This essay explores some of the darker aspects of general admission concerts. The highlights of this paper are the descriptive scenes because of how much they live up to their name. Important analysis of these scenes and how it relates back to my thesis is also essential to the essay. Regardless of how descriptive my scenes may be, there's always room for improvement. I aim to really make my reader feel as though they're there with me in the scene I'm describing.
Essay: Concert Culture
Concerts are supposed to evoke feelings of excitement and exhilaration. Sometimes these feelings can evolve into creating danger in a concert space. I’ve had my fair share of experiences of this nature, and most of them actually took place at one specific concert: Halsey’s Philadelphia Badlands show at Festival Pier. This show, an outdoor one, conveniently took place on the thickest, hottest day that August had gifted us that summer. The vibrations from the humongous speakers in front of the stage shook my heart inside my chest as the bass dropped after the second verse of Control. I pushed my sweat-saturated hair out of my face to be able to see the stage better behind the sea of heads. My body was being jostled around like a ragdoll. The friend I was there with, Jill, hooked her arm around my neck. I turned to look at her, concerned.
“Can I have one of the starbursts my mom gave us?” she shouted over the screaming voices and blasting speakers.
I reached into my pocket to retrieve a piece of candy that Jill’s mom, a nurse, had given us to provide us with some energy throughout the concert. Before I could fish one out, Jill’s grip on my neck tightened suddenly.
“I’m going to pass out,” she managed to say before her body became completely limp and all of her weight yanked at my neck. I grabbed her by the waist before she would have had time to fall to the ground. Stunned and unable to move, I stood helplessly in the middle of the crowd. I tapped the girl in front of me who was leaning against the barricade. She turned around, unamused.
“She passed out, can you get the security guard?” I shouted, nodding towards the burly man donning a uniform, standing in front of the stage. A blur of movement followed, and before I knew it, Jill was being pulled over the barricade and carried away.
Looking back on this experience, although initially I was shocked, it didn’t take long for me to spring into action without skipping a beat. My friend had just lost consciousness in the middle of a stampede of teenagers and I simply handed her body off to a security guard and enjoyed the rest of the show. Writing out this scene caused me to reflect on why I was so nonchalant about the occurrence.
These days, concerts can be a rather unpleasant experience for youth. Everyone packed into one place, looking to be as close to one person as possible, is a recipe for disaster. When you have a stranger pressed up to you from every side, it’s hot, and you aren’t allowed to bring water inside a venue, it’s likely for people to pass out. I had heard so many stories about people passing out at shows that I almost expected it to happen to us. I was also expecting to have a run-in with someone at this show over who was in front of who and all of that drama. Lo and behold -- it happened to me.
Earlier that evening, before any of the mess that that fateful Halsey show had in store for me, it was time for doors. I had been standing outside the venue for a good 12 hours beforehand. (First come, first serve. Don’t judge!). There were about 4 lines of people being restrained by gates like cattle in a pen. Everyone was exhausted from standing out in the heat for so long. Makeup was smudged under eyes and any hope for cute hairstyles went out the window, considering the humidity level. We all stood impatiently listening to the security guard’s speech about not running once he opened the gates. Then, suddenly, the dam burst and a flow of teenage girls poured into the venue. I clutched Jill’s hand and ran blindly. As soon as I entered the venue, I spotted an open spot on the barricade perfect for two people. I tugged her hand and ran for it, slamming against the hot metal bars. I turned to my left but I didn’t meet Jill’s eyes - instead those of an angry looking woman. Suddenly, I felt myself being shoved backward and off the barricade.
“Ow!” I exclaimed, stumbling back.
“F*** off,” stated the woman, matter of factly.
“What?!” I shot back, baffled and angry.
“We’ve been here since two AM,” said a girl next to her who appeared to be her daughter.
“I’ve been here since 7 AM!” I retorted.
“Yeah, right. You just got here.”
I was at a loss for words. I had just been assaulted by a 40-something-year-old woman who was now yelling obscenities at me. I looked around at the other people in the crowd as if to say, “What the hell is wrong with this lady? Did you see that?!”, but to no avail. Nobody in my surrounding area seemed phased.
Frankly, although I was offended and scared, I wasn’t all that surprised. Just like I had with the passing out, I heard many stories about fights within crowds and people shoving. General admission concert culture is extremely harmful and the fact that these two happenings, occurring on the same night, barely phased me, is problematic. But this experience brings me to this question: Why do concerts turn people into such monsters?
The more dedicated the fanbase, the worse the crowd will be. The longing to be an inch closer to the artist that you’ve waited so long to see and feel so connected to can turn you into a real monster. When you care so much about someone that you’ve only seen on a screen for so long, and suddenly they’re in front of you, you don’t care who you have to shove to get closer to them.
We do crazy things for love. At concerts, we tend to develop tunnel vision and we forget about how we’re treating others when we’re honed in on the one we love. This must change, though. We as concertgoers need to understand that the people standing around us love the person on stage just as much as we do, and that love never justifies hurting others to pursue it.