A few weeks ago, Aly and I saw The 1975 at Terminal 5 in New York City, their biggest New York show so far. At previous shows, I had noticed a majority female crowd, but the women then had been older and respectful. This time, I knew I was in for it when we showed up at T5 two hours before doors that misty afternoon and there was already a thick line to the end of the block – a pack, horde, gaggle, onslaught etc. of screaming girls…fan girls. Like I’ve said before, I’m one of you. I’m a fan girl too. I mean, I obviously have seen this band multiple times and continue to show up early to get a good spot (among other nerdy fan girl habits I’m not going to detail here for pride’s sake.) Let’s just say, I’m a dedicated fan.
Aly and I got inside the venue, carried out a fun little interview with opener Bad Suns (check that out HERE), and managed to hang around in the venue so we wouldn’t have to go out and face the flock of teenage girls. Just before they let the cackle of hyenas – I mean girls – in to the venue, Aly and I calmly walked up to the barricade in the empty room – pregnant with silence, and planted ourselves dead center, right in front of where Matty’s mic would be. Seconds later, high-pitched squeals alerted us to the fact that the ladies had been let loose and were now sprinting toward us to get the next best spots up front. As it turned out, this particularly dedicated group of young women had been camping out in the New York misty-rain since 9 AM for these spots. And here Aly and I were. We’d showed up an hour before doors and ended up in the best spot in the house (in my opinion). As the rest of the crowd filtered in over the next hour, it was clear that we were a bit out of place in a crowd of concupiscent teenage girls. I’ve never felt so old.
Now how is it that a four-piece of 24-ish year-old British men can bring in a 99% female (and 90% under 18) crowd? How can we young women connect to these lyrics written from the male perspective? Lyrics that a lot of times render us objects? Where we’re not just relating to the lyrics but moreover, every girl in that venue was belting those words like they were the ultimate truth in the universe. When they played “Girls” towards the end of the set, I turned away from The 1975 to take in the scene behind me. Eyes full of adoration, bodies bent to burst, voices pitched high and loud. The way all the girls rose up behind me, it looked like a massive wave was about to crash. I was dumbstruck by how we can all invest our minds and bodies in a song written from a man’s perspective about how girls are flighty, manipulative, needy, and “uptight”. Would any of us want to be described that way, or do we actually think those characteristics really describe us? Hell no! And the line, “She can’t be what you need if she’s seventeen”, was all too appropriate with this demographic.
To make matters worse, there was a lot of female-on-female hate going around. “This girl’s pushing me and I’m about to punch her in the face,” type of bullshit. It’s a concert. You’re gonna end up spooning someone like sardines for the entire night anyway. Get over yourself. What was most worrisome for me (and maybe this is the women’s college in me speaking) is that we should all be able to band together and get along as fellow women, not instinctively fight it out like animals. And for what? So that some older, inaccessible guys in a band can see our faces only to forget them in the next second? Your chances of making long-lasting friends at a concert are much higher with your fellow audience mates than with the band. So why not treat the women around you with respect. That’s not a question, that’s a demand.
Back to the original question, what is it about this band that makes girls swoon and scream and even fight? It comes down to the erotic. (Erotic as in love – the synthesis of sensation and feeling, not as in pornography – sensation alone.) The famous black feminist Audre Lorde dedicates a chapter of her book Sister Outsider to the erotic as power (read the short chapter HERE):
“The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.” (54)
Women are taught to either suppress this “depth of feeling”, or only express it as it benefits men (i.e. for hetero sex). Why? Because once we find that deep power within us, fueled by love, we become an empowered threat, always aspiring for more. With the erotic as our lifeforce and motivation, our lives – driven by that acute sense of satisfaction – become fuller. Our bodies are freed: “[T]he erotic connection functions [as] the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy. In the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, hearkening to its deepest rhythms” (56).
Voilà. The 1975’s sex-positive music, compounded with the freedom of a concert atmosphere, open up the possibility of the erotic – allowing yourself to feel more deeply. Maybe that’s why my favorite song to experience live is “Sex”. Because when else can I just yell, “If we’re gonna do anything we might as well just fuck.” When else can I accept my loving, sexual, sensual, beautiful, honest, empowered…erotic side? Because I sure as hell can’t embrace all of that out in proper society without someone trying to regulate my body, my mind, or my heart. That freedom is what all of us women connect to. We’re told to suppress suppress suppress, which only leaves us momentarily silenced and dangerously on the brink of explosion.
In the context of The 1975’s concert, does this embrace of the erotic fall into its own caveat? Is our enjoyment – our jouissance – then still only for men (for the band themselves here)? Maybe. I can only speak for myself. In my life, music – especially The 1975’s – has led me to embrace my erotic power even though it’s largely inspired by male models of that power. Music is my erotic, my outlet, my power source. Concerts are my boudoir. Band tees are my lingerie. Through the music – through the erotic – I become more whole.