This past weekend marked a few firsts in my life, all revolving around music and concert-going. 2017 is the year of the “real me” and my goal is to pepper the year with new experiences and adventures outside my comfort zone. I recognize that a few of the things I did were firsts for people when they were teenagers. I was only concerned with school and grades as a teenager. I got a great GPA in everything but social skills and having fun.
Last year I bought a ticket for a concert featuring Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls opening and the Arkells headlining in Edmonton this month. This was less than a year after I saw Frank and the Souls for the first time. Also less than a year after I went to my first concert by myself.
Frank and the Arkells have been touring together in the US and as the Arkells are better known here it was decided Frank would open. I hadn’t heard of the Arkells (despite their Canadian-ness), but a quick youtube search revealed music that was pretty good. Frank’s set was only going to be an opening act which is not long enough for me so, despite my overly cautious nature I bought a ticket to the show in Calgary about a 3.5-4 hour drive from where I live with no idea how I was going to get there or where I was going to stay. When I chickened out on posting to the music facebook groups I belong to for either a ride or a floor to stay on I knew what I had to do. I bought a bus ticket and a hotel room for a night. All this for a concert I was going to see the night before. Frank Turner & the Souls are by far my favourite band so if I was going to do this for any band it would be them.
Part of putting myself out there is occasionally asking someone else to lock the door behind me to make sure I actually go through with it. I covered any reasons I might use to say I couldn’t go. Stuff in Calgary was paid for in advance. I reached out to a friend I had made at a previous Frank Turner concert who I hadn’t really spoken to in a year and asked if she wanted to be gig buddies at the Edmonton concert. She said yes. I also reached out to a different friend and offered to split the cost of the hotel room if she wanted to spend some time in Calgary. She said yes, although she wasn’t going to the concert.
I waited in line (with my awesome gig buddy!) for over four hours to get a good spot at the Edmonton concert (thankfully we waited inside). I had a comfortable spot just behind a row of people at the barricade surrounded by people who had to google who Frank Turner was before he came on stage. Gig buddy and I danced and sang our hearts out and ignored the confused stares.
I got lost twice looking for the line to get into the Calgary show, the BMO centre and surrounding buildings are so confusing, but I asked strangers to help me and eventually found my way. I waited in line for two hours OUTSIDE in -20C weather to get in. This time I had a goal: to not hold back. For the first time I got a spot in the crowd that was in the center, not along the sides or at the barricade. It felt like skating and not holding onto the rails, still a little unstable but the only way to get better. A year ago I would NEVER have done this, you are surrounding by people and based on past shows I had seen, this is where moshing and slam dancing starts.
Two songs into the set, five bigger guys pushed in so they were closer to the middle in front of me. I spoke up (politely but assertively) between songs to the tall guy in front of me after he almost elbowed me in the face twice. His elbow was unfortunately at my nose level. I asked him to just watch his elbow when he was dancing, he did without a word or a fuss. It’s amazing how just speaking up accomplishes things. Now (mostly) surrounded by people who were there to see Frank, I sang and just let my heart and soul pour out.
And I still believe that everyone
Can find a song for every time they’ve lost, and every time they’ve won.
(I Still Believe)
Now I only mention these guys were bigger (close to twice my size) because they could have blocked my view or been complete jackasses at any time and physically there’s little I could have done except move or get security. Except they wanted the same thing I did, to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls perform and let off some energy. I found myself not worrying if I looked “punk” enough. Afterwards I realized I also didn’t care if they “accepted” me as long as they respected my space. This is huge for me because I always care what others think.
I was my loud singing, punching the air, dancing self and after a song I realized I wasn’t just the short girl standing outside their group, they had moved out of my way a bit instead of just standing in front of me. There was moshing and slam dancing and I joined in. My first time being in the center of it instead of just viewing it from an second level. I have bruises, but I had so much fun. Everyone was looking out for each other, one of the guys, who sounded a bit younger than me, but still taller than me checked in once to see if I was alright when a shove was a little harder than I expected and I didn’t immediately jump back into it. When I nodded I was he didn’t ask again, but it was cool he checked in.There was a level of respect and common sense for those twenty or so minutes that I didn’t see outside the crowd for the rest of the evening. (In fact an idiot grabbed my ass AFTER I left the crowd and then took off. I told security and went back to having fun.)
I made a point of looking out for the younger and smaller girls behind me who wanted nothing to do with slam dancing/moshing. That was fine with me, they were clearly there for the Arkells and seemed irritated and bothered by us and the music in general. All they cared about, and I heard them talk about it throughout the whole set, was just wanting to get a better spot for when the Arkells came on. I was on the edge of the group so I did my best to not let it go any further than me. When I talked to them after the set and made sure everything was cool they were a lot nicer than I expected. They thanked me for not involving them and for making sure they were OK. They didn’t expect me to be so nice. Judging a book by its cover doesn’t get anyone anywhere. After Frank’s set I practiced self-care and removed myself from the crowd to drink water and get my heart rate down. I had already seen the Arkells in Edmonton and the girls behind me were very happy to take my spot.
We’re not trying to shape the world so people think like us,
We just want our own space to dance, no favours no fuss. (Four Simple Words)
It was everything I wanted. I won’t say that I know much about punk shows other than what I’ve experienced at the few I’ve been to. I’ve never been in a circle pit or a designated mosh pit and I’ve never done a wall of death. I hope if I ever do that the other people are as respectful and punk as the guys at the Calgary show. Frank is big on saying over and over that we make up a community and need to look after each other. Treating others properly is good gig etiquette and gig etiquette is almost entirely common sense, respect and remembering to look out for each other.
Even at the back of the room, I had a great view for the Arkells to test Frank on his Springsteen karaoke knowledge.
I know it’s possible that for all the fun and good times I was having, someone else could have been having an awful time. I hope that isn’t the case, and for now I’ll keep promoting and donating to Safe Gigs for Women and hopefully, someday a North American off-shoot.