I’ve had some show experiences this year that have brought forth an array of emotions, and they’ve changed my perspective on the pop-punk, hardcore, and metal show-going experience.
The last time I saw The Story So Far was a disaster. Within 10 seconds of their set starting, my friend got a bloody nose and got his glasses knocked off, and I got kicked in the face and punched in the throat. No one helped either of us up when we fell. And we were nowhere near the front of the crowd. Later in the set, as we stood further back to avoid getting injured any more, somebody thought it would be funny to pour their entire cup of beer on me. I left reeking of alcohol, disoriented, and really, really angry. I was honestly a bit worried I might’ve gotten a concussion. If a cop happened to pull me over that night, I doubt things would’ve ended well.
While this show was just one experience, it got me thinking about the pop-punk scene, and the current show culture. Considering the ever-changing amount of technology we get our hands on today, this kind of atmosphere seems a bit odd. Go to any metal show, and a good percentage of fans are on their phones — whether that be tweeting about how close they are to the stage or videotaping the band’s entire set. I’ve even seen people bring in iPads to take photos at shows before. And it ticks me off.
But these two ends of the spectrum demonstrate something: the culture of heavy music is always changing, as is technology and the way it impacts the cultivation of punk rock.
You can’t go to a show anymore without seeing a bunch of bright screens in the air. Everyone wants to get a crappy, low-resolution picture, and everybody wants to document their every moment — no matter how meaningful or meaningless. In addition, there are a large amount of fans who are buying into what I call the ‘narcissism of social networking’ today. People take pictures of their favorite bands not as personal keepsakes, but only to brag to everyone they’re connected with on Facebook and Twitter. It goes right alongside the obsession with getting likes on Instagram. I had an Instagram for a month, and only ended up posting selfies and pictures of my cat before I realized how conceited I was becoming.
But, as much as I’ve been flustered by the more lifeless side of show culture, I am realizing that it doesn’t matter. It’s not worth getting mad over. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that others are going to have different opinions and lifestyles than mine, many of which I disagree with, but I should leave them be. Why do I care so much about trying to ‘fix’ people? Maybe just because I disagree with them doesn’t mean they’re ‘wrong’.
A good example of this relates back to The Story So Far again, but this time, instead of the fans’ reactions causing harm, it’s the character of their frontman, Parker Cannon. I don’t want to judge him, as I don’t know him, but he seems to be making the same mistakes I have.
At a recent show in Vero Beach, Fla., The Story So Far was blasting through their set like usual. Corey Pearson traveled over two hours to attend the show, and was in the front row of the crowd. With one song left, Corey got out his iPhone to take a picture of the band playing. Parker then hovered over to where Corey was standing and asked if he could see the phone. Corey gave it to him, thinking he would take a picture of the crowd or the band. But Parker decided to heave it into the crowd. After the show, Corey yelled towards Parker, asking him why he threw his phone. More or less, his reply was: “It’s disrespectful to have your phone out in the front row.”
I’m not usually buried in my phone at shows but do like to walk away with some photos and an occasional video as do most fans. Bands have to learn that this is a sign of appreciation for them and their music and cannot resort to actions like that.
This situation was where the two extremes mixed. On one side, an immovable object: a fan with his phone out during a show. On the other, an unstoppable force: a singer full of energy who charges the crowd to be as reckless as they can.
In this case, Parker made a move that I’ve had the urge to do at a show for a long time. And it was a bad move.
Sadly, Corey wasn’t able to find his phone. The rest of the band and their management reached out to him after the show. However, Parker was nowhere to be found. He left the scene and did nothing to help Corey find the phone. In reaction, Corey gave his shirt to the manager without refund, telling him to give it to Parker. He said the band “have lost a big fan forever.”
Phone use is continually decreasing the attention span of fans at shows. It’s pulling people out of the “here and now” and – like Parker – it’s making bands mad. But how is throwing somebody’s phone the answer? How is Corey being ‘disrespectful?’ Maybe if he spent the time actually talking to Corey about the situation, Parker would’ve realized that he made a mistake, and he wouldn’t have lost a fan. Obviously the frontman is annoyed with the amount of phones being used during the band’s sets, but he needs to learn to ignore it. The only way to adjust to smartphone culture is to continue being yourself. Get as into the show as you can. These people aren’t hurting anyone, so let them be.
I even experienced something like this last week when I saw Stick to Your Guns. There was a group of guys standing near the front, and every time another fan got close to any of them, they would throw their elbows back. After getting hit in the neck, I moved as far away from them as possible. They were mad because fans kept bumping into them. But when you’re at a hardcore show, this is reality. If you’re annoyed because people around you are moshing, walk away. You knew what you were in for when you bought your ticket, and you’re not going to change it.
This is another example of impulsive reactions giving a fun show atmosphere a militant ambiance. If someone pushes you, you push back. But you don’t hurt them, whether it’s physically or not. When someone else gets hurt, you help them. For Parker, he should realize that his impulsive actions are causing a lot of harm to his fans.
Show culture is being built by technology. It’s causing a sharp division between fans who are on their phones a lot and fans who are completely engulfed in the show. This division is resulting in a lot of unneeded hate. It’s like straight edge kids who pick on fans who decide to drink. It’s just like gay rights supporters who threaten traditional marriage supporters. I’m for gay marriage just like a lot of others, but I don’t see how picking on anyone who disagrees with me does anything. Just let people live their lives. When they begin to have the intention of hurting others, that’s when you do something. Say something, or tell somebody. But don’t hurt them back. That will just make you look just like the inflictors.
I wish I didn’t have to go to shows and cover my head the entire time so stage divers don’t land on me. I wish I didn’t have to go to a show and feel disconnected because most of the crowd is glued to their phones. I just wish I could go to a concert, have a good time, and connect with the crowd and the band. But in today’s society, that’s not realistic.
At best, I can go see Title Fight and wake up with a stiff neck from stage divers landing on my head, or run the risk of getting a huge welt on my face during Blessthefall because one or two fans want to throw their elbows around in the pit. I’m okay with that, because I’m not those people. I’m just myself, and I don’t know these people’s stories. Maybe a stage diver’s friend passed away earlier in the week, and all he wanted was to feel the split-second exhilaration as he reached the peak of his jump. Maybe those few elbow-throwers are going through abuse at home, and throwing their arms around is the only way they can release themselves from the pain. Perhaps they’re not trying to hurt anyone. Perhaps receiving the hits are the best we can do to suffice their emotions. And I’m okay with that.
I can’t change modern concert culture. I can’t change people. The only thing I can do is keep doing what I do, and hope that other people take notice. The last time I checked, punk rock began as a means for change. As we advance as people, I don’t want this to be lost.