I come from a long line of Southern women, strong and tough as nails. I’m no delicate flower and my lack of softer qualities caused me a good deal of heartache as a girl. However, like many other women, I refused to be forced into the ideal feminine mold that still exists in the small town south.
I decided very early on that the life of a typical southern woman was not for me. I was an angst blue dot in a stifling community in a very red state. I didn’t get much support for my opinions or many of my life choices from my family or the bulk of my community. As a girl, I searched for a place I felt I belonged. To be free to be myself and express my opinions as loudly as I could. I found that home in music. More specifically, in rock of the harder variety.
Fast forward a decade, and here I am, with a pretty great life, considering the crappy world my generation graduated into. I learned, I traveled, I explored, but after leaving the States, I lost touch with the music scene that had been my refuge. In recent months, I’ve started to dip my feet back into the world of live music. Let’s just say it seems things have changed pretty dramatically while I was away. People in the south get fired up pretty easily, but in my recent experience, it looks like audience participation is dead.
Being in the crowd at a show was not always a “comfortable” experience. Personal space is never guaranteed. It gets hot, it gets sweaty, and if the music is good, people can’t help but move. If you give yourself over to this kind of experience, chances are you’ll come out hoarse, sore, and finding mystery bruises for days after. However, for crazy people like me, there are few experiences more liberating. As Frank Turner so eloquently put it, “This is my culture, man, this is my home.” Now, nobody likes the jerk who gets wasted and picks fights, but general admission at a good show is by far the best cure for pent-up feels I’ve come across. At least it used to be.
Nowadays, it seems the fires at the altar of rock have gone out. Blame a generation that’s incapable of engaging in any experience without the mediation of a screen if you want, but I think there’s more at play here. Plus, millennials aren’t all that bad. Considering my feminist, anti-Trump, and downright socialist tendencies (at least by American standards,) my opinion on the matter might be a little surprising. Inclusion is important. However, the rising focus on social justice may be shrinking the spaces where folks who don’t fit into regular societal norms feel at home.
Now, don’t for a second think that I’m dismissing the scumbags who treat a female presence in the crowd as an open invitation or deliberately throw elbows at any girl who’s brave enough to get in the pit. These things are never okay.
That said, if you purchase a general admission ticket, especially to a rock show, understand that you are accepting a certain level of risk. It’ll be loud, stinky, hot, and crowded. You will be jostled, you’ll probably leave smelling like beer or worse, and you may take an errant limb in the face. If any of these risks are too great a deterrent to see the show, general admission may not be for you.
This is not a statement of judgement, just a bit of advice from someone who thinks that you have no one to impress and might find a more personally enjoyable way to spend your evening. But these days, we’re so afraid of making other people uncomfortable, we’d rather sanitize the environment of these risks than expect people to use their own common sense when selecting their recreational activities. Whether out of social obligation not to ruffle feathers or fear of stepping outside acceptable behavioral norms, the shift in this case is clear. Crowds are growing still, and the energy that I’ve seen get entire arenas on their feet and singing is running dry.
Through television, the internet, and even our own increased physical mobility, we cultivate a false sense of belonging wherever we may be. When you can have lunch at Chipotle or order your favourite Starbucks beverage in any major city in the world if you’re feeling a little homesick, it’s easy to forget how diverse, alienating, and isolating the world can truly be. Bridging gaps, finding common ground, and fighting for equality have never been more important. However, keep in mind that whenever we decide to fundamentally alter an environment, we must also consider that our actions, however innocuous they may seem, could end up having the unexpected side-effect of making some feel like strangers in the spaces they once called home.