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“Apparently, Dillon Francis is a Thing that People Like”, or How I Accidentally Went to a Rave Full of High School Students

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It’s been over a year since the last time I got to see Anamanaguchi play; I’ve seen them a couple of times now, and have a decent expectation as to what one of their shows should be like.  A crowd of rowdy yet pleasant kids, usually in their late teens or early twenties, with a sense of punk rock enthusiasm and maybe a hint of video game nostalgia.  When the band plays they’ll jump and mosh and crowd surf, and I’ll probably get knocked around a bit; it’ll be in good fun for all of us though, and in the end I’ll have some really good photos.  Plus there was the added bonus of their recent video 「MEOW」, so I figured there’d be an extra-crowded venue with fans dressed as their favorite “teams” from the video.  So, I braced myself: I packed a smaller camera bag than I’d been using lately, wore some sturdy footwear, and aligned myself with Team SPORTS!

It turned out that I had accidentally sent myself into a rave.  Despite my best efforts to avoid injury, I ended up getting whacked in the face.  It wasn’t out of malice or anything, but I am prone to nosebleeds, and thanks to lots of cigarette smoke I ended up with blood gushing out of my face.  There were whispers around saying that the show was overbooked, and combined with a tightly-packed crowd of High School students strung out on “molly” (slang for MDMA), I had a very difficult time escaping where I was in the crowd.  By the time I made it out, I had discovered my small camera bag had gotten turned upside down, and out fell my cell phone and my 50mm lens.  They never did reappear… R.I.P.

I was totally unprepared for where I ended up – “where” being an EDM dance party.  I found out later that Dillon Francis hadn’t invented the genre “moombahton” per se, but he certainly had made it very popular with the white folks.  I also learned the show was 16+ while waiting for over an hour in the cold, surrounded by girls wearing little more than booty shorts and crop tops or lingerie.

“You can tell this show is 16-plus, because everyone is just like, ‘Aaaaahh!,” remarked a girl behind me.  She was right.  Later she shrieked, “Look, my boobies are dancing!!!”  My favorite moment was seeing a girl in gold sequined booty shorts desperately negotiating with her mother and father; her outside, standing on her tip-toes, they inside their minivan unsure if they should drive away.

When carded, my ID faced intense scrutiny, and when my friend tried to present her own ID the security guard was so into a routine that she was just marked with X’s, without the guard even reading her birthdate.  Another one of my friends told me when he presented his ID, he was asked, “Why are you even here?”  He replied simply: ”I don’t know.”  None of us did.  We were too out-of-touch for this sort of thing.

I don’t want to make this into some sort of “kids these days” complaint, because honestly, that is not really what the problem is.  Everyone has their own ways of enjoying themselves, and it’s really not my place to tell other people what should make them happy, and what shouldn’t.  That doesn’t mean I wanted to spend a Sunday night surrounded by High School students in lingerie, dancing with their boxers hanging out, strung out on molly, and collapsing onto one another as they made out.  Especially when I had been really looking forward to seeing a band that I really like play for the first time in a while.  When I really thought about it, though, I think it had less to do with what they were wearing – or the drugs they were taking – and more to do with just their general dispositions.

As we were waiting to get into the venue, the kids were loud, demanding, and selfish.  When I tried to get out of the crowd once we were finally inside, the kids were all too caught up in their own personal gratification to notice someone else nearby having some trouble.  I guess that I’ve gotten used to a colorful group of sensitive misfits who can have fun, while still being aware of what goes on around them.  Getting trapped and losing my things was incredibly disorienting.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I was in culture shock.  I saw a lot of ghosts of 90′s rave culture being paraded about by a group of kids who probably didn’t know much about their origins.  Kandi bracelets, pacifiers, and fuzzy hoods adorned by deeply-tanned teens with braces and Long Island or New Jersey accents was entirely unexpected, considering their otherwise-mainstream interests.  The opening act chanted “PLUR,” which stands for Peace Love Unity Respect – another leftover from rave culture – while playing bass-heavy remixes of radio hits, including Gangnam Style.  The crowd was so happy to dance, that they wildly cheered for and waved their arms to the music that was played in between acts.  The girls had dark tans, the boys could probably be described as “meatheads,” and none of them had ever heard of Anamanaguchi.

Perhaps most amusing to me was the number of people desperate to have me take their pictures.  Later, it was explained that there are a number of sites that make money off taking pictures of attendees, and I guess they just wanted the thrill of seeing themselves up on one of those sites that they browse.  Unfortunately for them, I work for an electronics culture blog, and was mostly complying with their requests for my own amusement.  My favorite subject was a fairly-normal looking guy, who asked me to take his photo shortly before I lost my 50mm.  When he saw the shot, he became annoyed and complained that it wasn’t wide enough.  ”This isn’t a wide lens,” I told him.  ”Then nevermind,” he responded, and he walked away.

All of my discomfort aside, Anamanaguchi put on a fantastic show.  They played a wonderful, energetic set, and were happy to see a crowd that loved them.  I was a little nervous about how the band would be received, but it turned out to be a needless worry.  The kids continued to dance happily through their set, cheering in between songs.  I’d like to think they were charmed by the quality of the music, though I’m sure the drugs made them inclined to enjoy anything that happened.

A crowd can really make or break an event, and this group didn’t really give me the experience I was looking for.  I did my best with what I was given, but I can’t really say I have any photos that I’m happy with, either.  All in all, it was kind of a bust.  I think the lesson to be learned here is, sometimes you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into, and while I’ve had mostly positive experiences living adventurously, eventually I was going to get burned.  Something something Icarus, I guess.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a dance party, Dillon Francis is the guy to see.  But, if it’s 16+, there are going to be a lot of teens on drugs, so you should probably leave things you care about at home.


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