Punk shows aren’t something I’m used to. At least not ones that are outside of my comfort zone, or maybe I just don’t understand how these things work anymore. The ways in which my psyche was equipped for being around large groups of people that I have never met before, that are also part of a tightly knit social circle, have apparently been eroded down to a spike which tends to force itself deep into the social centers of my brain. I loved the music that I happened to actually listen to. I hated how I felt almost the entire time. Most of the terrible pathways my brain was taking me down were ones that aren’t necessarily new to me, however they are feelings that have come to the surface over a very recent period of time. I will attempt to explain to you my experience and hopefully fill you in on some of the incredible talent that came as part and parcel to the overwhelming experience I had in Pittsburgh.
On May 24th, 2013 a good friend of mine and I set ourselves to the task of making it to a punk show in some little art space in Pittsburgh. My excitement was barely contained, as we were going to see two bands that have made two of the best records of the year so far. They go by the names Old Gray and I Kill Giants. The former is of the post hardcore, screamo sort and the former is of the Twinkle daddy sort. Both of these bands are in my rotation quite heavily at the moment and both albums have their incredible virtues that, for the purpose of this post, I won’t go into. Caravels was another group that has only recently caught my attention, and only really did so by virtue of me seeing them at this show. Caravels album Lacuna is one of the better straight post hardcore albums I have heard in quite a while though. On the car ride up my mind was racing with how mind peeling an experience this would be and I had high hopes I would be able to talk to a few of the artists or venue purveyors and get an interview or two in for this website. What actually awaited me was a perfect storm of anxiety that no one could have prepared me for.
My friend drove 3 hours away to meet me here in Morgantown and from here we would drive the extra hour and half or so up to the venue. We had a late start due to construction which was only worsened by construction on the way to Pittsburgh as well. Even upon leaving for the venue we were acutely aware that we were going to be late. Our realization did not weigh heavy on our minds at the time as most shows, as you probably well know, start significantly later than they are billed for. As it turned out we should have heeded the warning on the Facebook event page for the show that stated “Punk time is dead.”, but we were already on our way, we had already made our minds up to go, and the bands we wanted to see were the headliners anyway, which usually guarantees a spot that is at least a little bit later in the lineup.
Upon arriving at the venue that simply looked like it was the basement of someones house, I frantically parked the car, got out and asked if I could park there, was met with shrugs by several onlookers, and proceeded to park much further up the street. I heard someone exclaim “Old Gray is up next.” This hastened our entry to the venue.
When I walked in my anxiety level immediately spiked to some insane level that cannot be appropriately defined with words. I knew no one there, save for my friend and everyone else there appeared to know each other as brothers, or at least that’s what my stupid brain was telling me. We searched for a bathroom, uncomfortably asking people until we got an answer. My friend entered first. His bathroom stay would seem to me to be one of the longest moments in my life. Every eye in the room was on me. Every person in the venue was judging me in the absolute harshest manner possible. They were all asking themselves questions. Questions that ranged from “Where is he from?” to “How drunk is he?” to “Does he even know who these bands are?”
This, of course, was entirely a fabrication of my mind. Nobody gave two shits why I was there and if they did have any ideas concerning me, those ideas were fleeting at best. Nevertheless, the thoughts were there and they weren’t going away.
It is only in recent years that I have found myself overwhelmed by these types of feelings. People that know me from high school would never have imagined that the outspoken kid who thrashed his body about on stage every week would ever feel uncomfortable around people, especially in a room full of people who could probably be considered a close approximation to peers. My problems with anxiety have only manifested themselves in a tangible, and frankly crippling form recently. It is only recently that I have been able to come to terms with the fact that these emotional instabilities are part of my life now, and I have found no clear way to deal with them, as exemplified by my experience at this show.
We watched Old Gray after I bought the Caravels and Old Gray album at the merch table. Old Gray had an air of energy that I have rarely seen. While they lacked the depth and preciseness of their albums tracks, they brought an aesthetic and energy wholly different that was an intense and life affirming thing to see. While they played I was content. While they played I could feel the eyes lifting from my back. While they played I had a smile on my face. While they played I had a good laugh at the kid I used to be, personified by the small sea of kids throwing their bodies into one another. I looked upon them and, as I often do, pined for the simpler times when I didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought. It’s not necessarily that I am afraid of someone’s judgement, I just fear a judgement of my character that does not exist that I will eventually become by trying to avoid it. It’s a strange and vicious cycle of feelings.
After Old Gray played I had the opportunity to sit down and get an interview with the lead singer. I find it increasingly strange that I am still able to find it within me to approach strangers as long as it is with the idea in mind that it might be for something I can write about later, but calling Dominos to order a pizza seems like one of the most insurmountable tasks that I have ever set myself upon. I have since lost that interview.
Next up we got to watch a few more bands that are based in fairly close proximity to the venue. Have Mercy and Prawns were their names and they were more than decent. In fact they put on some solid performances that I rather enjoyed, Have Mercy especially. After Have Mercy, we began to wonder if I Kill Giants was going to be closing out the show, so my friend decided to go and ask the door guy when they would be playing.
To our crushing disappointment, I Kill Giants had played first, before Old Gray. I had basically driven all this way and endured crushing anxiety to see a band that had one of my favorite records out…. and they had already played. The dejection and disappointment coursed through me. It was so thick I could breath it. It was sweating out of my pores. The depression and anxiety spiral that my mind went through as we watched the next band led me to such a fit of paranoia that I could barely keep myself from screaming at the other show goers to “STOP FUCKING STARING AT ME!” It was about this time that Prawn finished their set. It was about this time that I had to get out of there before I went insane. My friend asked me if I wanted to leave and I practically tripped over vomiting a hearty “YES.”
We rode back talking about various things to keep our minds off of the ridiculous situation we had just been through. Although I’m sure he didn’t feel the same insane anxiety pumping through his brain the whole time as I did, I knew that he was severely disappointed not being able to see the band.
Anxiety is a real problem for me, one that I have only recently been able to accept as such. This show was a turning point of sorts for me in my understanding that I need to receive some sort of treatment for these problems. The insanely divergent gulf that can be made between the person I was 8 years ago and the person I am now in terms of mental health is quite the staggering one. While these concerns and affectations are probably what finally forced me to start writing for “the fuck of it”, it’s also what has collapsed relationships, kept me from forming new ones, and has generally sunk me into a deep crevice of fear that I have little confidence of digging my own way out of. I hope that this story will help other people recognize their own problems with Anxiety Disorder and other such diseases and hope to find some help as I consistently fail to do.