The Acheron opened recently in the middle of nowhere. How is it that any locale can be in any part of New York City, and still be in the middle of nowhere? By being in the same neighborhood as nothing but factories, warehouses, bus yards, and storage units that have no visible names or signs. In the evenings, after these buildings close, the area feels and looks all but deserted.
Luckily for us intrepid New York show go-ers, some savvy and kindly folks have recently opened up a tiny eatery right next door to The Acheron, a warm and friendly little place called Yummus Hummus. It specializes, as you might have guessed, in a variety of hummuses (hummï?), breads, veggies, and related Mediterranean light appetizers and heavy snacks.
I wound up at Yummus Hummus that night because I got to the show really early. In a weird panic over some vegan brownies that had taken longer to bake than expected, I ran out of the house without eating dinner, only to find that the show had been delayed, seemingly by that night's Subway Series. (If you don't know what a Subway Series is, consider yourself lucky.) With nowhere else to go, I stood in front of Yummus Hummus for a few minutes before a guy sitting at one of its tables waved me over.
I didn't know him, but I went to his table and spoke to him. He asked if I was there for the show, and I said I was. He introduced himself as J___, and said that he was there to see White Lung, and he invited me to sit with him. And so I did.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I am really not in the habit of hanging out with dudes I don't know, even guys who frequent the same diy spaces and shows I go to. Anyone who knows me knows that I am intensely wary of all men, to a nearly pathological extent. But I was getting absolutely no sleaze-reading from this guy, which is rare for me. So I sat down and got some red-pepper hummus and carrot salad.
J___ was a nice guy. While I ate, we talked about White Lung, Passive Aggressor, other local bands and shows we've been to, my blog, and the other related scene and show media we enjoy. He'd seen White Lung a week earlier, and he was a big fan; he claimed that their recordings were good stuff and that their live set was even better.
But what struck me about this young man is how much he wasn't a typical punk fan guy. There was nothing threatening about him, and there was nothing possessive, exclusive, or alienating about his fanhood. He was unlike most of the guys I've met at these types of events.
Which is not to say that I never meet nice guys when I go to shows; it does happen. But despite punk's insistence on resisting the system and being different, guys at shows aren't usually that different from guys in general. Guys at shows have been socialized, just like guys who don't go to diy shows, to feel a certain sense of entitlement, to not be so aware of boundaries, and to feel comfortable with being aggressive about their interests. Frequently, even totally nice guys at shows are kind of jerky in these ways without even realizing it.
Not so with J___. He came across as nothing but secure, and seemed to have no need to dominate our conversation, impose his views, or otherwise control our interactions. He came across as sincere, smiled often and openly, and giggled at my rambling freely. We were outside the venue, talking about Passive Aggressor's performance still when White Lung started, and when we heard the beginning of their first song, he and I ran back inside like a couple of hysterical '60s London teenagers running after The Beatles, no shame in our game. It was kind of fantastic.
White Lung more than lived up to the hype. After their set, J___ and I headed over to the merch table, and I bought one of their 7". And then we both departed, heading in opposite directions to our cars.
As you can likely tell, I'm still not completely over how cool J___ turned out to be. I probably sound a bit overexcited, but, consider the context: I've already posted about sexism, violence, and general verbal misogynist negativity at shows. I've posted about other ladies' experiences with male aggression both online and 'in real life', on message boards and websites and at shows. I haven't even gotten to how things are at music stores, and we haven't even begun to discuss security and safety issues at large festivals or on the road and on tour. One nice guy doesn't change all that, but one nice guy, one single person who doesn't make the people around him feel unsafe, is all it takes to inspire some positivity and some change.