So you’ve grown up a little bit and are ready for your first concert. Not like the one your dad took you to at the park, or some classic rock festival. I’m talking about a show. For those of you already familiar with the subculture, a show is what a small local or underground concert is called. There are many different types of shows, and each one has it’s own atmosphere and etiquette.
If you find yourself at a death metal or thrash show you will probably see a lot of long haired dudes in tshirts featuring any number of horror themes and that weird writing that resembles a pile of sticks or a kindergardener on Adderall’s art project gone wrong.
These kinds of shows are filled with beer drinking, cigarette smoking dudes who are probably doing a lot of pushing, shoving, and running in circles. You don’t have a lot to worry about if you stay out of the swirling mass of testosterone. Don’t say anything about Winger or your enjoyment of other genres, you will he bored to death by the time the pimple covered dude in a Cannibal Corpse shirt gets done explaining the minutiae of blast beats and other nonsense. Have a beer and watch as these Dungeons and Dragons warriors tire themselves out after a few trips around the merry-go-round of masculinity.
Next up is a slightly more volatile crowd, but you should be OK if you don’t say anything about politics or support for the system. Watch for ludicrous amounts of spikes on all forms of clothing, plaid pants, and combat boots. You may also see a large amount of shoddy tattoo work, and colorful spiked hair. I’m talking about a true punk show, though it could fall into any number of sub-sub-genres of punk. If you can smell the average participant before breaching a ten foot circle and everyone is wearing black, you are at a crust punk show. Pop open a PBR and act like you hate Donald Trump. You’ll make it out alive. If there seems to be an abundance of older dudes in Chino shorts and slicked back hair you may have stumbled into a Ska show, or even a rockabilly/psychobilly show. Just stick with the same plan: PBR, Left-wing politics, and watch for Sharp clothing accessories. I’m fact, if it seems to be any form of punk show this will be your go-to plan.
What, you found yourself in a room full of people of indeterminate gender because they are all wearing skinny jeans and eyeliner? Somehow these kids have gotten their hair to look like a black hole had a baby with an animal character, and they keep fighting invisible bees in the middle of the room. Is there a lot of invisible cobwebs they are all stuck in? What’s with the dude in a tie-dye shirt and all those athletic bands on his wrists? Oh my god, dudes on Hello Kitty shirts! Didn’t Tomagotchi go out of business like 15 years ago? Well my friend, you are now at an emo, scene, screamo, or whatever that weird rap/Metalcore hybrid is show. It’s a scary place but all the people are harmless. Use some urban slang from five years ago and assume everyone is female until proven otherwise. It’s safer that way. And don’t you dare drink, everyone here is either 14 or could pass for it. And no, those shutter shades are suddenly popular, these kids don’t know why they wear them either.
Now, what happens if you find yourself at the craziest shows of them all. I’m talking about the ones filled with massive dudes covered in Neo-Traditional tattoos, camo or mesh shorts, and who seem to have an affinity for Varsity letter font and brass knuckles. You know the place I’m talking about, the one where dudes with bandannas on their faces are swinging other smaller dudes around like weapons (because obviously if you can’t beat people with other people you’re doing something wrong). I’m talking about a Hardcore or Metalcore show. Here is where things can get a little tricky. If you see lots of “XXX” or “Straight Edge” shirts, tattoos and assorted other clothing items, you may want to avoid lighting that next smoke or grabbing a beer at the bar. You are officially surrounded by a potentially angry mob of drug-free warriors. If the average age of the crowd seems over 30 you any want to just turn around and walk the fuck out. These dudes go to one or two shows a year, and relish in destroying strangers faces for no reason (and before you all get pissed off, I’m that 6 foot plus dude in camo shorts who bitches about how great shows were in 2002 and hate-moshes everyone). You will want to avoid going anywhere near the stage, like literally don’t stop touching the back wall. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing people jump off of the tallest object in the room (even if it’s someone’s head), or you see people doing mild acrobatics into the surrounding crowd. That’s call crowd killing or hatemoshing, and it’s perfectly normal. You may see people swinging batons, hockey sticks, or any number of other harmful items. Again, it’s perfectly normal, don’t call the cops. It’s all normal, you are now inside a very specific subculture that thrives on violence and masculinity. It’s all going to be OK, and if you get hit just take it with a smile. It’s safer for you.
So what happens if you aren’t in any of these situation?
Well, that’s a good question. I would say just keep your head down, avoid the center of the room, and don’t say anything even remotely questionable. For groups of people who preach inclusion and brotherhood, these groups don’t really live it. Fit in, or get forced out. It sucks, I know. Try and enjoy it, and realize these groups take their identity overly serious. I love all shows, but I totally get how scary it could be. Trust me, you’ll be ok. These aren’t the safe spaces you are looking for. If you want to learn about these lifestyles and be apart of it, just ask questions and learn the history. You’ll be ok my little misplaced snowflake. I promise.