Confronting the Toxic Culture Under the Emo Nostalgia Journey | Characteristics

On January 18, ticketing and touring giant Live Nation announced a festival called When We Were Young, slated for October in Las Vegas. The bill features over 65 acts that make up an “epic lineup of emo and rock bands from the past two decades.” Genre stalwarts like My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Taking Back Sunday and Dashboard Confessional will perform at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, an 85,000-capacity stadium on the Strip. Over a million fans liked the announcement posts on various social media. When tickets went on sale, they sold out so quickly that organizers added two extra days to the event to keep up with demand.

It wasn’t unpredictable. The Aughts’ emo and pop punk are enjoying a resurgence as fans who were then in their teens and twenties revisit the songs that marked some of their most formative years. And I understand. Nostalgia flooded my synapses too when I saw the poster. When I I was young, saw many of these artists debuting in cramped clubs, community centers and theaters too run down to be used for anything other than punk shows for all ages. Some of their songs were with me when I thought my whole world was ending – heartbreak that would pale in comparison to the wrecking balls of adulthood, it turned out. But I still listen to bands like AFI, Bright Eyes, Jimmy Eat World and Alkaline Trio – all of which are supposed to perform – with melancholy appreciation.

But when I was young, I was also groped in mosh pits. When I was young, I was treated like a commodity – a groupie on the rock show who could be put down and rejected. When I was young, bad behavior in the male-dominated music scene went largely unchecked. Because when I was young, some of the most popular punk and emo bands contributed to a toxic culture that today’s pink sentimentality has all but erased.

When I was young, the worst thing a woman could do was break a man’s heart. It was a crime punishable by death. There are several revenge fantasies on Senses Fail’s 2004 album Let it wrap you. In the song “You’re Cute When You Scream,” Buddy Nielsen recounts how he pushed his heartbreaker off the top of a building, then raced down the stairs so he could see his face when he came in. the street. In the song “Choke on This”, Nielsen is so irritated by a failed relationship that he asks the girl he admires to “play Russian roulette” – “I’ll be your cheap novelty / Blow me the brains,” he sings.

Taking Back Sunday also loved a gory metaphor. In the song “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)”, vocalist Adam Lazarra likens being cheated to being shot in the head. “Which would you prefer?” / My finger on the trigger or me face down, on your floor? ” he asks. The woman who betrayed him has a choice: commit murder or witness a suicide?

Alkaline Trio is also guilty of this. Their creepy factor is mitigated by the fact that the band has long made ironic morbidity part of their punk rock shtick, but it’s hard not to feel a little twinge of “What the fuck?” listening to a song like “Radio,” in which singer Matt Skiba soothes his grief hoping his ex gets electrocuted in the bath.

Are these songs more an example of men awkwardly spilling their guts out through clumsy metaphors rather than real threats against real people? Sure. It’s not called “emo” for nothing. Nielsen never pushed anyone out of a building; Lazarra never held a gun to his head and challenged a woman to pull the trigger. The genre’s flair for drama is part of what makes it so intriguing for young people trying to make sense of their own overwhelming emotions.

But what we often forget when people think back to those good old days is that fantasies sometimes do bleed into reality. Young women and girls were often objectified, exploited and abused. Many tried to tell us at the time, and many more have shared their stories since finding support in movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up.

In 2020, Paramore singer Hayley Williams spoke to Vulture about some of the sexism and harassment she regularly experienced in her early and mid-teens. While performing on Warped Tour in 2005, fans threw condoms at her. While touring with the band Straylight Run, a friend of the band – who was about ten years older than Williams at the time – commented on Williams’ vagina.

“I can’t remember what this guy said because I saw red so fast,” she told Vulture, “but he was referring to my pussy. I was literally 16, about to turn 17. Everyone was laughing. No one paid any attention.

British metal band Bring Me the Horizon are set to co-headline all three days of When We Were Young – theirs is one of the most prominent names on the festival line-up, second only to Paramore. The band’s lead singer, Oli Sykes, was arrested in 2007 for allegedly peeing on a woman who refused his advances after a performance. She said a member of the group or their party – it was never established exactly who – also threw a bottle of Jägermeister at her head, which left her with a gash above her eyebrow. Those charges were dropped for lack of evidence, but Sykes made headlines again in 2016 when his ex-wife Hannah Pixie Snowdon posted on Instagram that he “slapped and spit on her” multiple times. In the same statement, she wrote, “I wasn’t the first girl this whole scheme happened to.” Sykes has not been charged and he still performs with Bring Me the Horizon.

Just below Bring Me the Horizon on the WWWY poster is A Day to Remember, a band that has toured with Bring Me the Horizon in the past. In 2020, A Day to Remember bassist Josh Woodward was charged with sexual misconduct for an incident that allegedly happened years before. Woodward responded at the time, writing, “the events described never happened and these allegations are false.” Woodward threatened legal action, and the tweet containing the allegations was deleted. The allegations resurfaced last year and Woodward left the band in October.

Then there’s Pierce the Veil, a hardcore band from San Diego. In 2017, drummer Mike Fuentes quit the band after a woman accused him of statutory rape and another alleged he solicited nude photos from her when she was underage. Both incidents allegedly happened in the 2000s. Fuentes performed with Pierce the Veil during a livestream in April 2020, but after fans asked about his appearance in the video, the band members confirmed that he was not involved in the ongoing projects. They have not announced who will replace him at When We Were Young.

There are also accusations of sexual misconduct or assault against former members of Dance Gavin Dance, Motionless in White and Black Veil Brides, three other bands set to perform. Although the accused men do not perform with their respective bands, it is true that many of the alleged incidents occurred years ago when they were part of the bands whose names now adorn the flyer, at the when we were young.

The festival is sold as a walk down Memory Lane – old emos, get together and relive the days of yore! But when we were young, we ignored the red flags. When we were young, we turned a blind eye to abusive behavior. Maybe it’s time to recognize that when we were young things weren’t going so well after all.

About Raymond Lang

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