I started out my CMJ weekend by heading to the Bloodshot Records BBQ at Union Pool – Free Beer! Free Food! (after the $10 cover). We arrived late because that’s how I roll and guess what? No food and the beer might have been free but it also might have been dog piss. They only charged us $10 for 2 people though.
We got there just in time to see Centro-Matic. I generally like Bloodshot Records’ bands and love the Old 97s. For years I’ve been hearing the praise of Centro-Matic as the new Old 97s but never really gave them a good listen. Now that I have, all I can say is that their music is good alt-country but nothing special. As for their live show … well the guitarist looked like he was about to fall asleep and I was right there with him.
In one word: Dissapointing. And the Bloodshot merch stunk which was doubly dissapointing since I’m currently on a big band shirt kick.
After that we head up to Greenpoint to see The Lawrence Arms. Since we had no interest in the opening bands and since our tummies were growling due to lack of free BBQ, we decided to get some food. Prior to this decision we walked aimlessly in the wrong direction for 2 blocks. Whoops. Once correctly situated, we decided to sit down at this small polish joint mostly because it was the first decent looking restaurant we came across. The food was quite delicious and our waitress was adorable.
Because Adam and I are huge dorks, we often play “top 5” or “if you could” games. Tonight’s was “What is the one current band you haven’t seen that you really want to see?” Both of our answers was: The Lawrence Arms. At the time, we didn’t know how dissapointed we’d come to be.
After finishing our food, we headed over to the venue. Perhaps it’s because I’m from Chicago where the Lawrence Arms sell out the Metro, but I was pretty surprised by how few people were there. I later came to be surprised at how big of an asshole those few people could be.
Finally, the band came on. They were wasted and slurring which made it tough to understand their banter which, according to them, was hilarious. Only the drummer – who was rocking out and singing along behind his kit – seemed into the show at all. Apparently, they were playing the same set that they played the previous evening on the Rocks Off Boat Cruise. One word: Lame. Don’t worry though, it gets lamer.
About midway through the show a 200 pound (I’m not exaggerating he later told us how much he weighed) meat head decided it’d be “fun” to stage dive into the sparse crowd. First of all, stage diving is pretty much never ok; let alone stage diving by a two hundred pounder. I didn’t come to a show to play basketball with this asshole. Moreover, the only case when crowd surfing itself is ok is 1) if the crowd is packed and 2) if you way less than 120 lbs. Niether of which was the case this evening.
Eventually a most pit forms behind us (we were almost at the stage) which is fine. Unfortunetly, Meat Head decides that instead of moshing in the pit like any community-respecting punk properly trained in punk rock etiquette, he starts jumping on top of the people standing up front. Adam and I are getting more and more pissed off. I’m elbowing people left and right (and so is everyone in the pit – always a sign that things are not as they should be) and Adam is pulling crowd surfers down. At one point (or two or three), I shoved Meat Head.
Meat Head then decides to start shit with me. The song ends and he says “Does it really bother you that much?” blah blah blah. I respond, “If you’re going to mosh, get in the pit.” Then Adam gets into it with him. According to Meat Head, he was just having fun so it should all be ok. As Adam told him, “It’s fun for you.” Meat Head then pulls the ‘punk rock community’ card with Adam. Adam’s response: “Just because we like the same band doesn’t make us a fucking community.” Moreover, doing something that is fun for you but not fun and potentially dangerous to the rest of the crowd, aka the ‘community,’ is really the antithesis of community, is it not?
While all this is going on, Meat Head’s shrimpy friends decides he’s going to get some cool, macho points by going after Meat Head’s leftovers. That’s right, he starts shit with me. Things were said back in forth or more accurately, I called him out on his lame, insecure bullshit and he responded (everytime) by asking me “Why are you even here? At a punk rock show?”
At this point there are only a few songs left (Like a Record Player and 100 Resolutions – two of my favs). Adam pulls all crowd surfers down and takes a clearing round around the pit and my elbows get more than a little contact. We sing along and try hard to rock out and enjoy the last few minutes of the show. Truthfully, the show was pretty much ruined for me and I was livid … at those guys, at the injustice and irrationality of the underlying assumptions of the things that were said and done, at the Lawrence Arms for making no effort to regulate their crowd, and at myself for being so upset by it.
Note: Adam and I were engaged in the same behavior – pulling crowd surfers down, shoving/elbowing/generally making unwelcome all the assholes making the show less welcome for others, yet Adam gets asks about his allegiance to a punk rock community while I get told that – because I don’t want to have a 200 lb asshole jump on top of me – I don’t have a right to be at a punk rock show. It is assumed that Adam is defacto a part of this so called punk rock community despite his actions while it is assumed that I am not and surely can’t be if because of those same actions.
Punk Rock community is an interesting thing for me to think about. On some level I find the idea/ideal very attractive and it probably contributed to my general attraction to punk rock music and the punk rock scene. But the truth is that I have never felt like a part of that community. I’ve been going to shows by myself or tagging along with people I didn’t know that well or forcing friends that weren’t really into it to go withe me since I was 14. In case your wondering, standing in a crowded venue loud with the sound of voices and crowds of friends by yourself, isn’t fun and it doesn’t make you feel like a part of a community – it makes you feel alienated. I kept going because once the band started, it was awesome. I guess in those moments of singing along and dancing in the pit I felt like I was apart of something. But it ended there. Maybe that’s what kept me believing in the ideal of a punk rock community. But believing isn’t feeling.