It starts slowly. It’s not a surprise when some of the big record companies go down. After Chrysler and GM and Lehman Brothers it became increasingly clear any big name could crash, even Reprise. Nor are most too surprised to see smaller chain in malls close. After all, all youth have heard of the evils of downloading mp3s ruining the CD business. And if a local used music store goes bankrupt, well, a lot of family businesses crash in the first year, never mind that it’s been five or six. Hell, even Limewire being shut down doesn’t get air time on the news, though thousands of preteens weep.
People only begin to notice when actions start getting more invasive. Slowly all the torrent sites dry up, though with resilient spirit people launch new websites nearly as fast as old ones go down. The problem is there’s no time for word of mouth, no one knows the right websites to upload to, and there are fewer and fewer seeds to go around. Television goes to a combination of static and reality shows for a week. When prime time comes back all the twenty second snippets of music meant to tell you what you’re supposed to feel from a scene have been cut from the reruns. New episodes don’t have any soundbites either.
The first time people start to protest is when iPods get confiscated at high schools. But a million teenagers on a million blogs and a massive Facebook campaign aren’t enough to get their belongings back. Instead the search and seizure spreads to offices and public transit.
Brendon thinks, sometimes, that if the government had decided to crack down on anything else he probably would have handled it without protest. Porn, alcohol, violence on TV, prostitution. Hell, they could have blamed the world’s problems on light bulbs and Brendon would have learned to live in the dark. But they went with music. Far beyond blaming Marilyn Manson for Columbine and Madonna for sex, they blamed everyone for everything. And living in a silent world just isn’t an option for him.
Some genres have fought back harder than others. Country had always been about following the rules of the country you lived, it was impossible to justify singing it when each note was now a spit in the face of the government. Pop couldn’t be mass produced, nor could R&B, and no one wanted to hear the real voices of the singers behind the autotune, or listen to what they had to say when they weren’t name dropping million dollar endorsements.
Thankfully, there is another side, a side of hope. Blues has always had a habit of regrouping when life gets difficult. Brendon hasn’t attended a match, but he’s heard freestyle rap battles started to pop up nearly immediately after the laws changed. He’s also heard of but not gotten involved in the techno trades. As it turns out, music that originates from computers is loved by said nerds who now live to hack it onto other’s computers, piggybacked on benign viruses to avoid monitoring.
But by far the winner of the everlasting musical genre game is the music that is all about fuck you, we’re not following your bitch ass rules. Punk rock, in all it’s glory. In a free world it wouldn’t be Brendon’s first choice. Between the violence in the crowds and the ugly clothing and the shouted music that can barely be heard over the shouting crowd he doesn’t really like any of it. Liking it’s not the point though. The bigger picture is it’s not a free world, and you either fight the world with headphones and amps or you become one of them. And Brendon sure as fuck isn’t going to be one of them.
When picking where to go -on any night the underground’s got a dozen bands playing- everything is a balance of percentage chance of getting raided and likelihood of consequences. There’s a science to it, Brendon thinks. Maybe not a high school science fair sort of science, nothing he could write up on cardboard and get an A+ for. But a method to the madness, at least.
Some bands have almost a hundred percent chance of getting raided, big name bands that said a loud and firm fuck off when told they had to stop playing. If -usually it’s when- the authorities find out, the concert has to be closed down to set an example. As far as Brendon can figure the example is usually paying an outrageous fine rather than getting formally charged, and followed with being escorted out of the city. The fines are paid for by the ticket price to get in, and the only thing being kicked out does is make sure that the band is in the next major city on time for the next concert. There are also far too many people in the audience for the cops to even try to arrest more than a token few. The next generation will be bleaker, more law abiding, but these cops have had twenty-thirty-forty years of records and cassettes and CDs just like everyone else. They don’t want to arrest people they recognise from flipping past MTV, because they can imagine The Doors or Yes or Metallica in this band’s place.
Tiny high school bands are pretty safe, as far as chance of raiding. That’s not saying it’s entirely safe, shit will go down hard if you get caught. Police look at tiny bands as a chance to scare high schoolers straight. Just like Monopoly, go directly to jail, do not collect two hundred dollars. But getting caught is rare. There are dozens of hardcore rebels with soundproofed basements scattered throughout the city, people just drop in and no one leaks anything.
It’s the mid-level bands that get people fucked up. They’re the worst mix of raiding and consequences. Mid-level bands have to advertise by something other than word of mouth, have to find places larger than basements with room for fifteen people, but they’re not important enough to squeeze out of repercussions if they get caught. All it takes is one asshole that actually believes music is terrorism and everyone’s screwed. Of course, middling popularity bands are the most common sort. So as Brendon’s pulling on the clothes that make it clear what he believes, he has to consider his chances of getting caught one hundred percent. Every night before he walks out of his apartment he asks himself if it would be worth it. The answer is always yes.
He wears the clothes because they’re the uniform of rebellion. Black leather with square silver studs around his wrists, jeans torn and ‘patched’ with duct tape in a dozen different places, a t-shirt advertising a band he’s never actually listened to but knows fits the scene. He doesn’t dare wear his glasses, not when he’ll be slinking into the pit later. Honestly, he’d feel more comfortable in blue jeans and his purple hoodie. But that’s just not an option. Not tonight. Not any night where he’s showing his opinion of the new state of affairs.
Brendon’s sipping at a red cup of beer -better than some nights playing in abandoned buildings where there’s not even any running water, worse than other nights with a fully stocked bar top in a rich teen’s basement- when someone approaches. Before the lines came down, he probably would have been indie, even folksy. He’s got the bangs hanging over one eye, made more appropriate by spray-on hair dye. He’s wearing tight and torn jeans, a vest over a bare chest, belt with a massive clasp showing underneath, but Brendon can see him in ruffles and paisleys.
“I’m Ryan. So, how’d you hear about this show?”
It’s a question that almost always comes up. It’s a question you have to answer very carefully. If anyone suspects you of being a narc...well, Brendon only saw it the once, but it was bad. He’s not sure if the guy actually was an officer, but it didn’t matter to the steel toed boots of a hundred rock fans. “Pete Wentz told me abut it.”
“Yeah. Me too. I think he’s dating the bassist.”
“Dating?” Brendon shouts over the din. He didn’t think the punk scene was much for gayness, even the new interpretation of it.
Ryan misinterprets the question. “Yeah, or fucking. Whatever.”
“Really?” Everyone knows that Pete and Patrick are just best friends, as married as they seem to be. It’s likely this guy’s full of crap, and Pete and the bassist are just friends too.
Ryan pushes his sweaty hair out of his eyes. It rejects the position and flops back down in front of his left eye immediately. “You seem overly interested in Pete’s sex life.”
“What? I don’t.” Brendon’s not the one that started this conversation. He’s not here for conversation. A lot of the rebels like to hang back and talk to others, so they can feel like they’re not alone in their fight, even if they’re the only one in their Intro to Biology class that still scribbles lyrics on their binder. Brendon doesn’t need to compare war stories, he doesn’t even need to drive into the pit of elbows and wrist spikes, though he probably will. He just needs to be here.
“You do. Do you want to fuck him? I’m pretty sure the lead singer would kick your ass for trying to take him away, even if the bassist would be into it. He’s sorta kinky, at least from what I’ve heard.”
“I don’t want to fuck him.” He really doesn’t. Pete has his fingers in too many pies, trying to fill his basement with high school bands almost every night, while attending as many middle sized and big concerts as he can, sometimes more than one a night. He’s the one who told Brendon about the techno hacking so he’s probably into that too. Even if Pete was his type, which he’s not -Brendon likes tall and pretty- it would be stupid to fall in love with someone so determined to fight that he’ll end up in handcuffs within a year.
“Who do you want to fuck then?” Ryan smirks. “Thought about giving me a whirl?”
“What?” Brendon can’t say he didn’t check him out. He’s just turned twenty one, he’s got a full decade left of checking out everyone that walks by. But there’s a difference between a momentary glance over and actually imagining sex with someone. That only happens when he’s bored and on public transit or in a grocery line.
“Come on. We could all be in jail an hour from now, don’t you think you should be doing what you want?”
As a pick up line it fails on multiple levels. It’s egotistical as hell for Ryan to think he’s what Brendon wants, and mentioning prison isn’t a turn on for most people. But the thing is it’s got sort of an underlying point. Everything in this room is about saying ‘piss off’ to people that tell you want to do, from the beer half the audience is too young to drink, to the foot high mohawks that must make parents cringe, to the song the band on stage is bellowing out. Yeah, he doesn’t live at home anymore, no, he’s never going back. But when he shoves his lips against Ryan’s with three guitars and drums and a swearing vocalist in the background that’s a piss off too.
Ryan pulls away and takes his hand, dragging him a bit deeper into the crush of people. Brendon follows easily, knowing without words that he’s right, that it’s not safe on the edges. It normally isn’t the best place to stand because that’s where the few token arrests will take place later, those easiest to grab and cuff. This hall is different from most of the places Brendon’s been though, it’s got balconies, and past concerts he’s been witness to people diving into the crowd below. Brendon is prepared to get bruises and cuts, but not a crushed spine from someone landing on his head.
It’s impossible to keep a steady place with the swirling madness of the people around him. In general though, they’re closer to the amps, and with that boost the music comes close to drowning out the screaming audience. Brendon thinks he can hear something about teenagers scaring people, he’s not sure enough to sing along but the words sound close. Honestly, the lead singer could be repeating a single word over and over and everyone would still love it. Nights like this it’s more mob mentality than taste in music.
He’s not sure if he counts anymore. It’s not in his age descriptor, he’s past those seven years. But Ryan’s tongue in his mouth, all four elbows out to make people stay away even a few inches, he wants to be scary. He wants to make the whole world back the fuck off, and when he can feel the pressure of Ryan’s fingers against the duct tape spanning one of his ass cheeks he just wants to roar.
Brendon doesn’t see the point in trying to leave for the bathroom. He knows this venue, he’s been here before, it’s high class enough to have a bathroom. But the floor will be pissy and it won’t give them any more privacy, all the stall locks are broken. The room is down a long hall, far enough that you can’t hear the band playing. Add the final bonus of getting their spot back after they’re done being a basic statistical impossibility, and it just seems like a stupid idea. It’s not like anyone will care anyway, no more than anyone cares about the people in the balcony that are spitting, or the nosebleeds and dripping surface cuts thanks to a poorly placed shoe from a crowd surfer.
Ryan’s efficient, taking the time in which Brendon is occupied dropping to his knees to unbuckle his belt. He’s not wearing underwear, which isn’t exactly the biggest shock of the evening. It’s surprisingly difficult to blow someone in the middle of a crowd. Not because of any bullshit like morals, or shame, those aren’t on the list of available feelings, he’s riding way too fucking high for that. He’s the slightest bit tipsy, and the air is starting to get smokey from joints, but mostly Brendon’s just fucked up on rebellion. The problem is simple logistics, there’s a fuckton of people and they keep bumping into Ryan, and his knife sharp elbows can only do so much. The writhing mass of people push Ryan hard enough he stumbles forward on occasion, the huge buckle hitting him in the cheekbone repeatedly. Brendon might have a bruise from that, he’ll definitely have a bruise from the asshole in the boots that keeps stepping on his shin without looking behind him to see what the lump on the floor is.
Still, the pain isn’t enough to kill his arousal. In some ways it make it stronger, because fuck, he’s actually doing this while hundreds of people don’t give a shit in all directions, and the leather clad man on stage is singing with some sort of universal irony about people not fucking his brother or his friends. Even if he never sees Ryan again, he’ll have a boot shaped mark for two weeks, and he’ll always have this memory. Brendon keeps his hands on Ryan’s ass to keep him as steady as possible, moves with him when Ryan stumbles so he doesn’t choke on his cock. It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t have a free hand to jerk off, it would be embarrassing to come before Ryan did.
Ryan doesn’t give any warning. Or maybe he does, but a tug of Brendon’s hair is lost in the constant forced movement, or Brendon can’t hear a stuttered ‘I’m gonna’ over the shouting and the drum solo. Either way it ends up the same, Ryan pulling to the point of pain, like his hair is fucking reins or something. Brendon knows better than to push him off, he doesn’t want come on his face or shirt, going to the bathroom is the same not-option after sex as before it. Then Ryan is taking a step back and Brendon turns his head to the side and spits on the grimy floor. If he get boot-stomper’s jeans a bit, well, tough shit for him.
For a moment Ryan tries to fade away and seriously, fuck that. The night is not ending with Brendon not getting off. He jumps to his feet and grabs Ryan by his vest. He can feel strings under his fingers, the embroidery must be black on black for him to not have seen it. Ryan stops and then Brendon’s using both hands to push him to his knees. As soon as Ryan’s settled he moves them from his shoulders to his hair. It’s long enough to really weave his fingers through, sweaty and sort of sticky from the chemicals coating it. Ryan sucks faster than he’s used to, either he’s really into it or he’s trying to end this as quick as possible to avoid bruising. Brendon kind of bets on the latter, he looks like a delicate sort of guy. Reasoning doesn’t matter though, not when Ryan’s got his thumb on his balls, windshield washer motion as he takes Brendon almost into his throat.
Ryan spits too, his landing on the back of a knee high stiletto. It’s probably one of the people that kept stumbling into Ryan, and it serves her right, what kind of idiot wears shoes with the surface area of a quarter into a moshpit? Brendon untangles himself and the palms of his hands are blue. He vaguely wonders if Ryan’s got a place to shower before he crashes, because if he’s going to the couch of a friend, or another hookup he’s going to stain their pillowcase. It’s not really his business though. Shit, it’s probably not even his place to ask what his last name is. This wasn’t a date.
Still, Brendon presses his cheek to Ryan’s so he can shout into his ear, no question of being misheard “wanna trade numbers?”
He feels rather than sees Ryan shaking his head. “We could be in jail in an hour. If I see you, you’ll see me.”
And yeah, he guesses Ryan has a point. It’s no different than Pete, not really. Tomorrow night he’s seeing Nurses in Bondage, a shitty venue with only one exit. If the cops come the only people that get out will be the ones lucky enough to have a perfectly timed punch. God only knows what Ryan’s doing, where he’ll be. There’s no room for falling in love during a rebellion. There are no relationships in an anarchy.
Brendon doesn’t watch Ryan pick his way through the crowd. Instead he shoulders his way through the crowd, getting a few rows of people closer to the stage. The song wraps up and one of the guitarists takes the brief moment of non-moving fingers to take a gulp from his water bottle. The second mouthful he uses to spit forward, the collared bassist dodging out of the way and obviously telling him to fuck off, even though it’s far enough from the mic that the audience can’t hear the words.
The singer tosses the microphone stand from hand to hand for a moment, then sits it upright so he can pull his glove on tighter. Business taken care of he shouts into the mic “this is a cover from a motherfucking poet. Spit on us, but worship the fucker!”
Everyone around him raise their arms like they knows what’s coming. Brendon bellows wordless approval even though he’s never been to a show by this band, has no way of knowing what’s coming. The drummer starts his cymbals and the guitarists jam their fingers against the strings and even four people deep from the stage Brendon can barely hear the singer for the frenzy of those around him. He lets the crowd shove him until he thinks yes and has to shove back. Tonight is not a night for standing still. Tonight is not a night for keeping his mouth shut.