In my youth, I was quite the frequenter of rock concerts, a statement that makes me sound like an old bitter woman, but in reality I’m only 21. I had just turned 16 when I went to my first concert, and no, I am not counting the Jonas Brothers performance I attended as a fifth grader.
I couldn’t tell you what bands were playing that fateful night, but I do remember exactly how I felt: like I truly belonged. I looked around the venue between sets in wonder, my eyes taking in the entirety of the old church-turned-rock venue. If you stared at the ceiling too long, you could easily get lost in the neon flashing stage lights reflecting off the stained glass.
I was completely transfixed by the people around me: girls wearing nose rings with wildly colored hair and tattooed boys with rips in their jeans. I loved it. Not that I hadn’t seen people like this before, but I had yet to lay my eyes on so many aesthetic people in the same place. Everyone just oozed a self-assurance that I envied.
At this point in my life, I was a natural blonde with a wardrobe consisting of brands that I hated; I never felt like myself. As I attended increasingly more shows, I dyed my hair dark with blue tips, pierced my nose and swapped Aeropostale for band t-shirts. I felt like the star of my own coming-of-age film.
What kept me going to concerts (and the reasons I have not been to one in a while) were the people that were in my social circle at the time. My first boyfriend was the one who brought me to that momentous concert, and after him I seemed to have consistent musical luck with future boyfriends and friend groups’ interest in concerts. This year, however, there has been an unfortunate lack of concerts in my life, and when I sat back and questioned why, it all came back to the people I have surrounded myself with.
Listen, I respect the hell out of people that rock out at concerts on their own. I, however, have never been that brave. I went to high school with a girl who was into heavy metal bands and she always flew solo at their shows, and sometimes made friends with people while at the event. When she told her stories the next morning to our group sitting in home room, I looked at her in awe. And now it’s got me wondering if I should channel her bad-assery and start going to concerts solo too.
Despite my desire to return to this lifestyle, I definitely need to acknowledge the flaws of being addicted to going to concerts. First and foremost: it drains your wallet. As a high school student who made minimum wage at a movie theater, I was probably not in the position to be going to as many shows as I was, but my justification always consisted of a stupid thought like: at least I’m not spending my hard-earned money on drugs.
What I failed to acknowledge, though, is the fact that you usually are not just paying for a ticket. Whenever I would enter the venue and spot the merch table, I had to sternly tell myself that I actually do not need another t-shirt. But that never stopped me from leaving concerts with shirts, hoodies, posters and whatever else they had left at the end of the night.
And do not get me started on the outrageously priced $5 bottles of water. Every time I bought one, the cap was taken off, so I couldn’t hold it in my hand while jumping around without spraying everyone around me. This forced you to get hydrated by chugging it all, and then regret it when you have to lose your place in the crowd to pee 10 minutes later. (I later found out that venues do this for safety, so if someone throws their water bottle the contents will most likely spill out, whereas a capped one can more easily injure concertgoers.)
Another thing I do not miss about going to concerts is having a mass of people jostling me around on all sides. Unless you stand at the very back of a crowd, you are going to be pushed at a rock show, whether it is intentional or not. A large sea of people are smashed up against each other while dancing and jumping around, so an occasional elbow to the face is simply to be expected.
And front row is infinitely worse; you need strong lungs for this one. I’ve only been front row at two shows that I scored VIP passes for. My first time up front, I was the very last person on the right side and was only moderately squished up against the barrier. My friend to my left, however, kept leaning over to yell that she could barely breathe. Her ribcage was being pressed up against the railing as people encroached with excitement. That’s the inevitable at any rock show: everyone pushes closer and, although the effects are not exclusive to front row, they certainly get the brunt of it.
During my second experience with the front row, I only managed it for 15 minutes before being pushed so hard by a girl diagonal to me that the guy behind me legitimately had to catch me as I fell. And, no, it was not romantic like in the movies. My face was right up in his too-tight black jeans and I was near tears. After that, I shoved my way out with my friend and we retreated to the outskirts to dance comfortably.
Even after all that madness, I still miss the concert-going lifestyle. I miss seeing bands announce tour dates and almost dropping my phone in elation and rushing to inform my friends and ask who would buy tickets this round. But with some reflection, I feel like it is a chapter in my life that can stay closed. I don’t have blue hair anymore (although I have been fighting the urge to go purple recently), and I’ve sold most of my band t-shirts. Don’t get me wrong, if there is an artist touring that I love, I will still search desperately for someone to join me. But I don’t mind swapping my concert-going Friday nights with Long Island Iced Teas at the local bar.
Maybe I am getting old.