I distinctly remember waking up on September 2, 2013 and rushing to my desk to download The 1975’s debut album. This was the band that took me through my senior year of high school and the tumultuous transition to college, so their new work was of insurmountable importance to me.
May 10, 2014 was the first time I had the privilege of seeing this band. They were playing the Royale Nightclub in Boston—maximum capacity 1,000. Nobody minded that I joined the eight-person line shortly after 11AM after I explained I had just taken the bus for two and a half hours to the venue, and they understood and respected my desire to wait with my friends. Little did I know that would never happen again.
Halfway through our wait a few of my friends and I decided to walk behind the venue and try to reach the blue handprints high up on the brick wall put there by the Blue Man Group. I was unaware George Daniel was walking up from the bus as I was passionately throwing myself at the wall. I was so taken aback by his presence all I could say was, “Do you think you could reach this handprint on the wall?” He laughingly put down his bags and got on his toes to make sure he touched the print completely. I am sure he would have stayed longer if I had not embarrassingly dismissed him saying, “Thanks for your input! Bye!” I never thought that would be my last time speaking with him.
The concert was absolutely enthralling; I hardly blinked for fear of missing something on the stage. I saw multiple people being pulled out of the crowd and concert goers aiding security in helping them over the barrier. Afterwards, most of the crowd waited behind the venue to catch a glimpse of “our boys.” While we waited, John Waugh passed us with a box of pizza, prompting our starving selves to ask him where he bought it. He insisted that we take a piece because he had gotten too much. It was that kind of intimate and regular gesture that I lost later.
After this, the concerts changed drastically. I watched my favorite little band grow into an international phenomenon. I saw them again in December 2014 at the House of Blues—maximum capacity 2,500. My entire experience was altered. Fans in line were aggressive: running at those who were handing out numbered bracelets and completely losing their civility. During the show, the crowd cared more about pushing towards the barrier rather than helping nearly unconscious people out of the violent pit. Matty was clearly in pain and so much of me felt like I should not have been there, despite the exceptional performance.
That was the antithesis of my previous concert. I waited outside in the midwinter pouring rain to see if I could possibly meet any of the band, but I was shocked by the fans’ behavior. People were saying that the band owed it to them to come out and take pictures because they waited all day. I felt awful that the highlight for some was less about the performance, but rather getting the best instagram or telling Matty about all of their problems. Since when did a uniting experience between passionate fans turn into a competition?
The more I see this band the more difficult I find it to successfully “be a fan.” Of course, I’ll never stop loving their music and performances, but I often find myself nervous about potential negative interactions with other fans. I deeply miss being pressed against the barrier so hard I had bruises on my chest from the show in May, but I know I can’t beat fans who sleep outside since the morning of the day before the concert. I want so desperately to be able to enjoy The 1975’s shows without anxiously wondering, if I was in the middle of the crowd would anyone risk their position to help me out?
I firmly believe that these fans are simply so passionate about this band that it is easy to forget the regular life going on around them. I do not resent fans of The 1975, for I myself am one. Personally, the hard part is that the topography of being a fan has changed. Being a fan used to mean walking into line a few hours before the show and still ending up at the barrier. Being a hardcore fan now means getting in line days before the concert, potentially pitching a tent, and obviously minimal sleep. I can’t compete with that. Being a fan used to mean casual interactions with the band; now it means extra security and hordes of people waiting outside after shows.
I love this band. I will always love this band. Their live show is one of the greatest I have and will ever see. I will never stop purchasing their music in various forms. Watching this band evolve has been absolutely spectacular. But how am I to show that I care just as desperately as those camping out before the shows? It sucks to be a fan of The 1975 because fans are always pushing the limits. Exactly how much can we handle? How long can we sleep outside? How many people can security possibly pull out of the crowd? There comes a point when other fans simply cannot keep up. And in that, we lose something. I constantly question how I can show my love for this band in new and different ways, because I am a fan, and I will always be a fan. Sometimes, it just sucks.
But maybe things do not have to be this way. Perhaps we are not too far gone to pull ourselves back and recreate those brilliant and early experiences. The fact that The 1975 are big now does not mean that we cannot show the same level of respect we did in the beginning. I have seen other bands move from the Royale to arena shows, and people were undeniably civil. Fans started showing up around 10AM, rather than 5AM the day before, and apologized if they crashed into me at the barrier. I heard people asking each other if they were okay, and security barely pulled anyone out of the crowd, and if they did it was easy and other fans helped. That is legitimate proof that a band can be big and fans can still act the same as they used to before the excess of fame. Maybe we can work towards that again, promoting the love between fans, rather than competition. Helping each other out because, let’s be honest, nobody should have a bad experience when seeing their favorite band. We want to make them proud, to let them know that their fanbase can support each other, and they do not need to fret about important security measures. Our reputation, as hard as it might be to believe, also reflects on the band. Right now, it sucks, but we can definitely make this better.
Photo Credit: April Salud for THE RADICAL