Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My…My night with the scene kids

13 Jan

On one of the warmest fall nights of November I was asked to accompany a friend to see one of his favorite bands perform at Pearl Street in Northampton.  I definitely did not know what I was in for.  Tickets had sold out online, but were also going to be sold at the door for a limited number of guests.  After standing in line for two hours with some of their biggest fans, I felt compelled to write about my experiences posing as one of them.

My friend Jim was bringing along his sister Sarah who is in high school.  Both big fans and familiar with their music, I was much the outsider.  We made the drive up to Northampton debating if we would be able to sit and eat, or if we would have to send someone to grab us a quick bite.  We parked the car and headed on our way down to Pearl Street.

A sketchy van was parked outside the side door of the building, and there were people carrying their music equipment into the club. I wondered if it was members of the opening band.  You could hear music pouring out of the open doors and windows; it was almost as if we were having our own special hearing before anyone else had the opportunity.  We were happy to see that no one was waiting in line and decided to sit and have dinner at a nearby restaurant.  Forty-five minutes later we walked back to Pearl Street to see a line forming.  Luckily, there were only ten people in front of us. Within Ten minutes, the line already stretched around the corner.

Almost everyone had on skinny jeans and a flannel shirt or hooded sweatshirt.  It felt as if they all had a mixture of styles, mostly between ‘punk’ and ‘emo’. This stuck out to me when I noticed studded belts peaking out from under their shirts.  There was a mixture of shaggy hair and clean-cut but it was obvious to see this scene had particular trends to follow to truly be part of their scene.  The few girls I saw had short choppy haircuts or bleach streaks in their hair.  Standing there in my Red Sox sweatshirt and running sneakers, I’m sure I stuck out like a sore thumb.

Deciding it was time for a drink, I left line to head to the store.  When walking back with some soda I returned to find my friends in conversation with the people next in line.  Five minutes later it becomes clear the fellow fan is out of his element.  The conversation started off very uncomfortable.  Sarah started to get uncomfortable and we wondered whether he’d get the hint and stop talking to us.  Fortunately he directed his attention to a group in line behind us.  He started heckling him about his shoes but at the same time oddly complementing him.

It wasn’t too long until the fan returned to his spot in line, and I decided to change my attitude towards him.  I figured since he wasn’t going to react to the cold shoulder technique, I should use his own form of conversation; heckling.  He started expressing his impatience of waiting in line and having to hear the opening bands.  Next thing I know Sarah is on board with heckling him; correcting the lyrics he started to belt out.  This fan later introduced himself as Eric and he was the highlight of the evening.

Not too much time passed before Eric was making a fool of himself again.  I found myself belting out laughter at his choice of conversations; which ranged from his sneakers to his childhood dog.  “Look at my hands, they are so small.  They are hardly big enough to fit a burger in”, Eric, said.  “Jesus, those are most definitely Junior Whopper hands”, my friend and I laughed.  His unnamed friend kept himself in the background, keeping to himself.  When he did decide to talk it was mostly creepy and unusual.  I started to wonder if these were normal fans, or I was just in for a special viewing of oddity for the evening.

The cold November air started to catch up with me.  I put my hood on and grabbed my mittens out of my purse.  What do you know; Eric was at it again.  “I hate mittens!  Look at your crab hands in those mittens”.  I logged on to my twitter account to make sure I didn’t forget his ridiculous quotes, only to quickly give up as he was inquiring who I was texting. I learned to just give in and laugh him off as if he wasn’t there. Jim and I wanted to be sure to show others he wasn’t “with us” we were merely making fun of his presence in line.

Shortly after Eric’s shenanigans we met a hardcore fan that drove two hours, from Framingham to get to the show.  “I love Tall as Lions!  Them and Minus the Bear are my two favorite bands.  I am shocked they are playing together!”  He was by himself, but hoping to meet up with some people he knew inside.  I started to wonder if I would ever drive that far only to be alone for the majority of the time.  He seemed confident enough that it was well worth the drive to have such an experience.

The time had finally come for the doors to open and for all the excited fans to rush in.  We purchased our tickets at the box office and they handed us a white ticket raffle stub to hand to the so-called security workers.  All bags were checked and each person was patted down, and I wondered if they would know what to do if they actually saw something that shouldn’t be there.

The Pearl Street venue had a vintage vibe to it. It was smaller than I expected, but then again it had its own special feel.  You could go right up to the stage and practically touch the performer. There is an elevated area in the back of the room and along the sides if you want to stay uninvolved with the fans Dancing in the pit.  I ran for the chance to use the bathroom before the line started to form.  I can’t say I was surprised to find it so grungy.  The bathroom doors barely closed, the mirrors had film all over them and you could barely see through any of the windows.  Either way, it didn’t seem to bother anyone.

Everyone started pouring onto the floor to get his or her standing spot.  My friends and I agreed to always make sure our spot was saved.  The fans were crowding in and the floor was starting to get stuffy.  Eric found his way back to us but quickly started to cause trouble, “really, excuse me!” he screamed as someone knocked his shoulder walking by.  The other fan shouted back at him “Fuck off!”.  I felt for a moment that a fight might break out, but then they quickly started talking about music; forgetting about their earlier argument.  They headed over to the bar to exchange information and that was the last I saw of the fanatic fan, Eric.

Before I knew it, the first band, Twin Tigers, had hit the stage.  I could tell that they were not the fan favorite but there was a select few around me singing along to their songs.  For those that didn’t know the words, they still bounced to the drum beats and bass line.  There were a select number of people right near the stage who were making it known they were familiar with their music.  There were a few pulling out their cell phones to take pictures and videos.  I can only imagine it was to brag to their friends about and post on their facebook pages.

When Minus the Bear finally hit the stage the crowd went wild.  A song I later found out to be “Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!” sent everyone rocking in every direction.  Being in the middle of the action, I was forced to take part. I didn’t allow hesitation and gave in to their rhythms; I was one of them for a small moment.  One of my favorite tracks they performed was “The Fix”.  The crowd clapped along and chanted with the lead singer, “so this is the difference between living and not living”.  Everyone seemed to be in his or her own zone; the song was an obvious fan favorite.  More than ever, I could see why anyone would want to be a part of this sub-culture.

On one of Minus the Bear’s closing tracks “Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse” sent all the Indie couples flaunting public displays of affection.  I nudged my friend Jim and said “Really?  Here?  That is pretty intense”.  He went on to explain to me that it is one of their most romantic songs.  Later on, on the drive home he went in detail about his take on the lyrics.  He said it is a song about going on vacation, or de-stressing, with a significant other, not having any worries and having fun with the time they have left alone together.

As the night went on, I began to realize that these scene kids were just like any other hardcore music fans. It was sometimes offsetting to hear them speak with their own sense of entitlement when talking about the music they enjoy.  I heard a majority of the fans around me discussing why that particular band was their favorite and giving facts about the songs or the band members.  It was clear I would have to know every part of these bands to truly have some creditability within their Indie community.  Then again I wasn’t made into the black sheep when mixing in.

In the Indie scene, lyrics take on separate meanings for each listener and in turn make the fan feel it is a song that was written just for them. These kids surrendered themselves to the sound and let out everything they had on that Dance floor.  Sweat poured off everyone’s foreheads as we were leaving; almost to show the layers of them they had left behind with the music.  This atmosphere encouraged rage and inappropriateness, reflected by Eric.  But it also expressed vulnerability through the listener’s sways and chants back toward the performers.

In closing, my night with the scene kids was eye-opening.  I have always had a special connection with music throughout my life but seemed to lose touch with it when newer artists bored me.  This new wave of music has started to bring me back to connecting to what I listen to.  It is important to be passionate about something in your life that no one can take away from you.  I’d like to think these scene kids gave me the awakening I needed.

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One Response to “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My…My night with the scene kids”

  1. Me January 15, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe! I’ll go and read some more! What do you see the future of this being?

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