It’s usually a safe bet that if you like a band, or a particular genre of music, you’re likely to fit in with fans at that band’s live shows. After all, if nothing else, you’ve all got the music in common, right?
But what happens when you love a band but their fans are so damn insufferable that you start to question your own fandom? You start to wonder what you’re doing in that crowd. You wonder if maybe you’ve made the wrong decision, because you’re surrounded by a sea of people that are the very reason you’re starting to lose faith in humanity.
If you’re anything like me, you decide to write an article and post it on the internet.
The Dropkick Murphys serve as the inspiration for this list. The Quincy, Mass. Irish-punkers have been rocking since 1996, with “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” getting huge after being prominently featured in The Departed and the band becoming a fixture at Fenway Park in recent years. And whether in the early days when fronted by Mike McColgan or being driven through the last 15-plus years by Al Barr, the band has no shortage of hits. Unfortunately, the music has attracted a particular breed of bros, skinheads and neo-Nazi types who have made the shows more than rugged—at times, downright violent. And while bass player Ken Casey made his stance on the matter apparent after reportedly beating down on a fan who performed the Nazi salute during a St. Patrick’s day show, the constant possibility of serious violence breaking out at any show serves as a strong deterrent from attending one. Luckily for Dropkick Murphys, it hasn’t been enough to steer fans away from packing their shows around the world.
My Chemical Romance
When My Chemical Romance hit the scene with I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, it was hard not to fall head over heels for the early anarchic combination of rock, emo, hardcore, punk, and a tinge of metal. And the shows reflected that energy and loose style. But then the band released Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, which subscribed wholeheartedly to the then-in-full-bloom screamo movement, seeing frontman Gerard Way take to the stage in bulletproof vests, offering displays of angst to a sea of pre-teens coated in eyeliner. While I’ll defend that album to this day and the subsequent The Black Parade and Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys as evidence of a band that constantly reinvented itself and exuded creativity—also, semi-random suggestion to read Way’s Eisner-winning Umbrella Academy comics, if you have not already—it became difficult to be the college guy I was standing in a crowd of depressed teenagers. Not to mention the band’s relaxed live shows started to sound more like sloppy performances as the studio composition got progressively more complex. The issue was recently settled, though, with the band’s decision to call it quits.
I love Lucero wholeheartedly. Ben Nichols and company bring wonderful, whiskey-drenched alt country tunes and generally sound great playing them live. But the quintet also likes to play late shows, and long ones, at that. The problem is that its audience seems to enjoy whiskey just as much as the band does, and that sometimes leads to late-night fights. If the Dropkick entry didn’t already say it, I don’t particular like going to shows and getting punched. And as Nichols tends to play some solo acoustic shows here and there, I figured it worth noting that acoustic rock, at large, can be a pain in the ass. Electric rock tends to drown out the sound of a large crowd, but acoustic solo performance don’t have the same luxury. And unless your name is Chuck Ragan, odds are people are going to be talking over your show, much to everyone's dismay.
The Casualties/Leftöver Crack (Street/Crust Punk at Large)
Much like WWE superstar Antonio Cesaro’s entrance music, some people think the Casualties peak with the sound of a siren and it’s all downhill from there. I’ve got no real gripe with their music, though, nor that of Leftöver Crack. I’m even cool with all the denim, leather sewn-on patches, studs, spikes, glue-infused hairstyles, and generally black attire that define the scene. And though I have a hard time believing anyone still rocks them, I’d go so far as to say I’ve got no real issues with dreadlocks. But the stench of crust punk shows indoors is unbearable. And while street punk may not be quite as bad, being a weekend warrior when the war is against bathing still means you’re fuckin’ smelly.
Rage Against the Machine
No one can deny the iconic sounds that come from the guitar of Tom Morello, and Zack de la Rocha may just be the best delivery system for protest lyrics in mainstream rock. But the problem with being a band that so vehemently promotes activism is that the fans tend to not be the most fun people to be around at a party or, say, a festival. Rage’s problem with playing Lollapalooza in 2008 in Chicago had nothing to do with all the corporate sponsorships; it was fans taking on ruining the show as their raison d'être for the evening. In addition to fans busting down a fence around the festival grounds (because, you know, why pay to go see a headlining act you like?), the band had to stop performing on three occasions because of people being crushed in the raucous crowd. Have Rage fans never heard taking care of people in the pit?
Most of this list has focused on horrible fans in a live setting—because the idea is that they’re unavoidable if you ever want to see your favorite bands live— but in the Internet Age, fans can be just as shitty without ever leaving their homes. Want to lose faith in humanity? Start reading the comments on Eminem’s YouTube videos. Chief among them are wannabe rappers begging for others to listen to their music/not so subtly suggesting their superiority to Eminem. Then there are all the race-related discussions (Yep, Eminem is still white, and people still want to talk about it). And of course there’s plenty of homophobia to go around, along with generally derogatory, nasty words most of these teenagers wouldn’t have the balls to use in the real world. It’s basically a transcript of what it’s like to wear a headset while playing Call of Duty.
The Dan Band/Tenacious D
Dan Finnerty’s music comedy project started out with the best-laid plans—covers of originally female-fronted pop songs with the addition of some well-timed profanity. In fact, it worked so well that the band found itself performing for party scenes in films like Old School, Starsky & Hutch, and The Hangover. The problem was the formula was almost too successful, bringing droves of film-fanatic frat boys out to the live shows. One would think it couldn’t get much worse than standing in a sea of popped collars for a style of music that doesn’t exactly get the crowd moving—Tenacious D replicated a similar, intolerable feeling after finding major success, though with an extra hour and a half of stage time, plus idiotic people doing their best impressions of the duo—but the band decided to bring the Waiting Game on tour as its opener, and those guys lived up to their name.
Warped Tour in General
Yes, the Warped Tour is, by and large, garbage nowadays. But every other year or so, it finds just enough good bands to lure me back, like a siren song leading me toward anguish. But I can report it is not an enjoyable endeavor thanks to the crowd, which seems to feature as many parents nowadays as teenagers. You know what’s not punk rock? Rebelling against authority by going to concerts with your parents—unless, that is, your father grew up listening to the likes of the Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols (in which case I think someone needs to put him on suicide watch at Warped Tour), or his name is Jim Lindberg.
Bill Jones is on Twitter, hate-listening to his favorite bands - @billjonesink
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