“We are called to love one another, and walk humbly with God!” My mother’s slightly off-key singing voice jolts me awake as the processional ends and everyone takes their seats in their pews. After what went down last night I didn’t really feel like walking anywhere with anyone. I just wanted to curl up in my bed and take a nap for the next week or so. But, knowing that the alternative to going to church would be getting called a, “bad catholic,” by my mother, I dragged my barely conscious self here. I didn’t have the energy to engage in the whole, “Well, mom you see I’m not actually a Catholic, I’m an atheist.” debate this morning. As the priest begins his greeting, my mind wanders back to last-night.
I had caught wind of a gig via an instagram post from my favorite band, The Happy Children. The next few hours after I saw the post, I remember letting it roll around in my mind. I saw announcements like that every week for one of their shows, but I couldn’t go. I knew my dad, someone who as a teen, used to sneak out to go to concerts, would be on board, but my mom however, was a different story. She was a classic helicopter parent. Not wanting to cause any waves, my dad always deferred to her judgement when I asked if I could go out. I’m not sure what pushed me over the edge, but after the idea taking up residence in my brain for most of the afternoon, I decided. Why not? Up until this point, I had been a good Catholic daughter. I was always on the honor roll, had a list of extracurriculars a mile long, and never used the Lord’s name in vain. It was about time I changed that.
Once I had my mind made up, I decided to enlist the help of my partner in crime, Izzy to help me execute this act of rebellion. Izzy was in the same boat as me: straight A’s, never skipped a day of classes, and usually practiced her viola on Saturday nights rather than going out. We had initially bonded due to our placement in the same AP classes and a mutual interest in theatre the year before. She agreed that it was time for us to shed our up-tight reputations and try something new. The plan was set in motion.
Our first obstacle was transportation: neither of us had our permits. Our solution to this was simple: beg Izzy’s mom to let us go to this concert and promise that she would clean the house, top to bottom if her mom was willing to drop us off and pick us up. The second problem was a bit bigger of a hurdle: this show was in a house, on a college campus, at 10 pm. At the time neither of us sophomores had ever gotten our curfews extended past 10, so we knew it was going to be tricky. As the weekend drew near, Izzy and I plotted throughout the school day, determined to get to this show no matter the cost. The Happy Children, was our favorite band, and there was no way in hell we were going to miss the chance to see them live. It also didn’t hurt that people at school overheard our weekend plans and wished us luck, impressed that we of all people were gonna pull one over on our parents.
When Saturday dawned after what had seemed like an eternity, the plan was all set. We were going to have Izzy’s mom drop us off around the corner from the show, telling her that it was in a reputable venue located nearby. After the show, we would walk to that venue and have her pick us up there and her mom would be none the wiser. On the matter of curfew, however, we haggled over what time Izzy’s mom would be picking us up right up until she dropped us off. As she pulled up to the curb to drop us off she sighed in defeat.
“Fine, I will be picking you girls up at 12, no later.”
We nodded, jumping out of the car and waiting for her to drive away before we released our excitement in a spastic victory dance with interspersed high pitched screaming. The plan was now in full effect.
All we had to go off of was an address direct messaged to me by one of the band members over instagram, so we were off to a great start. We put the directions up on google maps and walked to the intersection where the address was and we were terrified. Looming in front of us was an absolute disaster of a house. It was one of those old Victorian houses that are characteristic of college campuses. The kind that used to be beautiful, but now was littered with beer cans, and definitely had a rodent problem. In the dark it looked like a deformed monster, hunched in on itself. The roof of the attached garage sloped in towards the center, giving the impression that it was going to cave in at any minute. There were three large white vans parked on the lawn and one of the windows was not a window at all, rather an opening covered by plastic sheeting and duct tape. I’m not quite sure what we were expecting this place to look like, but this was definitely not it.
At this moment we realized we were in over our heads. As we stood outside this monster house, a group of tattooed, black-wearing college kids rushed pashed us, enveloping us in a cloud of their cigarette smoke. A boy with electric blue hair and gauges in his ears caught our eye as they rushed past,
“You guys here for the show? Better head in, you’re late!” he smiled as his group of friends jostled past him to get inside.
Shaken out of our momentary dissociation Izzy and I shared a look. I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to go home and change my clothes. Unlike the majority of the crowd, I was dressed in bright primary colors. A red knit sweater, my favorite pair of blue jeans and my maroon converse. Izzy wasn’t any better off in a forest green sweater and lulu lemon leggings. I felt something in that moment that had been pushed out of my thoughts by the excitement of scheming throughout the last few days. We didn’t belong here! What were we thinking? This house is a death trap and all of these kids look like they’re in a satanic cult! But, on the other hand, we had a few hours to kill before Izzy’s mom would return to pick us up. What else were we gonna do? This was the Happy Children’s last all ages show for a few months. This was our big chance. Plus, if we turned this opportunity down, the people that we had told about the show earlier in the week would realize that we were just as lame as they had originally thought. Turning up on Monday without an epic story to tell wasn’t an option.
“You heard the man.” I smiled, holding my hand out to her.
She shook her head at me with a, this is the last time I’m going along with your bullshit, grin and took my hand.
The steps to the screened in porch had disintegrated long ago, forcing us to leap up to reach the door. As we pulled ourselves inside, a college kid with shoulder length black hair, a tattoo sleeve and an apathetic look on his face shoved a bowl in our faces to collect our money. Not meeting his eyes we threw our wrinkled five dollar bills into the bowl and in exchange he stamped our hands with a pentagram, telling us in monotone to enjoy the show, and to not smoke in the basement. We were in.
We weaved our way through the clusters of too cool college kids as we descended the rickety stairs to the basement. The space was packed wall-to-wall with people. I felt a drop of something on my shoulder and looked up, noticing that the ceiling was a mess of dripping pipes. The gaps between them were stuffed with crushed beer cans, and the floor wasn’t much better. Everytime I took a step something squished or crackled underneath my shoe. It was quite medieval torture dungeon-esque with these cobblestone looking walls that were slick with condensation from people’s sweat, and the singular light source was a snarl of Christmas lights hanging above the ‘stage’ (which was just a two inch raised platform). The first band was sound checking. Overwhelmed, Izzy and I stood rigid amidst the sea of college kids until we saw a familiar face standing by a speaker that was dangling from the ceiling by an industrial chain: our friend Emma. Relieved, we slowly, “ope I’m sorry–”-ed our way towards her. This was actually our first time meeting Emma in person, as we had only talked through instagram about our shared love of local music. That being the case, we didn’t realize she was a good five inches shorter than us until we saw her. Her small self with her Zooey Deschanel-esque bangs, and outfit consisting of a grandma sweater and jeans, made me feel a little less out of place. Despite her stature, she was full of seventeen year old confidence, so we looked up to her to be our bodyguard of sorts that night.
I am not entirely sure what Izzy and I had expected of our first house show, but our expectations were blown out of the water as soon as the first band took the stage. The hum of small talk that had been buzzing through the crowd, ceased as the lead singer cleared his throat. He told everyone to “pack it in” joking that he didn’t bite. Suddenly I was smashed up against a blond, white girl with the greasiest dreadlocks I had ever seen, as everyone pushed to get closer to the action. I shot Izzy a look as my stomach did a flip. This was it: showtime.
The next few hours were a blur of movement, music and chatter. A band would come on stage, thank everyone for coming out, advertise their merch and music, and waste no time getting down to business. Periodically they would stop, sometimes midway through a song and encourage people to dance, though the encouragement definitely wasn’t needed. As soon as the first chord of a song rang out, the madness began. Everyone raised their hands towards the low ceiling as if reaching for something on a high shelf, and in pure organized chaos threw themselves against each other. The movement in the crowd ebbed and flowed, sometimes pausing to wait for a beat drop before returning to a jumble of sweaty limbs. When each band walked off stage, half of the room ran upstairs to grab a smoke in between sets, while the rest of us stood, dazed in the dank basement, reveling in what we had just experienced. I had never felt anything like this and it was pure magic.
In between sets our little group continued to expand to include more people in our conversation, eventually amassing around 10 members. Most of them turned out to be other highschool kids who went to shows like this every weekend, and Izzy and I found out that we had a lot of weird missed connections with them. There was Maria, who had attended middle school with one of our friends; Jackson, who used to attend the same church as my family; and Lexie, who lived right down the street from me.
Due to technical issues (meaning that the power went out for twenty minutes and no one could find the fuse box), The Happy Children took the stage dangerously close to 12am. Following a short argument in the bathroom we decided we had to stay. This band was the reason we were in this seedy basement. We had made it this far, we couldn’t bail now. Their set was everything we had fantasized about during our algebra class the past week. The set list consisted of all of our favorite songs, which we screamed at full volume. I couldn’t even hear the lead singer over the roar of the college kids screaming the lyrics to each song, but I didn’t mind. The sound of a basement full of miscellaneous weirdos yelling the same thing in tandem filled me with a warm feeling. Though I had never seen the majority of these people before, during that set, I felt as if we were all old friends. During one of their most popular songs, the crowd got so worked up that half of us ended up falling onto the stage, causing the guitarist to break a string.
As he disappeared offstage to borrow a guitar from another band, Izzy took the opportunity to check her phone and her face went pale at what was on the screen. Three missed calls from mom. It was a few minutes past twelve and her mom was getting antsy. If we wanted to be allowed to leave our houses ever again for the rest of highschool we knew we had to book it asap. We said a hurried goodbye to our new friends and elbowed our way past a crowd of annoyed punks to get to the stairs. Izzy’s mom was already waiting outside the venue that we told her we were going to. How were we going to walk there without her seeing us?
As we jumped down from the dilapidated porch we spotted our solution: a group of punk kids headed towards the venue. I grabbed Izzy’s hand and dragged her towards them: I had a plan. The group was about six kids big, the perfect cover. As we caught up to them I nodded hello and moved to the right side of the pack so Izzy and I were shielded from the view of the street. A few of them gave us odd looks, but we had more pressing matters to deal with at the moment. As we approached the glowing marquee of the venue, Izzy’s phone started ringing,
“Hey mom…uh yea, the show is just getting over now, they had some uh… technical difficulties. I know we agreed on 12 I’m sorry we’ll be out soon.”
Just as we were about to cross the intersection to the venue, the punks made a sharp turn, crossing to the left side of the street instead of continuing on towards the venue. We were now completely exposed. Panicked, we ran after them, yelling for them to slow down. Thankfully they stopped and bemusedly listened to us as we told them our dilemma. After a short silence a guy with gel spiked hair and knee high leather boots smiled at us,
“I wish I had the balls to do what you guys are doing when I was in highschool. We’ll help you out.”
Relieved, we inserted ourselves inside the pack of punks and crossed the street towards the venue. As we drew closer, I caught a glimpse of Izzy’s mom’s black Nissan and my heart began to race. We stopped in front of the venue and the punks pretended to be taking a smoke and Izzy called her mom again,
“Hey mom where are you? We’re in front of the venue and I can’t see you? Are you sure you’re here?”
With that cue the crowd of punks went on their merry way, gelled hair man throwing us a wink. Izzy’s mom rolled down her window and waved at us to get in the car. It looked as if we had been there the whole time,
“Sorry about the wait mom.” Izzy said as we slid into the backseat, bracing ourselves for a strong talking-to.
“It’s okay, it’s not you girl’s fault that the show ran late,” She smiled at us in the rearview mirror.
On the drive back to Izzy’s house we giddily texted each other about the surprising success of our scheme while dodging questions from her mom about the show. We had pulled it off!.
The next day, I woke up to find myself added to a group chat full of the people we had met the night before. They were already talking about what shows were going on next weekend and asking who wanted to go. On the ride from Izzy’s house to church, I couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of getting to repeat last night’s festivities over again in a week.
“Peace be with you” my mom elbowed me in the side as the priest gave us his final blessing, bringing me back to the land of the living.
“And with your spirit,” I mumble, rubbing my eyes.
As the congregation filters out of the cavernous church, the echoes of chatter make me smile, reminding me of that dim basement.
“You seem awful happy this morning,” my mom looks at me with a quirked eyebrow.
“Yeah, I guess I am.” I slip out of the pew and genuflect before ambling towards the exit, itching to tell her what I’d done, just to see her reaction.
“Hey you never told me how last night went, you were comatose on the ride over.”
I dip my hand in the small dish of holy water at the exit making the sign of the cross, touching my forehead, the middle of my chest, and the right and left sides of my chest, as if on autopilot.
“Oh, yaknow, it was cool, thanks for letting me go”
My mom cocked her head and looked at me as if I had something in my teeth.
“What is that?” she reached out, grabbing the hand I had just done the sign of the cross with.
I had forgotten to wash off the pentagram stamp from yesterday.
Oh shit, oh fuck.
Pulling my words straight out of my ass I replied,
“Oh, Izzy drew that on me yesterday as an inside joke. You wouldn’t get it, you kinda had to be there.” The pause between the end of my sentence and the beginning of hers seemed to be an eternity,
“You girls are so odd…Don’t do that again though, or you’ll get ink poisoning you know.”
“Yes mom.” I chuckled in relief. My secret life was safe…for now.