By Emma Rose
I woke up at 5 AM on a summer morning to the sound of rain pounding on my windowsill, building in intensity by the second. Two hours later, I arrived at Manhattan’s Webster Hall, armed with ponchos, umbrellas, and enough food to survive an apocalypse. Despite the torrential downpour, I took a rush hour train, navigated the subway system by myself for the first time, and walked in circles in NYC’s East Village just to sit outside of the venue for 12 hours.
Nobody seemed to understand. Passerby's stared at me as I sat alone on a city sidewalk with the bitter wind chill and rain drops soaking through my clothes and into my skin. My mother called me every 20 minutes with a sense of worry and confusion in her voice, wondering why her child would do something so crazy. My friends rolled their eyes when I told them where I was...and they all asked, "Why?"
Why did I want to wait half a day to see the band PVRIS? It is because concerts give me the self-confidence that I have been unable to find in any other section of my life. Being in that crowded venue allots me a few hours to be myself, but the waiting in line and finding new friends can be just as exciting.
As the line wraps around the block, I share my ponchos with a few fans who soon become friends. The small talk slowly turns into conversations usually shared with best friends after months (maybe even years) as trust is built up. Before I know it, we are exchanging stories of middle school bullies who left us crying on the bathroom floor and how it fueled our internal fire to become better than those broken fragments.
Suddenly, all the weight on my shoulders is lifted. How is it that these people who were just strangers a little while ago are the reason I feel less alone? I can’t even begin to tell you about the relief that comes from knowing that someone else has fought off the same demons as yourself. The concert community taught me not to be ashamed of the nights I spent questioning who I was or the petty mistakes that I kept hidden in the depths of my chest. And to think, all this empowerment before I even step inside the venue!
Once the wave of darkness overtakes the sweaty room, the real magic happens. For me, this isn’t the music. It’s those brief moments in between where the drummer and guitarists are tuning their instruments and the vocalist has to entertain the rambunctious crowd. While I’ve had a plethora of amazing encounters during these fillers, a few have sent chills through my bones despite the blazing heat created by being in close contact with sweaty kids.
Since this all started with PVRIS, it only makes sense that I talk about Lynn Gunn. In a music scene lacking in female representation, Gunn is the much needed bright light--even though she wears only black--that will inspire a younger generation of girls to pick up a guitar. Watching her on stage, I am mesmerized. Not only by her impeccable vocals, but by the confidence she has in herself that somehow makes me feel just as secure in myself. As someone who has struggled with identity for way too many years, there’s some comfort in seeing an openly gay female musician proudly sing a song she wrote for her girlfriend (Love, Robot vocalist and fellow role model Alexa San Román.) People say it gets better, but I only actually felt the potential for things to improve after seeing someone who has probably gone through similar tribulations and emerged on the other side.
Speaking of “the other side,” I must also bring up Tonight Alive vocalist Jenna McDougall. Like Gunn, McDougall transforms a concert from a night filled with music into one of hope and fading feelings of self-doubt. She doesn’t use the lulls in a set to just interact with the crowd, but to inspire them. On the Future Hearts Tour this past spring, McDougall adopted a mantra: “From this day, I refuse to live in fear of someone else’s judgement.” I may have been to a few shows on that tour, but the words hit just as hard each time. When she repeats this phrase with passion and asks the audience to recite it back, I scream it while tuning out the world around me. It’s one thing to hear someone else say it, but hearing the sentence roll off my tongue actually makes me feel and believe every single word.
Before discovering concerts, I was always a quiet, soft-spoken kid who hated seeing that reflection in the mirror. Then music came crashing in and welcomed me into a new world where I was encouraged to wear those pizza converse my friends made fun of me for and where nobody cared who slept on the left side of my bed. From the petty to major things, concerts gave me the confidence take the person I was inside the venue and bring her into the light of day.
I will forever be grateful for the songs, band members, and music-obsessed friends who broke through my thick skin and pulled out a person I never knew existed. Because of these events, I can look at myself and smile, because I love me just the way I am and I no longer live in fear of anyone’s judgement.
Emma stumbled into the music journalism field when she saw an ad for a blog in need of writers. Since that day in January 2015, she has been a founding member of the team over at ShuffleBeatMusic, a blog that interviews musicians and reviews shows. While cataloguing the success of performers helps her to stay engaged in the scene, Emma's dream is to some day be on the other side of the industry. A self-taught musician who plays drums, guitar, bass, and keys, she has just recently formed the band Heartless Bones and hopes to grace the stages of Warped Tour someday. Of course, there must always be a backup plan. Emma is currently studying Public Relations and music business at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Wherever life leads her, it will always circle back to music.
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