Monday, September 20, 2010

comfort zone be darned: metal show

I recently had the privilege (I guess) of attending what I believe is called a hardcore metal show. I recently have become a very big fan of The Birthday Massacre, a new-wave revival band that is very much geared towards goths and emos. An odd band for me to like, for sure, but honestly I don't care as long as the music is good. Incidentally, the band seems to be very cool people, and put on an excellent show. I like them in just about every way. They recently came to the OC where I live, and in order to see them I had to go see this 6-band show for which they were not the headliner. Every. Other. Band was a hardcore metal band. The kind with tons and tons of bass pedal and the "barking" style of singing. I honestly didn't really care that much. While I'm largely indifferent to this kind of music, I didn't mind waiting through it, because when TBM came on they totally blew the roof off. Because I don't really understand hardcore metal, most of these other bands just felt like waiting. I don't mean to insult any metal fans out there, but honestly the way these bands played was just standing there, playing and just "being hard". TBM came out and were jumping all over the place, interacting with the crowd and generally having a good time. TBM isn't what I started this article for, though. While I am definitely familiar with metal and what it sounds like, and generally what kind of fan it attracts, I had never been to a show before. The kind of people that come out for these things are not the kind of people I hang out with (though I have no problems with them). What I mean to say is that I was almost entirely out of my comfort zone there. One of my defining characteristics is timidness. That and probably laziness and a bit of egotism. Everyone at this show in general looked "harder" than me and looked as though they were like 20x as likely as me to get into a fight. To be honest I was actually a bit scared, though for no reason. Bottom line, I was the only "me" there. This brings me to what is largely the point: Until TBM came out, I was largely an observer. I was not able to partake in the........metal, and what resulted was me observing the behavior of what I referred to (in my head) as the metalheads. I studied it, tried to comprehend it, and was generally fascinated by it.

This is TBM, by the way, the least hardcore act all night

I am so out of touch with cultures other than mine that I started to flip out (mentally, not outwardly) during the second act. A band called The Agonist (my cousin, who had attended with me and a few others, loved them) started doing their thing and rocking out, and was able to get a response out of the crowd like the bands before had not. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something I had seen before: the beginning of a fight. If you've ever been to high school or stayed anywhere with a bunch of guys for long enough, you've seen a fight. You see them start to push each other, and there's just something about the way they "move" that allows you to know instantly that the two involved aren't wrestling or anything: they're fighting. Immediately my brain went into action, afraid that the flurry of limbs would find its way to me. There's no logic to it: if the cloud hits you, your're in. The last thing a guy like me is suited for is a fight. So when flight is the only other option, I start looking for exits. The only exit near me, a break in the circular wall surrounding the pit, was too close to the flurry. I would have to deal with whatever came to me, move away from it when possible despite the people around me. The people around the fighters started to move away, making room. I thought that at least with that room, the two guys would use it, and try to hit each other now. It went on and I slowly realized what I was seeing. Nobody was throwing punches. What uncannily resembled the beginning of a fight was really just guys pushing each other. Where in a fight punches usually start flying after preliminary pushing, this event had only continued pushing.

I don't know anything about anything, but I slowly realized what what I was seeing was what is called a moshpit. The tight knot in my stomach slowly (slowly) loosened, though the adrenaline remained in my blood for a minute. I wasn't going to get hit. After cautiously experiencing relief, I remained where I was. I kept a very close eye on the pit from then on, for the next 2 hours, watching people jump in and out, some more than others. I was fine with it. Apparently this is something you do at shows, but nobody ever bothered to tell me. That sound ridiculous, but if you've never heard that people do that, how exactly are you supposed to react your first time? I kept my arms up every time somebody got close, parallel to the ground, still kind of freaked out. Sometimes people got close or were shoved into me. I did not push them back in like I was supposed to, just guarded my front. It was really annoying, but I figured it was better than getting hit. The only truly lame part of it was that there was this gigantic, hulking idiot with a smile who, every now and then, would get motivated enough to start swinging his elbows around and jump in. He slammed into me. I'm a big brother at home. In my history as a human being, I've almost always been the one to bonk on the head, poke in the side, and so on. I'm the bonk-er, not the bonk-ee, is what I'm saying. I wasn't abusive or anything, I've just always been bigger. When this mass of ... mass plowed into me at metal speed, crushing me against the wall, I experienced the force of someone bigger than myself for one of the only times ever. While it didn't hurt that bad (though it hurt), the sensation was actually kind of jarring. Like, emotionally. If I had wanted to push him off, I wouldn't have been able to. I really didn't know how to deal with that, though the feeling lasted a second only. I was kind of upset, but my normal "look pissed until someone notices" way of pursuing justice wasn't going to work here. I quickly got over it, though not of my own will. I just figured it was pointless.

My band that I came for played finally, and we were done. I thought about it on and off, and I decided that the whole metal thing I'd seen was pretty fascinating. While I'm largely protected from everything ever, I am also a fan of staying open-minded, attempting to appreciate the things that make people different, and in general trying to contextualize other peoples' lives so that I can understand them. While the things I'd seen were not my cup of tea (though tea is okay), I couldn't get over the impulse to at least call it interesting. For all of the pushing and stuff, the people moshing would help each other up when someone got knocked down, and even hugged. It was probably a very positive experience, for all of its aggression. I like trying to "get" other people and the things they do, so that I can more easily be a sympathetic human (it doesn't come naturally to me because I'm weird, so I have to "do the math" to make it work). If I listen to something like Imogen Heap's "Wait It Out", a more than excellent song that means a lot to me, in my car on a gray day, I can cry from it. If I want to. Sometimes. At the right time, with the right song, music can elicit a genuine and awesome emotional response from me unlike anything I'll probably experience all day. And based on what I saw, that was what I was seeing, but for metalheads. The music was affecting them in such a way that the only natural outlet was to start shoving each other. I've only ever been motivated to act that way as the result of a Kung-Fu movie, and it's never been strong enough to actually throw punches. I'm not exactly sure what to really take away from it, but I honestly feel like there's something important here. It's probably that a lot of the people you see on a daily basis, the ones that you probably think you have nothing in common with, actually do have a lot in common with you. With so many different ways for brains to develop during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence, channels are probably formed in our brains (or whatever) that are essentially outlets for the same thing. Human emotion or something. It doesn't matter how you get it out, as long as you do. For some people it's metal. For others it's Imogen Heap. For yet others, it's writing a condescending and douchebaggy blog about accepting others.                              

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