As we waited outside Water Street Music Hall in Rochester, NY, my friend Dan and I struck up casual conversation with one of the many Children of the Fence (the common name of the Coheed and Cambria fandom) standing in line before the show. I mentioned offhand that this was my first time seeing Coheed even though I had been a fan for quite some time. With this fact now hanging in the air his eyes lit up with a look that alluded to his knowing something I didn’t. His immediate response was “You’re going to love it.” There was a sense of genuine joy in his eyes as he must have recalled his own first time.
Although I truly believe that Coheed is its own unique musical entity, I do not believe that our fandom is free of the many positive and negative aspects that come with seeing live music and loving bands. For this reason, I think my own experience at two Coheed concerts back in September represents the best and worst of any respective fandom. In those two days I shared a lot of special moments with fellow fans, be it a few of my best friends or people I had never met before and will most likely never see again.
While we were in that line for the first show of our double Coheed weekend, another friend of mine from Buffalo, Jared, walked up and joined us. As the time to open doors approached, a large man in a security uniform began walking down the line to check IDs and make sure people were of age. Unfortunately for Jared, who is 15, the show was ages 16+ and the security guard wouldn’t accept either me or my 19-year-old friends as his guardian. A lady in her 50s in front of us, realizing what was transpiring, interjected on his behalf, offering to watch him during the show. This woman had never met Jared before and couldn’t be sure what exactly she’d be responsible for if she agreed to be his guardian, but she unselfishly offered anyway. However, the guard still said no dice.
After the lines started moving and Jared did his fair share of worrying about what he’d do if he couldn’t get in the show, he eventually made his way to the manager of the venue who, unlike the stubborn security guard, allowed him in with no hesitation.
Needless to say the musical portion of the festivities was spectacular, but in complete juxtaposition to the kindness witnessed earlier on behalf of that anonymous woman, some people decided to make the night a little less enjoyable for those around them. Now, I’m used to being pushed around at concerts. I routinely come home from shows covered in bruises, harboring no reservations whatsoever. However, I do not enjoy having to fend off drunken fans as they attempt to squeeze in between my best friend and me to get the spots against the barrier that we waited so long to secure. My opinion has always been: if you want a good spot at a show, get there early, put in the time, and then respect those around you while enjoying that spot.
Of course, this minor inconvenience could not ruin the evening and as Coheed shredded through a superb set list, I enjoyed some of my favorite songs with two great friends at my side. In the middle of the show, lead singer Claudio Sanchez exhibited his patented generosity and handed Jared one of his guitar picks. Later on in the chaos following their final song, guitar tech David Gibney threw a handful of Claudio’s picks into the crowd and Jared was lucky enough to catch another one, which he immediately planted into my own hand as he spoke into my ear, saying “I wouldn’t want to be here with anybody else.”
The next Monday, I once again joined Dan in Syracuse at the Westcott Theater to revel in Coheed: Round Two. As we walked into the venue and took our spots close to the stage, a young lady in a wheelchair entered, accompanied by her mother and the small crowd which had gathered up to this point parted to allow this girl a spot right up front.
Coheed shows, however, do have the tendency to get a bit rowdy and there were some compromises made as those next to the young lady attempted to control the energy incited by the music with their need to respect her own physical needs.
However, in the midst of “Welcome Home” it was clear that the crowd’s overwhelming passion was making it hard for the young lady to enjoy the musical mastery in front of her. Sanchez, noticing this, stopped the performance, jumped off stage and asked the lady if she needed help, which she clearly did. Not knowing what to do, the event security and Sanchez exchanged glances until another fan shouted loudly, “Bring her on stage!”
Sanchez, always doing his best to thank his fans, prompted the security guards to help bring the young lady and her wheelchair onto the stage. Taking the song from the top, the band and crowd both displayed a bit more heart after witnessing Sanchez’s selfless nature. Upon reaching the famous solo, Sanchez walked over to the young lady now seated next to a stack of amps and held his white double-necked Gibson up, offering it to her as she gladly plucked the strings in amazement.
During the show I had been flanked by a man most likely in his late 30s who had brought his young son with him. It was clear that the father was more of a fan than the son. Evidently it was his son’s first concert and he wanted to instill a music-loving tradition into his son’s life. As the house lights went up and fans once again scrambled for the picks, sticks, and set lists thrown from the stage, the father yelled pleadingly in an attempt to get a memento for his son. This act was, however, to no avail. Realizing that this was genuinely meaningful to him, I tapped the shoulder of the father to show him the pick I had gotten a few days earlier and happened to be keeping in my wallet. Telling him what it was and how I got it, I gave it to the young boy and shook his hand as a smile covered both his face and his father’s.
I think that one pick, although on its most basic level simply a triangular piece of plastic, represents what it can mean to be a fan of music. In the course of four days it went from the hands of Claudio Sanchez to David Gibney to my friend Jared to myself and then finally to a young boy, who will hopefully see the familial and selfless nature of music and incorporate it into his own life.
As fans of all genres of music, whether it’s hardcore, punk, metal or indie, we have the opportunity to positively affect the lives of those around us. It is certainly easy to only look out for oneself when going to a concert, but our actions don’t stop at us. In a day in age where frontmen like Ronnie Radke both verbally and physically harass their own fans, we need to acknowledge that everybody – the bands, fans, and event staff – all play a key role in fostering a welcoming and safe environment for those who need an escape from society. So, I ask all of you who play any part in any music scene: Why create a hostile environment for people like you, when you can just as easily provide a refuge for those who need it most?