. I hate how right I am sometimes. I give Chloe and her comrades some tips before the show. "OK Chlo- I know you want to see these bands, but you also need to protect yourself. This railing is your LIFELINE. When the crowds gets too rough- I want you to hold on to this railing TIGHT with both hands and put your back to it. Now, your family, so I know you got a big ole booty to use as cushion against the crowd. USE IT. Trust me, your back is a LOT more resilient than your front- I don't want anything happening to your face or your internal organs! The position to remember is "CLUTCH and CRANE" again, CLUTCH AND CRANE. Clutch onto this barricade, and CRANE your head to view the performers. Got it?" She laughs at me and says she'll be fine. She's right of course... but she does utilize my technique before long.
The show begins. Miss May I are the opening act. A metalcore band from Ohio- they are everything I expect to hear blasting noisily from the speakers of Hot Topic- and they certainly delivered that (I thank god repeatedly for the ear plugs stuffed into my head). The music itself is quite solid- very metal. The nihilistic barkings from the youthful curly haired youth? Well, let's just say it ain't my cup of tea. It seemed before the show even had a chance to begin- the kids in the crowd were getting antsy. The massive sway had already begun, piles of sweaty flesh has already started to press itself against me and my flock. When Miss May I began? It was pure chaos. Almost instantly I felt the metal barricades buckle and begin to collapse under my clutch. Bouncers swarmed immediately and began bracing it a weak points. "Make room for the crowd surfers to move back to the back, please" one of the bouncers says to me, slightly irritated by my clutch and crane tactics. "I ain't stopping them. If they can move through this crowd at all they're certainly not going to be stopped by me." I smile as warmly as I can, because, concert lesson #2 ALWAYS be nice to the bouncers at a show because they can be your best friend, or your WORST adversary. This night, the bouncers were my best friends. I smirk and nod in acknowledgment any time one was near, out of sheer courtesy and respect for the crap they were putting up with. The nod even earned me a free bottle of water! WOW! Courtesy from a bouncer?? After a mere 25 minutes, Miss May I leave the stage. I am surprised. Chloe and her friends are not.
The second group Emarosa come on after taking only 15 minutes to set up. I got to say, I am impressed. Although it was a very slow and delayed start, everyone is certainly making up for lost time now. The crew techs are efficient and useful. The bouncers are helpful. It's like nothing I've ever seen before! Emarosa come out, and, oh yeah, they're all donning the euro-mullet, skinny jeans, ironic t-shirts, and are all slightly cute guys. I sigh in relief, knowing full well that they will be a little easier on the ear. Thank god, I am right. The singer can actually SING and the band can play. The crowd is still hyper active, moshing, and surfing, but it seems subdued. The calm before the storm, I imagine. With my arms and hands hinged firmly over the railing, I even manage to get some sarcastic texts in with my buddy WHILE the concert is going on FULL BLAST.
Being in full view of all my buddies, the bouncers, one sees me texting, leans over and asks (well screams, really) "You're not enjoying the show?" I look up from my phone, laugh, and shout back "NAH, it's OK it's just not my sound- I'm chaperoning." He looks confused, and asks "Wait, you don't have an ID Bracelet on- are you old enough to chaperone?" I laugh and say "Oh yeah, I didn't get one... let's just say I am 10 years older than the kids I'm looking after". "Oh, cool- usually we're not allowed to talk to anyone in the crowd b/c they're usually underage, but now that I know you are... we can talk! So, Why didn't you get a bracelet, then? Wouldn't you want to drink- or are you a cougar lookin' for some teenaged boys to corrupt?" I laugh out loud, and roll my eyes, "PLEASE. I am chaperoning, I wanted to set a good example and NOT drink, you know?". He comes back with "You're babysitting NOT NURSING THEM!". It's then I realized a little too late that this guy is hittin' on me. He wasn't creepy about it so I don't mind too much... I laugh again, and say, "Nahh, it wouldn't be the responsible thing to do, besides, this is WAY more interesting sober!". At that the crowd gets riled up again, and I am pressed up against the barricade trying not to crush any vital organs, or my giant purse. The flirtatious bouncer sees my struggle, and is nice enough to take my bag and put it safely behind the barricade. Emarosa exit. Again, they played for a mere 35 minutes!
We hear it announced that the next act is A Day to Remember, and Chloe and her friend go NUTS at the sheer mention of the name! "YESSSSSS!" They scream together... and the rest of the crowd is just as equally excited. The massive sway returns, and the bum rush of all 1000 teenagers ensues. Oh lord, this next act is going to be rough. I brace myself and wait calmly, knowing fully well that I am in the eye of the storm. A prompt 20 minutes later. The first headliner, A Day to Remember emerge. The chaotic din of the angst ridden teens has begun before they even set foot on stage. Now they are on- and it only increases in madness. They are indeed metalcore- but audible for this old lady. Let me tell ya- it has been YEARS since I've seen this sort of energy at a show! The are relentless onslaughts of moshers. There're crowd-surfers are being passed over in 3's and 4's. The massive sway is on full throttle- and all 1000 kids when they're not surfing or beating the crap out of each other- are all JUMPING up and down in sync to the visceral beats of the double bass drum. I literally FELT the floor beneath me quivering and buckle with the force. It even cause the delicately placed equipment behind the barricade to topple over and cause the bouncers to scramble. Several times during the show the barrier collapsed, and the bouncers would swarm to recover ground. Kids in the center of the chaos were getting trampled and then promptly rescued by the bouncers. One girl even got punched square in the face by some douche bag man-boy and flew back 10 feet before hitting the floor and being trampled. She was saved quickly enough, but it was at that moment that I turned and looked at my delicate little cousin Chloe and said- "You see? THAT is what I was scared of!" She just smiles. It is then that I realize the euphoria she's experiencing at this show. The energy and excitement is radiating off of her in waves, and I realize, this is why I offered to take her. She's having a memorable experience, and I helped make that happen. It makes me misty! YES! I actually got MISTY at a METALCORE show! In between Chloe screaming "YOU SHOULD HAVE KILLED ME WHEN YOU HAD THE CHANCEEEEEEEEE!" I am getting bleary eyed! I'm becoming a sentimental old fool... but it's all good.
A Day to Remember exit the stage roughly 45 minutes after. The heat and sweat and angsty exhaust is settling in.. and the crowd is beginning to thin out. "What? No one's staying for the last act?" Chloe looks at me and says something like "Honestly, I could leave now and be happy... and uh... haha, the next act is even harder then ADTR... and I uh, barely handled that!" I get worried that she's only willing to leave for my sake- so I make sure to say "It's all up to you guys- I don't want you missing out on anything on my account..." I look at my watch and see it's only.. (930??? REALLY? wow, what an early show!!), "BUT if you guys want to leave that's ok with me too..." They go and buy their concert swag (which is surprisingly affordable). We hail a cab and go. I was in bed by 12:35! A concert night record!
What an evening, what an experience. I did a good deed by helping my cousin out and survived a metalcore show! I taught valuable concert lessons, and even got a chance to see a family member in a new light. It certainly is an experience I won't soon forget... and now, that torch is passed, and perhaps one day Chloe will be the one to chaperone a teen to their first concert experience... ::insert the Lion King's "Circle of Life" here::