I Went to a Concert Populated by Half-Naked Teenagers and Somehow Survived
I was 17 the first time I ever felt old at a concert. I went to the Rancid show at the Electric Factory with a friend from my freshman hall. It was so awkward. We saw so many kids. We hung in the back. Security stopped him from smoking a cigarette. The lead singer of opening act AFI was named “Davey Havok.” We felt so old. Is this what life would be like now? “This is definitely my last Rancid show,” my friend said as we walked back to the El. I agreed.
In reality the kids weren’t that much younger. Probably just a year or two, mostly. And I’ve been to plenty of shows since where I feel like the youngest person there. But there’s something unsettling about starting to feel old at concerts. It’s your brain reminding you, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to do this forever.” Late in 2011 I went with two friends to Diplo concert at Union Transfer. While we waited outside, two kids came up and talked to us (okay, tried to hit on my friends). I used my journalistic trickery — I complimented the one kid on his retro Jordans and said I had a pair in the early 90s — to get them to reveal their age: They were high schoolers. We ushered them away. I felt old again.
When I was a little older than those kids, I went quite a few times to the Hollertronix parties at the Ukie. Hollertronix — thrown by Diplo and DJ Low Budget — also produced 2003’s Never Scared, an incredible dance album that’s one of the best mixes of all time. Diplo was back then an up-and-coming DJ speaking of falling back on a shrimp career.
About a decade later, he’s produced four top-20 U.S. singles (Usher’s “Climax” is a particular highlight) and written a lead single from a Beyonce album. He was recently linked in the tabloids to Katy Perry. He was even in a Blackberry ad campaign that aired during the 2010 baseball playoffs!
Diplo was an opener at Wired Fest 2014, playing before Calvin Harris (featured on Rihanna’s monster hit “We Found Love”) and Iggy Azalea (an Australian rapper who’s currently on the radio incessantly). The Wired Fest’s slogan was “Eat. Sleep. Fest. Repeat.” Essentially, it was a Wildwood boardwalk t-shirt, but in a music festival. Obviously I had to go.
It seemed like the boardwalk once I got there: Festival Pier has been revamped into a beach-like setting by Groundswell Design Group, which also did the Riverfront Corporation’s Winterfest plaza. Festival Pier now comes off as a summer extension of the winter space — more people selling you beer out of giant shipping containers only with a bunch of sand in your feet.
Another plus at Festival Pier: You can buy an entire bottle of wine! They even give it to you in a giant plastic carafe, complete with giant plastic cups. Obviously we had to get it.
It cost $34.
The crowd seemed even younger than that 2011 Diplo show — but I’m three years older, too. I thought back to the media reports of teen debauchery at the Radio 104.5 festival? Would the crowd here be similar? After all, Diplo’s 2012 Express Yourself EP features a crowd at the Piazza on the cover, which indie kingmakers Pitchfork called “some locale-less Sea of Broquility.” How old would I feel here?
I’m sure some happened, somewhere — it is Philadelphia — but I am happy to report I did not see any public urination. I didn’t even have to wait long for the bathrooms. Unlike the disastrous port-a-potty situations at the Piazza — not to mention Made in America — Festival Pier’s bathroom lines were virtually nonexistent. It’s just dark, so you don’t know what you’re stepping in. But, who cares: Virtually no wait!
Every oldhead talks about the way kids dress at concerts, but I was a teenager in the late 90s: I have no room to criticize. I’m just happy people still wear basketball jerseys — I even spotted a Clarence Weatherspoon one. With Diplo playing, we pushed our way into the crowd and danced along with the kiddies. (Lots of whom were likely in their 20s, of course.) We used to go to clubs to dance and see DJs perform. Now the kids not only treat DJs like rock stars, they see them at shows that are like rock concerts.
I didn’t feel old, even though I was older than the three people I went to the show with. This quickly changed: First a Wired 96.5 DJ yelled something like “all the girls out there wearing a crop top make some noise!” Between Diplo and Calvin Harris, a kid in a Dr. J jersey asked me if I had anything to sell. I am now old enough at concerts to be viewed as the drug dealer. This is not as bad as it sounds: I am not the creepy old guy. I am there on business! Even feeling old, things were looking up.
What’s cool about attending a show that’s primarily populated by teenagers is how into it everyone gets. The crowd for Calvin Harris was more amped than people were at the Roots Picnic the following day — yes, even more amped than when Snoop Dogg did “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” with Black Thought. One girl tried to crowd surf — dangerous and dated normally, impossible at a show were so many people were making out — and I was kicked in the head a few times. Ah, youth.
We left before Iggy Azalea, because… well, we’re old.
It was nice to know there is concert-going life left in these legs. After all, I saw Rancid again at the Warped Tour a year after swearing off their shows forever.