Cheer up, emo kids. And put some clothes on.

Last night, Erin and I were granted the unique anthropological opportunity to view the vast portion of the Southern New England high school/college population and interact with them in their own environment. Also, I saw boobs.

We went to see Brand New and Dashboard Confessional play at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts. I’m not much of an emo guy, myself, but Erin’s been listening to this stuff since most of the subgenre’s current fans were still watching Barney, and Brand New is one of her favorite bands of the last few years, so when she asked for tickets to this show for a wedding anniversary present, I was happy to get them for her. I mean, she puts up with all my malarkey on a daily basis (and trust me, there’s a lot of malarkey), and doesn’t even bat an eyelash when I ask her for gifts like cartoon DVD sets and Legion of Super-Heroes Archives volumes, so I figure it’s no big deal to take one for the team once and awhile, even though I don’t really like either band all that much. Or concerts in general, really.

Yeah, I know, that makes me sound like such a killjoy. I don’t like concerts. I’m that guy. But tickets are often really expensive (Thanks for giving up the Ticketmaster fight, Eddie Vedder. Way to fail!), I don’t like crowds, I hate standing for hours on end (either in line or at the show itself), and so few bands are as good live as they are on their albums. In order to get me to a concert, I need to really like the band, tickets need to be relatively cheap, and I need a place where I can sit. I hated bumping around in the crowd even when I was a teenager. I just like to sit and enjoy the music. Theoretically, someone worked hard on creating these songs, so I feel I owe it to him/her/them to actually attempt to appreciate it. No one could ever accuse me of being an unconscientious audience member. But I digress.

Anyway, the show. I have to say, it was pretty good. I wasn’t a big fan of either band going in, and I didn’t leave a convert, but I enjoyed myself at least. Brand New started off their set with the song of theirs that I actually do like, “Sic Transit Gloria (Glory Fades),” so that got my attention early on, which is key. I wasn’t too into the other songs, but the band performed well, which is all I was really hoping for. The lead singer – whose name is Jesse something or other, but I prefer to think it’s actually Brandon Newerson – thanked the crowd for their energy and support throughout the set, which I also appreciated. I always like to see a rock star that’s thankful for the fans. The only problem with ol’ Brandon was that he was a little too emo for me. He didn’t just look miserable; he looked like he was in serious physical pain. Cheer up, Emo Boy! You’re a freakin’ rock star – you’re being paid to do what you love, you’re the idol of millions, and at least 85% of the women in the crowd would probably sleep with you if you asked. The two behind us definitely would have, and expressed that notion loudly and often.

The guy from Dashboard – given name: Chris Carrabba; my name for him: Alfonso Q. Dashboard, III – took the opposite approach, clearly reveling in every moment he spent on stage and probably quite ecstatic of his chances of achieving Lowell coital bliss if he so chose to partake. Also, his band* had a cute female violin player, and if there’s one thing rock music needs, it’s more cute female violin players. I feel strongly about this. I digress again. Anyway, their set was pretty good, too, though we left a few songs before the end to beat traffic. Erin likes Alfonso’s music well enough, but Brand New was the night’s major attraction in Erin’s eyes, even though they opened.

So although decent, the show itself was pretty uneventful. In my eyes, the crowd was the main event for me. I’d estimate the median age of the crowd was about 17 to 19 years old. There were a bunch of kids around 12 or 13, and therefore a bunch of parents, too, but for the most part, everyone looked to be in the late high school or early college age range (Erin and I were probably the oldest people we saw with our own eyes who weren’t either working in some capacity or chaperoning kids). I work with kids in this age group, and my nieces and nephews are very firmly within it, too, so I try to keep a positive attitude about them, but a lot of them were making it difficult to remain upbeat for the future of America. I’m talking about you folks, the ones who didn’t think you’d need to wear a jacket. At night. In December. In Lowell, Mass. As you stood there, teeth chattering, bodies turning blue, wearing t-shirts or tank tops, and looking absolutely miserable, I just couldn’t work up a lot of sympathy for you. I was wearing a sweatshirt, a jacket, a scarf, a hat, and gloves, and I was still a little chilly. Maybe I didn’t look very cool, but I also wasn’t very cold, either. Remember that next time.

But questionable seasonal attire, the crowd was fun to watch. It was fun to try and figure out whose first concert is was, who was on a date, who was breaking up, who was hooking up, and so on. I may not always enjoy concerts, but I do love the people watching opportunities they provide. This one guy in line, for instance, had the best mullet I’ve seen outside of the NHL or a Full House rerun. This was very clearly a man who lived up to the “business in the front, party in the back” credo. His mullet fu was strong. In his own way, he truly does the Lord’s work.

And then there was Boob Girl. Erin was driving, and as we approached the arena, I was looking at the people who had already parked and were walking the rest of the way. This blonde girl was walking with a group of her friends, and for whatever reason, she darted out in front of them, lifted her shirt and flashed her boobs at them. And anyone else who happened to be looking at that exact moment. Me, for instance. It took a second to process, but it soon dawned on me that yes, in fact, I had just seen that girl’s breasts for no discernible reason whatsoever. It was a little strange, truth be told. And no offense to her, but it sort of confirmed my ongoing belief that a majority of the folks prone to public nudity are people whose nudity I least want to see in public. Or in private, for that matter. She wasn’t particularly unattractive or anything, but if I were to make a mental list of people that night who I wouldn’t mind accidentally getting an eyeful from, she probably wouldn’t have cracked the top 200. And since this was an emo show, there exists the distinct possibility that she wasn’t quite “of age” yet, so I was a little afraid the Dateline NBC “To Catch a Predator” guy was going to be waiting for me when I got home. Who needs that kind of grief?

When it was all said and done, a good night was had by the both of us. Even if you don’t like the music all that much, there are much worse events to attend than a performance by either Brand New or Dashboard Confessional. But between Boob Girl and Mullet Guy, there was a moment or two where we wondered if we hadn’t accidentally turned up for a Foghat show instead. It was a legitimately head-scratching series of events.

*which, like The Lemonheads, Dinosaur, Jr., and Nine Inch Nails, is usually just the one guy and whoever else happens to be along for the ride on that particular day.

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