It was a mean crowd that packed, and I mean packed, La Zona Rosa for emo hearthrobs Boys Like Girls in Austin on Sunday. One of the security guards took a knee to the groin from a crowd surfer in the pit and I found myself dodging shoes thrown by the audience. At one point I cowered in the corner of the pit like a little girl after my three songs, not wanting to force my way through the mob comprised almost entirely of -- little girls! Maybe young women might be a more appropriate term, but only barely, as the mean age of the concert goers seemed to be about 14.
Look, I'm no slouch; I've done many foolhardy things in my life, barehanding venomous snakes, chasing large gators through swamps, playing flashlight tag with mountain lions in the desert at night in shorts and flip-flops, flying Delta Airlines, and even working third shift at a convenience store. I've even been hit by a hurricane and a tornado! None of them invoked a fear response like that overheated pack of high school girls.
I got to the club late, arriving just as We The Kings wrapped their set. It was an early show, but already the crowd was mushed against the barrier as I tried to force my way to the pit. Evoking the scowls of the teen girls as I pushed my way past them, some of them giving me the evil eye for trying to get in front of them. No one was budging an inch, and it was a while before the crowd finally relented and I popped into the pit like a cork ejected from a champagne bottle. I hadn't even set my gear down before a shoe whizzed past my head and ricocheted off a speaker cabinet before landing at my feet.
Danny Stevens of The Audition - more photos... photo by jeff barringer - staff photographer
Glancing up at the two pit security guys, I sighed and they rolled their eyes. I raised the shoe above the crowd but the only claimant was a big guy in the middle who was unlikely to fit the size 5 1/2 sneaker in my hand. I tossed the shoe back into the pit and proceeded to gear up for the next band.
I was surprised by the set by The Audition. They were actually a lot better than I expected, setting a frantic pace onstage. Led by frontman Danny Stevens, this Chicago based punk pop band was formed by bassist Joe Lussa and Ryan O'Conor in 2003, going through a host of different musicians before ending up with the lineup I saw. Of all the sets that night, The Auditions proved to be the best, with the band having a crisp sound that seemed to have more natural energy than the other bands. There was something unique about them that sets them apart from most of the other bands of this genre, but I haven't quite figured our what it is. Signed to Victory Records, this band may mature into something with longevity beyond the powder-puff set, though that is the marketplace they are squarely aiming at now. If they come back to Austin I'll go see them again.
After The Audition's first three songs, I made a dash out of the pit to have a smoke and grab a drink from the very-very lonely bartenders in the back. Later this would prove to be a mistake, as I would have to wedge my way through the crowd again to return. Standing outside with a handful of parents, and wondering at the youthfulness of the crowd, I tried to mentally compare it to my first experiences at concerts. I wasn't any older than they were, but they didn't let minors into bars back then, and I doubt my parents would have been into chaperoning me and my friends at the shows. It was all we could do to talk them into giving us a ride back then.
The Audition's set over, I once again tried to squeeze through the crowd back into the photo pit, but found my way blocked. Backing out and trying from another angle, I finally managed to work my way in, but not before drawing more glares from the girls who thought I was trying to "cut" in front of them. I hadn't been in the pit more than a couple minutes when the security guys started pulling girls out of the front. The girls, unsteady on their feet, were suffering from the heat and just couldn't take it anymore. They must have lifted four or five girls over the barrier before the lights dimmed for the next band's entrance.
Alex Gaskarth or All Time Low - more photos... photo by jeff barringer - staff photographer
All Time Low, the next band, came onstage, and thankfully, were fully clothed. I say that because they seem to have a proclivity to strip down to their civies when cameras are pointed in their direction. A little bit slicker and faster than The Audition, All Time Low formed in Maryland in 2003 but most of the band didn't graduate from high school until 2006. Jumping and flying about the stage like water dropped on an electric hot plate, they blazed through their set, stopping only to make eyes at the girls in the crowd, introduce songs, or make comments of a sexual nature. I asked the security crew if I could hang in the pit after my three songs, not wanting to aggravate the crowd futher. They allowed me to stay, which in the long run, also was a mistake.
All Time Low's set was going fine right up until they dared the audience to beat the Houston show's crowd surfing record. I looked at the two security guards, they looked at me, and I hid in the corner, making myslef as small as possible. Almost on cue the surfers began flowing over the barrier, and after the tenth or twelfth had been escorted from the cramped pit, one of the security guards almost doubled over. A shot to the groin had felled the mighty warrior. As he left the pit in search of ice to sooth his wounded pride, the cavalry arrived with three or four more security guards forcing their way into the pit. After two more songs and many more surfers, All Time Low's set was over and I emerged from hiding.
Martin Johnson of Boys Like Girls - more photos... photo by jeff barringer - staff photographer
The extra security filtered back out of the pit, the wounded warrior returned clutching a couple cups of ice and nursing his wound. Wiping the sweat from my brow I spent my time clearing fuzzy shots from my camera and prepping my gear for the last band. Spotting some cute girls in the crowd obviously not 21, yet wearing wristbands similar to the "adult" wristbands handed out to drinkers, my curiousity was piqued and I asked them about it. It turns out that their high school, Westwood High School in the RRISD (Go Warriors!) had won some kind of contest and got some kind of private performance or meet & greet with Boys Like Girls earlier in the day. Back in the day, Westwood always had the cutest girls, so I was glad to see them maintaining the status quo. One of them looked vaguely familiar and I was afraid to ask their names for fear of finding out I dated their mom at some point.
Boys Like Girls came out, and it was hard to hear them over the screams from the crowd. Newer than either of the first bands, this Boston based band has been labeled both the next big thing and a retread of last year's model by the press. They did seem more sure of themselves than any of their openers, but also more subdued. It could have been that their earlier event had drained them, or it could have been that the heat had sucked away my energy. About the middle of the third song I felt a tap on my shoulder, and I could see the tour manager across the stage signaling to boot me out. Security wanted to argue on my behalf, but I had enough duty in the combat zone and was glad to get the heave-ho before the next group of crowd surfers showed up. Pushing my way out of the pit, and threading my way through the crowd to grab a coke at the bar, I watched Boys Like Girls finish their third song, then headed out into the cool evening glad to have escaped the clutches of the high school girls.
Boys Like Girls at La Zona Rosa, Austin,Tx - more photos... photo by jeff barringer - staff photographer