Sixteen Essay

By Kathryn Muscat. Photo by JJ van Rooyen.

I still remember what it used to feel like going to hardcore shows at the age of 16. Nervous, excited, anticipating the night ahead. We knew Tim (with a newly acquired driver’s licence) would play something good to stoke us up on the drive there. Knew we’d all drive home in the dark: the long drive home on the N2, then so unfamiliar, now such a well travelled road.

Remembering earplugs, making sure we looked ok (scuff your new converse, style your hair, same old band shirt: check), a bottle of water, something interesting to eat, to share, debates about what cd we’d buy with our monthly pocket money. Wondering where we were going half the time. Finding ourselves in school halls (dust and chalk), or at Boogaloos skateparks, or churches in suburbs we’d never been in before. Nothing looks the same now. The light of day spoils everything.

The smell of young teenage excitement, like sweat but sweeter. Later in the night we’d be salty and sticky, our faces aglow. But before we all spent ourselves we’d find our places, seeing old familiar faces: the same kids every time. Stacking our bags behind the merch table, or in a collective heap on the floor. It took time to form our pack. We weren’t just going to let anyone in. We never went alone. And we knew the people to know. Sitting behind the merch table selling pins and cds and shirts with Jen, standing in the front with arms folded, nodding our heads and smiling at opportune moments, screaming lyrics in mics passed to us because the bands knew who we were.

We were a kind of family. Some of us still are. Some of us got lost. Some of us left. But then we were inseparable. We knew each other’s parents and homes. We had each other’s backs in the pit. We spent the best nights of our lives together; nights at a time in our lives when anything was possible, when nothing was beyond us. When every night out meant time with people we respected, listening to music we adored with all our hearts.

You see, it’s not just music, It’s a way of life. Like no other genre i’ve known. We built it together, and watched it fall as we all stepped away to get married, or get jobs, or seek greener pastures. I don’t want to lose it or ever give up on it. Times may have changed and people with it, but I don’t ever want to forget.

Call me lame. Say I should have grown up a long time ago and that I should know better. The fact is, hardcore will always be in my heart.

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