Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Sweaty Rock Shows of Yore

Ah yes, "yore," that nebulous time period sometime between the Revolutionary War and yesterday, when we throwback our heads and laugh at what silly small persons we were. Throwing all of that tea into the river, ha! Attending a rock show in a room with no windows or air conditioning, ha!

When I was in high school, I wanted nothing more than to attend the scads of All Ages shows that descended upon Fort Lauderdale at this venue called The Factory (we also sometimes went to shows at PIS, or "PISS," as it was known--Pompano Indoor Skatepark; and Revolution, an outdoor venue where you almost instantly got contact highs from all the weed.). It was, essentially, a box with a stage and lights, like most venues you attend when you are 16. I only made it to a few, however, because so many of them were on school nights and I was horribly anal-retentive about my grades and my clubs and my leadership roles. I should have gotten lost in the mosh pits more often, had elbows thrust at my back and neck while some band played I had never heard of, lead singer screaming into the microphone. Because when you are 16, you didn't just come for the band you wanted to see (Finch, Recover, HIM) you showed up early, maybe an hour before the show started, because you wanted to stand in the front the entire time and get jostled around and tell your friends the next day about what a badass you were for punching some girl in the face when she tried to take your spot (you would conveniently leave out that it was on accident and that you apologized profusely and got her an ice pack when it happened). It builds character. And if nothing else, it certainly prepares you for an average subway ride in New York.

Last night, I had a the most throwback-tastic experience of attending a rock show in a similar venue to my beloved Factory, Death by Audio in Williamsburg. DBA is another All Ages venue and it even has a 1am curfew. Tacked up on the brightly painted walls are posters for bands coming through, dates and times scrawled in a sometimes illegible Sharpie. Girls in red lipstick and horn-rimmed glasses check my ID and stamp my wrist with a giant bleeding eyeball that later, after a shower and 9 hours of sleep, will still not come off.

I enter the stage area and my skin immediately starts to weep. The air conditioning is out in the venue and soon I am covered in a suit of my own sweat, listening to a band I have never heard of. A singer yowls on the microphone like a wounded bear while a guitar on a cocaine bender almost drowns his voice out entirely. People are pogoing and moshing in the middle of the venue's floor and I almost instantly have flashbacks to my days as a wannabe punk, when I didn't so much like the music my friends liked as wanted to go out and do something that wasn't staying at home another weekend with my parents. This time, I didn't push and shove my way to the front because, dear god, the mere sight of the amount of people up there made my skin drip even more. I hung out in the back for the sets I didn't want to see. I am standing here for rock and roll, because that is what you do--you sweat, you stand, you bleed, and you bruise. Or, you come to your damn senses and grow up and wait outside until the band you actually want to hear comes on because, let's face it, you have a comp ticket tonight and 'getting your money's worth' doesn't really mean anything. In the grand words of Roger Murtaugh...So, at the ripe-old age of 24 you reevaluate your standards for rock show quality: you have one skin to give for rock and roll, and it's not for some band you don't even like.

But I promise you, as soon as the band you do want to see comes on, you push your way to the front like a boss and you stand there the entire set, leaning on a speaker, eardrums severely endangered, because if you're really gonna love a band, you're gonna go hard and with absolutely no hesitation. You can't just love everyone, you can't just tough it out for everyone. It makes the deepest love less meaningful.

Speedy Ortiz at Death by Audio