Rock of Ages

Updated: Sep 1, 2018

By Melisa Albitz

Stage AE in Pittsburgh

Community. We are all a part of one. We all bring our own unique outlook and perspective on life. We were all raised different from the person sitting next to us. Why then, do we feel that everyone needs to fit in to the stereotypical, cookie cutter existence that we are shown on TV? Why can’t we all be ourselves, respecting each other’s differences, and bonding where our ideals are the same? Our differences are what makes America, America. We have the freedom here of self–expression, but a lot of times certain subsets of our communities get a negative stigma attached to it. We’ve decided to dive into one such sub-set, to hopefully educate our readers that everyone just wants to belong, and we are all looking to be part of a community.

There is no mosh pit bible, but the rules of the pit are simple and easy to understand – if someone falls, you pick them up. A mosh pit is, above all, a form of expression, a small community. If at any point in a song you see somebody fall or something gets lost in the chaos, you do what any decent human being would do and act. Being in the crowd at a concert is one of the most unique experiences that can be had in life. Each fan at a show sees it in a different way, and different events or circumstances can change anybody’s night. At the end of it all, however, those in the crowd are the only ones to experience that specific moment in time; they share in that common experience for the rest of their lives. Their love of the music is what brings fans to shows. It’s the music that matters regardless of the stereotypes that come with it.

For their entire lives, many fans of rock and roll, metal, punk and hard rock have been targeted by stereotypes and misinformation that hardly reflect the genres, what they’re truly about and how the music really makes listeners feel.

The attack at Columbine High School not only caused a panic over gun culture but also over goth culture cultivating a fear of social outcasts in the public. Goths, punks, metalheads and outcasts were in turn treated with even more caution and anger than ever before, becoming even more of a target for society’s judgement.

While millennials are still judged by peers and baby boomers for dressing in the typical punk fashion, it is nothing like that of metal listeners around the time of the attack at Columbine.

Francis “Fran” Debile, 36, an Army veteran who has served through two deployments and works as a computer service technician, and his wife, Morgan Debile, 36, a graphic designer, were seniors in high school at the same time as the attack.

“I used to wear a trench coat long before the Columbine thing happened,” Fran said, “but a couple weeks after it, I was sitting in my vice principal’s office, and he asked me what was up with the trench coat, and I was just like, ‘I like it; it’s my jacket.’ Well, in a way, it was my security blanket. And, he said I was going to have to stop wearing it, so I said, ‘make me.’ He was essentially threatening to throw me out of school, because I was wearing a big, stupid coat.”

“We associate the music with our identities a good bit,” Morgan said, “and I think a lot of times your fashion choices reflect the music you listen to, and so that’s where I’ve had issues with people. I’ve noticed that when we go shopping, if we’re in our, you know, dressed up in our garb, people think we’re gonna steal something, or they follow us around the store to make sure we’re not doing something bad. We had other kids threaten us at times when we were younger.

”The jingle caused by hard rock fashion can be heard anywhere, chains and studs clanging against each other riding atop waves of black fabric. These unconventional and unique styles are often how someone could pick a metal listener out of a crowd, although some aren’t as pain-fully obvious of their musical preference for fear of the scrutiny of society. Leather, chains, studs, hair color, patches and pins are what fuel the punk/metal community and its fashion.

“I was in the Army, and I showed up for my deployment,” Fran said. “This would have been right after September 11, 2001, after visiting Morgan at Edinboro, because she was in college, and we dyed our hair. My hair was fire engine red, and I showed up with this bright red hair at 7 a.m., and my company commander called me into his office and said ‘Debile, we understand you have a different lifestyle, but you have to either dye it back or get rid of it by morning formation.’ Morning formation was in a half an hour, so I just shaved my head, and then I still had Ronald McDonald scalp for the first two weeks of that deployment. I wore an anarchy pin on my Kevlar cover in the desert, and I used to play ‘The Beautiful People’ by Marilyn Man-son at zero dark 30 rolling out the gate like we’re coming for you, look out.

”Having such obvious styles can make wearers the subject of bullying throughout school and confrontation throughout life. The abstract of a study done by Paula Rowe for the Journal of Youth Studies ex-plains the allure of the metal identity and that this identity is vitally important when participants feel vulnerable to bullying or are being excluded by their more popular peers. Rowe also points out that these metal identities are an attempt to disrupt power relations at school by embodying their chosen metal identities instead of the unchosen school-based identities of the other students, therefore challenging school norms.

“The politically transformative properties of subculture at the level of the individual are revealed through ways the metal youth, as self-described outsiders,” Rowe said. “Were able to act alone to challenge dominant school norms and enter into social relationships on their own terms, protecting themselves from social threats to their mental health and well-being in the process.”

“When we would go out when we were younger,” Morgan said, “other kids who weren’t from that scene would be threatening.”

“Once,” Fran said, “me and my girlfriend at the time were going to the Eat’n Park in Latrobe, and we used to have these crowds of people who would just hang out in pickup trucks in the parking lot. I don’t know why Eat’n Park was a cool place to hang out, but it was. I was in my bond-age pants and a band T-shirt walking into the restaurant, and we could hear them kind of laughing at us, but we were used to that. And then they yelled over ‘It ain’t Halloween.’”

A study conducted by a school of psychology honor student Leah Sharman and Dr. Genevieve Dingle at the University of Queensland found that, unlike previous studies that linked loud and chaotic music (extreme music) to aggression, the music instead regulated sadness and enhanced positive emotions. Extreme music is a blanket term for music like metal, emo, hardcore, punk, hard rock and other subcategories of the genres. The study involved 39 listeners of extreme music aged 18 to 34 and involved a 16-minute anger induction where the participants discuss angering events from their life followed by 10 minutes of listening to songs of their choice, and then 10 minutes of silence.

Results showed levels of hostility and irritability were reduced after listening to their music as well as a stress decrease after listening to the music of their choice. The most significant change reported was the level of inspiration participants felt.

“My grandmother died,” Fran said, “who I was very close to, right around my birthday, and Morgan got me tickets to Social Distortion. My grandmother was still in the hospital, but clearly wasn’t coming back to us, so we went to that Social Distortion concert, and it was such a huge relief after spending days back and forth at the hospital. To go to that concert and have that relief and not give a care about all the heavy-duty stuff that’s going on for two hours, three hours, it was freeing.” Another common misconception is that rock and roll leads people to do drugs or consume alcohol. Many new bands on the scene, however, describe themselves as straightedge, defined by Urban Dictionary as “the life-choice that humans should have strength, pride, dignity, honor and self-respect; that they shouldn’t engage in activities that are a disgrace to their minds and bodies.” This includes not ingest-ing and or becoming addicted to harmful substances, lying, and sharing your body sexually with a partner when there isn’t an emotional bond there. This movement is said to have originated from the hardcore and punk rock scenes, and some people who are straightedge even swear off of things like caffeine and over-the-counter medications as well.

Zachary Davies, 21, is a mechanical engineering intern, avid listener of metalcore music and a follower of the straight-edge lifestyle.

“As someone who moved around a lot throughout my teenage years,” Davies said. “Music was something that was always there despite the friends that would come and go. Music helped me to become more independent. I didn’t need someone to sit and talk to in class, because I had headphones in and lyrics that made it all better. They seemed to fill my teenage angst.”

A recognizable symbol of the straight-edge movement is an “X” often drawn on the backs of hands in crowds at music festivals or your local punk rock venue show. Some followers of the movement even go as far as to get the “X” tattooed. In more recent years, the straightedge movement has advocated for veganism and animal rights, though not every follower believes in these ideals.

“I would like to think my straight-edge lifestyle has been a good habit for me, Davies said, “It’s made me more independent and able to cope with personal problems on my own. As far as bad habits go, I spend way too much money on band merch and concert tickets. My music’s positive influence inspires me whether it be not giving up on my goals when I’m down or saving my liver in general.”

However, straight-edge or alcoholic, violent or relaxed, bullied or bullying, discriminated against or ignored, the scene stands together and follows the rules of the crowd. If someone falls, you pick them back up.


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