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A Sonic Experience in Punk Rock

Dillinger Four played a show on September 18, 2008, at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. It was definitely a memorable night, since it was my first experience at a punk show. With the cramped yet intimate environment, wide range of clothing and hair styles, and the constant smell of alcohol on the air, I had an unforgettable time seeing and listening to Dillinger Four.

It was Thursday night, September 18. I had no curfew and no class until 1:25PM the following day. What better way to spend this free night than at a punk-rock show headlined by Dillinger Four!
The show took place in downtown Minneapolis at the 7th Street Entry, a small venue connected to the well-known First Avenue. The place consisted of a cramped stage, a lowered dance floor area, and a bar in the back corner. Band posters, flyers, and stickers littered the walls and people packed the floor. There’s a single public restroom, cavernous and dirty, with a door completely covered in stickers. A limited amount of seating was available at a bar that partially lined the edge of the dance floor.

It was a public event with a relatively low admission price: ten dollars in advance or at the door. To the dismay of many latecomers, the show sold out about an hour after its starting time of 8PM. It was an age 18+ show, too, which heeded the curfew to make sure young kids under 18 were safe at home and not out late on the streets of downtown Minneapolis.

With punk rock as the standalone genre of the event, Dillinger Four headlined with special guests Scared of Chaka, Off With Their Heads, Birthday Suits, and The Dynamiters. The order was the reverse of this listing, with The Dynamiters kicking off the night at eight. All of the bands except Scared of Chaka originated in Minneapolis, which most likely accounted for the great turnout.

The audience was somewhat divided in their style and preferences. The majority was made up of stern, punk-rock enthusiasts, silently relaxing and enjoying the music. These people stood around for the most part, swaying to the rhythm and conversing with others. A small portion of the crowd was actively listening to the music, pushing and dancing wildly. However, some of the more laid-back attendees came out of their shell and let loose as soon as a band they liked took the stage. Most of the audience was made up of young adults, seemingly between the ages of 18 and 25. Occasionally you would bump into an “old rocker?, standing in back with a drink in hand and having loud conversations with his buddies.

Clothing and hair styles were similar throughout the audience. The majority of attendees dressed in “punk? style. This consists of mostly black clothing, band tees, long hair for men, and multiple facial piercings. Some other audience members dressed in a more carefree, uninhibited style. In other words, they threw on the first thing in their dresser and walked out the door. The performers shared similar styles with the audience.

Behavior at the show was relatively unrestrained. This mostly had to do with the fact that alcohol was ever-present among the audience and even among the performers. Behavior was mild at first and gradually got worse as the night progressed. This probably had to do with the evident fact that the audience was getting more drunk. Despite the moderately bad behavior, the audience showed respect to the lesser-known bands; no booing or heckling occurred. Those who preferred not to listen to a band simply went outside to converse, smoke, or just get fresh air and cool off.

There was a generally positive response to each band’s performance. Applause followed each song, regardless of individual like or dislike. This, along with whoops and yells, naturally increased as the night wore on and more well-known bands took stage. Applause also welcomed bands to the stage, having a similar increase in magnitude with the progression of the night.

As far as organization goes, the precursor to the show was set up well, but the performance was open to unfold as it did. The show was announced when the tour began, and advertising soon followed on the Internet and on flyers and posters. The event was divided into five performances of increasing duration, one by each band.

Potential attendees were given several ticket options. They could buy online at Ticketmaster.com, after which they would receive the tickets in the mail or put them on will call. They could also buy the tickets at the door, but this increased the risk of the show being sold out. At the door, staff members checked IDs to make sure each guest is at least 18 years old. If someone was under 21, the staff member uses a black marker to put X’s on their hands, signifying that the attendee cannot buy alcohol. All guests were given a hand stamp that allowed them to go in and out of the venue as they pleased.

Each band had an approximate start and end time, which they regarded less and less through the course of the night. Scared of Chaka went far over their allotted time when they decided to do a multiple-song encore, pushing Dillinger Four’s performance further into the night. The guys in Dillinger Four were given as much time as they wanted since they performed last. However, no one opposed or interfered with the lengthiness of any band’s performance. Time seemed to have no restraint on the progression of the show. The set times were apparently more of an optional guideline to the performers.

What went on through the course of the night was also an interesting experience. As the excitement and appreciation of the performers increased, movement on the dance floor followed suit. Focus and attendance also evidently increased as the night went on. All the bands that took the stage that night showed a lot of passion and intensity in their performances, and the audience response varied with each individual’s feelings about that particular band.

When Dillinger Four eventually took the stage, the energy and excitement levels came to a peak. Some of the people started “thrashing?, which is essentially a great deal of pushing, shoving, and knocking other people around, trying to act tough. The energy that was let loose on stage propagated throughout the thrashing pit. There was also a good amount of crowd-surfing and stage-diving going on. Yet despite all of the violent dancing, there was no hesitation in helping someone up off the floor that had just been knocked down or fallen from crowd-surfing.

The crowd became much more energetic as a result to the music. It was mainly loud and driving, with a constant series of snare hits and a steady kick drum pulse. Standing in the crowd you couldn’t keep yourself from tapping your feet or nodding to the rhythm. The guitar’s quick-strummed power chords and the raspy vocals perpetuated the flow of energy in the room, which in turn kept the audience moving. The deep, extremely loud bass guitar hammered a pulse into every audience member’s body. Since I happened to be leaning on the subwoofer for a good portion of the show, I felt the full force of the bassist’s playing. On the downside, however, there was no dynamic range to the music, which can be said for most punk rock material. It was constantly loud and driving and rarely changed tempo or feel. Altogether, Dillinger Four’s musical performance could be best described as high-energy but low variety.

Later in the performance, random people started to jump on stage and start singing along with the performers, essentially becoming performers themselves. At one point between songs, one of the band members thought it would be a great idea if someone got up and “took a shit? on the stage. Within a matter of seconds, a man, very large and very drunk, climbed on stage ready to perform the disgusting act. Fortunately (or unfortunately, for some), the man claimed to have a “shy butthole? and left the stage as it was before. The rest of the performance was filled with energetic punk songs and breaks in between in which the lead singer made a lot of sarcastic remarks about various aspects of the music industry. Unremarkably, some of his drunken comments made little to no sense, but much of his ranting fell to the topic of auto-tuning in the recording studio. This could definitely be considered a crazy show.

The show seemed to be a way for an individual to unleash energy and let off steam while listening to music they enjoy. The most common cases of this were the young male and female fans that thrashed and shouted out the lyrics with the performers. It also allowed people to have a good time with their friends and share musical tastes. The audience was generally pleased with the performance, given that they requested an encore. Dillinger Four gave it to them, serving as a great conclusion to an energetic night. Fans of the band left relatively satisfied and fairly new listeners, like me, exited with different interpretations of the performances. In my case, none of the guest bands particularly kept my interest, but I found Dillinger Four very entertaining.

The performers, depending on how drunk they were, must have left feeling relieved and accomplished. Their show was done and they were getting paid for doing what they love; of course they’re going to be happy afterwards. There was not much interaction with the fans afterwards, however. The bands mostly just packed up their gear and left.

The whole experience for me was quite an interesting one. Having not heard much of Dillinger Four beforehand, I approached the show with the feeling that I didn’t belong. I initially felt like I was standing out in the crowd, so I tried my best to blend in. But the longer I stayed, the more welcome I felt in that environment. It seemed as if many others experienced the same feelings. When the night began, some level of discomfort could be felt in the venue, but people eventually started to get comfortable with their surroundings. At this point the whole place became more like a community. This community was made up of individuals who shared an interest in punk rock music. At the beginning of the show, people would cling to the groups they came with and avoid others. Later on, these same people started to interact with others in further development of this new community. By the end of the show, this community came together to applaud and appreciate the common tie its members share. In those final moments, everyone drops their judgments and prejudices and welcomes their fellow audience members into this punk rock community. Unfortunately, when it’s all over, the community will break apart and things will return to the way they were. But the memory of the experience will surely live on in many of the attendees’ hearts…unless they were too drunk to remember anything at all.

Comments

i remember those X marked on the palm of the hand recognize you as 'straight edge' person.. and the guy will have a nicknamed like XjohnX as a way to introduced themselves among others. Your articles remember me of my teenage years full of colors of rockin' up the daylight playing at numerous gig across the state and with songs cover from minor threat,fugazi,holdstrong,grimlock,harvest and many more.Those were the days that I might never forget.. :-)