Hi, I’m Lauren. The first concert I ever saw was The Monkees when I was six and I’m pretty sure that makes me cooler than you. I cry at the end of La Bamba every single time even though I know how it ends, and I think The White Stripes version of “Jolene” may well be better than the original. I have had a whole ton of really awesome experiences that most people only dream about. I’ve worked for record labels, booked shows at really cool venues all over the country, toured with some of my favorite bands, and one time I ate insanely delicious vegan cupcakes with the guys from Alkaline Trio. Now I get to impart my opinion on all things music to the unsuspecting people of the internet and it’s all thanks to one embarrassing and empowering trait. I was once, and still am a fangirl.
Let me set the scene for you. I was 15 and a sophmore at a performing arts high school. For some reason, I was pretty sure that going to some auditioned high school made me the end all be all source of music knowledge, even though I spent more time smoking on the school roof than I did actually studying music (sorry Mom). One Halloween I found myself at the barrier for a local show. There were about 20 bands playing and I honestly couldn’t tell you anything about most of them except one really stood out. They did a Billy Idol cover and I fell in love. I went home that night and did some extensive Myspace sleuthing. I found the band’s page, I learned their history, who the members were, and I joined the street team. I made sure I was at every show, I spent countless hours creating fliers and plastering them everywhere I could. Eventually, all of my hard work paid off when I began working for the band’s record label out of high school. It was my lowly position as Myspace manager and press kit sender-outer that would become the starting point for the rest of my dream career.
I understand that my story is not typical, but just because it isn’t the norm doesn’t mean that it’s unrealistic. Recently, Alternative Press brought to light a common prejudice in the alternative music scene; fangirls are everything that is wrong with music. After reading Cassie Whitt’s article, I was torn. I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been the jaded music snob who rolled her eyes at the high school kids since they were obviously total posers. But then again I’ve also been that very same high school kid.
First of all. I don’t think fangirl is a fair term. What image comes to mind when you hear it? For most people it’s the panty hurling, screaming, crying, borderline stalker masses that flock to bands and fawn over their every move. We picture obsession. But what we don’t picture is a stadium full of tens of thousands of grown men in various states of undress with their beer guts painted wearing cheese hats. I, for one, don’t see any difference other than I typically don’t have to scrub my eyeballs with bleach after seeing most fangirls. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for all football lovers. Being passionate about the things you love shouldn’t be a punishable offense. But somehow, as music fans we’ve become too cool. At some point we decided that we have to be detached and bored. It’s the battle of who could care less, and it’s so ass-backwards and hypocritical. How is that a bunch of old punks with Black Flag tattoos missed the irony in judging people for wearing their passion on their sleeve?
When I first got into punk rock, it was when an older friend brought me to a basement show. I felt out of place BECAUSE I didn’t live and breathe music the same way these people did. This was community of people who were creating the music scene they wanted to be a part of. They were turning their houses into venues and record labels to put out friends’ bands. They were screen printing their own t-shirts and constantly working to perfect and add to the music culture they would be lost without. Ultimately, they went on to create a small but mighty force that welcomed and nurtured all kinds of art. It was a community that artists loved to be a part of and the community as a whole embraced. They were fangirls. All of them. The guy who drove around picking up kids who couldn’t drive and bringing them to shows. The girl who convinced her boss to let bands play at their cafe so kids didn’t have to worry about shows getting shut down or their parents allowing them to frequent qeustionable venues. But most importantly, the people standing in the sweaty basements and laundromat-turned-secret-venue by night who believed in the scene and thirsted for it. The people who were equally as much a part of the scene as the scene was a part of them. Fangirls, regardless of sex, got shit done. But here’s the thing, they can’t do it alone. Instead of looking down on “fangirls” those dudes with the Black Flag tattoos need to show the youngins the ropes. Music, like any religion, is reliant upon it’s True Believers passing on the traditions and beliefs to the next generation. If these songs, these concerts, these artists are so important to you, keep the fire burning. Don’t be the one to let it go out just because you wanted to keep it to yourself.
Now I realize that not all fangirls are as productive as the good people of my past. If I’m being honest, I have been that hypocritical jaded old music snob looking down their nose at said fangirls. But my frustrations isn’t with the girl wearing the bands shirt to their show (even though I don’t really get it. They know you’re fan…you’re at the concert). You want to know what’s wrong with music today? Yea, maybe its fangirls, but its not the ones with the emotional attachment to the band, the one who’s spending her money supporting the artists shes loves and buying every t shirt they’ve ever made thusly ensuring tons of free publicity for the band everywhere she goes. No, that’t not the problem. The problem is fans who take to social media to make sure that the artists they love know that they are absolutely and certifiably insane. Musicians, regardless of genre (except maybe techno, I’m still trying to work that out) are human. Believe it or not, when they post a picture on the internet it isn’t an invitation to harass the ever loving crap out of them. Sure, it’s flattering when you tell them how much you appreciate their music. Yes, it’s absolutely appalling to both the musician and everyone else who reads your post when you spam every tweet with attention whoring, desperate pleas in hopes of getting noticed. Trust me honey, they noticed. And they hit the block button. There are entire websites dedicated to finding out insanely personal details of musicians/actors/celebrities lives. Does this line in a song mean he’s gay? Where does he live? I snapped this picture of so-and-so grocery shopping…OMG HE EATS BANANAS!!! Stop it. Right now. It’s creepy. Sure, I appreciate a picture of a cat-litter-toting Danzig as much as the next broad, but it stops there. These people are putting their hearts, their emotions and all of their free time right out there for you digest and most likely illegally download off the internet. What more do you want from them? Recently a New Jersey newspaper asked its readers to send in stories and info about where they’ve seen Bruce Springsteen eat. “What did he order,” it asked. Did he like it? What kind of drink did he order? Does he use ketchup? I couldn’t take it. I cancelled my subscription. Since I was a very little girl, I realized that the magic in music is that its ordinary humans, just like me, who feel the way I feel. I’m not alone. Yes, please, admire the people who put out the music you love. But don’t alienate them. Don’t make them afraid to open up to their fans for fear of being judged, or hated or followed home after some creep memorizes their license plate number.
Ultimately, I’d summarize with this, stop being jerks. Don’t be a jerk when a kid is new to what you love. Show them why you love it. Teach them to respect it then rest peacefully knowing that it’s got another torchbearer. Don’t be a jerk and feel entitled to anything more than any person, musician or otherwise is willing to give you. Be grateful for music. Let it consume you, and have fun in the process. Fangirls, Fanboys, semi-naked dudes in dairy themed caps, you do you. Have fun and don’t worry about jaded old losers like me. Get lost in what you love. It’s ok.
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